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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 739

NORTH - WEST GAPE NAVAL COMMUNICATION STATION AGREEMENT WITH U.S STATEMENT BY THE PRIME MINISTER THE RT. HON. SIR ROBERT MENZIES IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESEN - TATIVES ON THURSDAY 16TH MAY, 1963

Photo of Menzies, Robert

Menzies, Robert

Period of Service: 19/12/1949 to 26/01/1966

More information about Menzies, Robert on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 16/05/1963

Release Type: Statement in Parliament

Transcript ID: 739

1' tRTH-WEST CAPE NAVAL COMMUNICATION STATION
AGREEMENT WITH U. S.
Statement by the Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon.
Sir Robert Menzies, in the House of Representatives
on Thursday, 16th May, 1963.
Mr, Speaker I am indebted to the House and I hope
that I will not neea this indulgence. I think that I ought
to begin by saying that I am vastly indebted to the honourable
member for Bowman ( Mr. Comber), who has cast me with a
versatility of role to which I have never aspired. It turns
out that I rode into office on a dead horse that is not
a bad feat sitting at the time in a gilded cage and drawing
a red herring across the trail. I am indebted to my friend
for this, It is in some way a compliment.
There is one thing that I would like to say quite
seriously about the end of ti-ic honourable member's speech
and about other speeches that have been made this afternoon.
This is a vory curious debate, I thought that we were to get
to the heart of this matter and have the points of difference
fought out as they are entitled to be fought out for the
public benefit. But most of the campaign on the Opposition
side of the House has boon directed at justifying the system
of internal government in the Australian Labour Party. No
doubt, this is a very interesting thesis, but it is hardly
an answer to the issues that are being dealt with here in
relation to the establishment of this station and the conditions
on which it ought to be established. However, Sir, I will
not occupy any time on that.
I just want to address myself to some of the remarks
made by the Leader of the Opposition ( Mr. Calwell), who
if I may say so was in uncommonly vigorous form this alternoon,
He bocame almMs excited, I thought, at one or two stagas,
when he indulged in the luxury of making a little free with
history. I suppose that that is pardonable. For one thing,
he seemed to me to set out to establish that there was not
much wrong with this agreement with the U. S. A. for the stablishmont
of a naval comm-nunication station, That surprised me
having regard to recent events and recent votes. It astonished
me, and it must have astonished some of those opposite who
have taken Trappist vows in the course of this debate, After
all, what did the honourable gentleman say?
Ho attacked my colleague, the Minister for acternal
Affairs ( Sir Garfield Barvrick), for having misled the House
about the effect of the agreement. How far can a man mislead
the House about the effect of an agreement that has been tabled
and is explained in simple and measured terms? The Leader
of the Opposition said " lThere is nothing in this agreement
about solo control. his is a device used by the Attorney-
General" Then later he said, " There is nothing in this
agreement inconsistent with joint control." I am glad to see
the honourable member for Bass ( Mr. Barnard) nodding his head
because that shows that he followed the argument of the Leader
of the Opposition, Therefore, in that event there is joint
control and, if there is joint control, the Australian
Government can veto any decision because obviously joint
control involves the right of veto. So everything in the
garden is lovely. 9 / 2

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I put this quite seriously to honourable members and
to the people of Australia. They should consider it. I am
repeating the argument which was advanced by the Leader of
the Opposition. If I wore in opposition and entertained those
views I will demonstrate in a moment that they are wrong and
I will face up to the great problem in this matter without any
hesitation I would support the bill ratifying the agreement
without any qualification and without needing to do what the
Leader of the Opposition has done and without engaging in this
by-play. I begin by being puzzled to know where the Leader of the
Opposition, who has been much instructed on this matter, now
stands. Yet I cannot suppose for one moment that he took
forty-five minutes of passion and invective and I repeat, making
singularly free with history I will put it politely just to
say " Yes" to the bill. If one can judge by the atmosphere, one
thing is clear that he does not like the bill or the agreement.
But if I am wrong about that perhaps the Opposition will relieve
me of all my responsibilities by saying, " We are all wholeheartedly
in favour of the agreement," If Opposition members
will say that I will be glad to resume my seat, but they know
that they cannot say that because it is a flat contradiction
of everything that has been happening during their debates.
I will address myself to the genuine issues in this
matter and the deep differences that are disclosed here because
I think that the people of Australia want, quietly and carefully,
to understand them, But before I address myself to the major
task, I want to dispose of the allegation repeatedly made that
we, and in particular I, have concealed the true nature of this
station at North West Capo, Long after the Minister for Defence
( Mr. Townley) had made a statement about this matter, I made
quite a lengthy statement on 17th May last year and again on
26th March this year, saying all that could be said about the
proposed station. There is nothing to be added to or. subtracted
from that today. Indeed, if any confirmation were needed, it
was afforded by the distinguished visiting U. S. Admiral who
came here for the Coral Sea celebrations.
Mr. Allan Fraser Donrt bring him into it,
SIR ROBERT MENZIES We brought him into Australia.
Mr. Allan Fraser Don't bring him into it. That is
very bad.
SIR ROBERT MENZIES Come come, grow up. The Admiral came to
Australia. I wonder what the honourable member would have said
if the Admiral had criticised the Government on this matter,
We would have heard all about it in this place and the television
audience would have listened to it and wondered. All I know
is that the Admiral said, obviously with complete accuracy that
this was a radio communication station and nothing more. That
of course is true. But on 8th May this year the honourable
member for Yarra ( Mr. Cairns) was exercised o say: " You said
that this was a naval communication station to communicate with
naval vessels. You did not mention submarines." I did not
mention submarines. No. I give it to the honourable member
for what it is worth I did not mention aircraft carriers and
yet I am told that they are naval vessels which carry aircraft
and that some of the aircraft are so furnished that they can
deliver nuclear weapons. The Leader of the Opposition used some
pretty hard terms but I would venture to describe the point made
by the honourable member for Yarra as puerile. If any one in

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this place other than the honourable member for Yarra believed
that submarines asnd aircr-aft carriers were not naval vessels,
I would be astonished at the illiteracy of the House,
Therefore, there is no occasion -to alter a single word of
what was said then.
Having said that I want to return for a moment to
the central problem does this agreement provide for sole
control, as my colleague rightly said that It does, or for
joint control, as -the Leader of the Opposition hopes that
it does? This requires two answers. First, what does the
agreement provide? Secondly, is it right, speaking responsibly
on behalf of our own country? As for the agreement itself,
I must say that I was taken aback by he-aring an argument that
the Attorney-General was wrong. The preamble to the agreement
is in these terms " Considering that the establishment, maintenance
and operation of a United States naval communication
station in Austrolia will materially contribute to
that end
That being the end of Common defence
in accordance writh the terms and conditions
set out in this Agreement, the United States Govarnment
may estaiblish Imaintain and operate a naval communication
station.'?
The United States Govern~ ment, not someone else. Then there is
a provision in Article 3 to which my distinguished friend
referred to the effect that the two governmen-ts will consult
from time to time at the request of either government on any
matters connected with this station and its use, Of coursej
We are allies. In that sense we are partners. Of course we
will consult about all sorts of things. We want to be able to
use the station ourselves for our own communications. But
there is nothing in this agreement I had thought this was
the nub of the matter from the point of view of the Labour
Party which proposes joint control of the station which
enables the Australian Government to veto the use of the
station in the event of war. If honourable members opposite
object to that I imagine they do from all that I have heard
and read on this matter, and it is an intelligible view
let them say so. I am here to defend it, to say that this
is a proper arrangement, If it were not made in this sense,
the fact is that in the event of a war breaking out in which
nuclear weapons were involved, if you like, Austraba could
nullify the effect of U. S. nuclear weapons in the Southern
Hemisphere by saying to the U. S, " You are not to use this
communication station,," I will come back later to that aspect
to explain what a fantasy that is and how utterly inconsistent
it would be with the safety of our own country.
I began by saying that I agreed that this agreement
provides for sole control. Therefore the agreement is
inconsistent with the Oppositionfs desire of joint control and
inconsistent with the power which the Opposition wants to say
to the U. S. in the event of war, " You are not to use this
station because it right involve us in some way." I state that
m atter quite clearly. These are the matters at issue. It
would be very advantagoous if the people of 1astralia could see
quite clearly the points on which there is deep division of
opinion between the Government and the Opposition. 0 * 0

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Having said that, I want now to clear aside a
little lumber that has come forard in the course+ of this
argument. Argument about the establishment of the station
at North-West Cape gets muddled every now and then with
argument about the establishment of a nuclear-free zone in
the Southern Hemisphere. Indeed, I think the Labour Partyts
ambitions in the direction of a nuclear-free zone have
largely affected its attitude tow-: r2ds the North-West Cape
project and have created within thie Labour Party, putting on
orm side all shams most determined opposition to the establ~ shment
at North-UMs Cape, Labourts argument has become so
muddled that the Leader of the Opposition cited, not for the
first time, the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference of
1961 and said that that Conference produced the right ideas,
I agree; the Conference did produce the right ideas. I
should know something about the two paragraphs to which the
honourable gentleman has constantly referred because I drafted
them at the Conference and I adhere to them.
Paragraph 7 of the communique issued that year
read " Every effort should be made to secure rapid
agreement to the permanent banning of nuclear weapons
tests by all nations and to arrangements for verifying
the observation of the agreement, Such an agreement
is urgent since otherwise further countries may soon
become nuclear powers, which would inc_-oaso the danger
of war and further corm-plicntc the problem of disarmament.
Moreover, an agreement on nuclear tests apart from
its direct advantages would provide a powerful
psychological impetus to agreement over the wider
field of disarmament. 0
Quite true; we said thiat, That is why this Government has
not taken steps to make Australia, in the military sense, a
nuclear power. W! e believe that the fewer hands the greater
and more responsible those hands are in which this terrific
weapon resides, the better for mankind. Earlier in the 1961
communique I recommend this section to my friends the
Commonwealth Prime Ministers said
" The elimination of nuclear and conventional
armaments must be so vast that at no stage will any
country or' group of coiuitries obtain a significant
military advantage,"
This is of course, of fundamental importance. For us to join
with otE~ er peoplet if they can be found to strike out of the
hands of our friends and allies the nuclear weapon in some
vast area while leaving it completely in the hands of our
potential enemies in respect of the same area would, of course,
be hopeless. For us to promote the idea this is something
that people should think about that you will help the
world' s peace by getting rid of nuclear weapons and not
touching conventional armaments is simply a policy which
would leave undisputed power in the hands of the Communist
nations. I do not for a moment say that the Leader of the
Opposition proposed that course, I want to make it quite
clear that this is one of the issues that we must determine.
0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

Pending disarmament on the grand scale, the existence
of the nuclear deterrent the capacity to deliver the nuclear
deterrent at the right time and in the right place is the
condition by which we live. The nuclear deterrent will cease
to deter if the Communist powers come to think that it cannot
be effectively organised or deployed south of the equator
though from the point of view of thne Communist countries, which
are north of the equator never forget that there will be no
prohibition or inhibition at all. It is essential for the
effectiveness of the deterrent that the United States naval
forces I mean cruisers, destroyers, frigates, aircraft
carriers, submarines and anything else you care to mention
should be within reach of a radio communication station. That
is essential. Sir, I have no expert views to offer on these matters
but the best military opinion that I have been able to discover
is that while it remains possible for Communist China to acquire
nuclear weapons I think that will be agreed to be an understatement
because most certainly in due course Communist China
will acquire nuclear weapons a nuclear-free Pacific Ocean or
Indian Ocean on our side would be suicidal.
I am happy to say that that situation is clearly
understood by 80 per cent, of the people of Australia, Suppose
Communist China gave a guaranteeo I do not suppose any of us
would be very excited by a Communist guarantee, but suppose
that happened. The military disadvantages of a nuclear-free
Southern Hemisphere must be unacceptablo to the United States
and her global allies because such a situation would reduce
their overall nuclear deterrent capabilities, Honourable
members have only to look at the map of the Indian Ocean and
the South-West Pacific area and note where the equator is, to
understand how crippling it would be if, having that power, we
should say to the United Statcs: " You are not to deploy in
the Indian Ocean south of the equator any naval unit carrying
nuclear weapons or any aircraft on an aircraft carrier carrying
nuclear weapons," In the world picture, the Indian Ocean is
strategically placed and under those circumstances to which
I have just referred, if you were to defend yourself against
Communist aggression, naval units would have to come in through
the Suez Canal on the one side or through the Straits of Malacca
on the other. Really, the safety of our country is of paramount
importance to use We are not to trifle with it in this way,
Some of what the Minister for External Affairs ( Sir
Garfield Barwick) said in his second reading speech has been
decried or questioned by the Opposition, Some very offensive
words were used about what I thought was a singularly objective
statemento But some things are not and cannot be challenged.
Perhaps we have forgotten those things. Perhaps nany people
have forgotten them. It is my duiy to make a reminder. All
I want to do is go back to the ANZUS treaty of 1951 and 1952
the treaty between Australia, New Zealand and the United States.
People forget the nature of that agreemonto Some people say
that we should not tie ourselves too much to the United States
because, who knows, it may have so: ne day a President other than
the one it has today,
They forget the nature of the ANZUS pact, which is
a treaty between nations ratified by the Parliament of each
nation. And in its preamble it says coaae, 9-o/ 6

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" Desiring to declare publicly and formally their
sensc of unity, so that no potential aggressor could
be under the illusion that any of them stand -alone
in the Pacific area1' l
Then, in Article II, which was also read previously by my
colleague, we read " In order mnore effectively to achieve the
objective of this Treaty the Parties SeDarately and
jointly by means of continuous and effective self
help and mutual aid will maintain and develop their
individual and collective capacity to resist armed
attack."
It is in that context and against that background that the U. S.
is being allowed to establish this naval communications station
in the North-West.
Article IV is worth recalling. It says
" Each Party recognizes that an armed attack in
the Pacific Area.."
which was the broad sweep they were taking
0any of the Parties would be dangerous to its
own peace and safety..." 1
In other words, America has declared in this treaty that an
armed attack on Australia would be dangerous to the peace and
safety of the U. S. This is a wonderful provision. The article
continues declares that it would act to meet the common
danger in accordance with its constitutional processes."
Then, we come to Article This is worth mentioning,
not, perhaps, entirely with reD. tion to this measure, but because
for general purposes it ought to be known. It states
" For the purpose of Article IV,
which I have just referred to
ar-med attack on any of the Parties is deemed
to include an armed attack on the metropolitan
territory of any of the Parties, or on the island
territories under its jurisdiction in the Pacific
or on its armed forces, public vessels or aircraft
in the Pacific."
That is the ANZUS Pact, We are really now being told by the
Opposition, as I understand it not so much from the speech
of the Leader of the Opposition as such, but from other general
indications that although we have this partnership; although
wre have this treaty which is absolutely one of the vital elements
in the safety and security of this country, we are to say to the
most overwhelmingly powerful member of the pact, " But understanding
we insist on the provision that if you are attacked by nuclear
weapons without wa-' rning" because, of course, there will be no
gentlemanly stuff if that happens " you cannot give orders to
your people in our area or within the scope of this station to
deliver their retaliatory blows" which ought to be delivered
in an hour " until you first arrange to have a meeting with the
Government of Austala in order thcat it may say VYes? or ' Not".
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Sir this is so iunreal and so much preferring
barren theory lo the actual security of Australia, that it
baffles me. How does that kind of thing fit into the facts
of life or into the ANZUS concept? Because joint control let
me repeat is not just the power to consult there is plenty
of power to consult but a power to veto, a power to say " No"
and that is what the Opposition wants to be said to the U. S,
Is the U. S. which, at vast expense can create this essential
facility for Western defence and for the carrying out of the
obligations of the ANZUS Treaty, to be told that it must accept
the risk that at the very time when these facilities are most
needed that is to say when the U. S. is attacked in a nuclear
war it may be denied Lhem by the then Government of Australia?
Sir, that point was elaborated in another way in
a statement ma de on behalf of the Opposition. The Opposition
underlined it by saying that there should be a provision that
the station should not be used by the U. S. at war without the
consent of the Australian Government. It is the same thing.
It is merely another way of putting it. I would like our follow
countrymen to think. Do they suppose that if the Communist
powers decided that the moment had come to strike they would
give any warning? I, like most people around the world, am not anticipating
that there will be a nuclear war. So long as we have the
deterrent and the deterrent can be used and launched with the
greatest effect, I do not think we will have nuclear war unless
somebody goes made somewhere. After all, we are talking about
a provision which is designed to help this country and other
countries in the event of war.
Suppose a war came how would it come? Only by
one of the Communist powers, or both, launching an attack on
tho rest of the world in pursuit of world power and dominating
the world with their strange ideas. They would give no warning
about it. Do not we know that from the very first moment that
some nuclear attack is made~ the retaliation the reply must
come within minutes; not within weeks or days0 Of course, that
is why it is necessary for somebody to be able to say " Go";
not a committee; not a laborious consultation at this end~ of
the world. Every minute will count and if we are twenty minutes
late, thirty minutes late or a day late, this may mean the
destruction of our kind of world all around the world.
Sir, suppose a war of that kind occurred! It would
not occur because the democratic nations attacked the Communist
world. Nobody is silly enough to believe that. Suppose a war
of that kind occurred, begun without warning, launched by a
Communist dictator who does not have to consult anybodyi Can
we in this Parliament representing, as we do, a pretty fair
cross-section of the people of Australia, suppose, as sensible
men that in a war of that kind the U. S. would be against us?
That is not real life, That does not come within the wildest
imagination of anybody,, Can anybody imagine that in such a
war if we were the object of attack the U. S. would be
neutral would tear up the ANZUS P-ct, would forget all these
associations that we have with her'? Not for one maoment, in
the wildest imagination of men.' That could not happen.
Would Australia, supposing we were not the first
object of attack but that Aerica or Great Britain or somewhere
in Western Europe was, wish to be let us face up to it a
neutral observer waiting to be the prize of victory? Nothing
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in the history of Australia suggests that that would be our
role. Could we rationally suppose that, should the U. S. be
in a war in which the U. S. naval forces in the Indian Ocean
must receive signals clearly a war against Communist
aggression any Australian Government would repudiate ANZUS
and declare for neutrality and evict the U. S. from the North-
West Cape? Of course we cannot. And that is why the agreement
that they should establish this station and that they should
control it and that we should have certain rights of access,
as described in the agreement, is a completely justifiable
a greement. Before I conclude, I hope I have gone to the centre
of the real problems in this matter soberly and seriously.
They are great problems. They deserve an informed public
opinion, Before I sit down, I just want to say that my
friend the Leader of the Opposition really he does not think
as badly of me as some of his remarks might suggest offered
a very remarkable argument. He said
" In fourteen years of office, the Government
has not acquired nuclear weapons. Australia is
therefore nuclear-disarmed without any agreement.
Whether the Prime Minister realises it or not, every
argument he advances for the need for nuclear weapons
for Australia's defence is a self-condemnation of
his own defence programme. The Prime Minister cannot
have it both ways. t
This argument fascinates me, I have already pointed out that
we have not ourselves acquired or produced nuclear weapons.
I have pointed out that we ourselves took a prominent place
in the discussions in the Prime Ministers' Conference which
led to the statement that nuclear weapons ought not to be
spread into too many hands. Therefore, Sir, of course we
have avoided being a nuclear power in cur own right.
The point that the honourable gentleman overlooks is
that we are not prepared to bind the unknown future by pledging
our word that we will never allow nuclear weapons to be used
in our defence, because that would be suicidal. If they are
to be used against us as they well might, under conceivable
circumstances we are to say Under no circumstances
will wo allow any power to co-me into our defence and deploy
nuclear weapons from our soil or from our waters. On top of
that, I want to end by repeating that so far as the Government
is concerned, and I would think so far as the vast majority
of the Austra-lian people is concerned, we will not handicap
our allies in the use of such weapons to resist nuclear
aggression by the comm.. on enemy of all,

Transcript 739