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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 9686


Photo of Keating, Paul

Keating, Paul

Period of Service: 20/12/1991 to 11/03/1996

More information about Keating, Paul on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 05/08/1995

Release Type: Media Release

Transcript ID: 9686

When an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima fifty years ago the world
was changed forever. We had been through the most destructive war in
human history. At the very moment we emerged into the peace we learned
that there were weapons in the world of unimaginable destructive force. We
entered a Cold War and with it came the threat of nuclear war which, it
became incri6asing~ y apparent, meant the annihilation of dvilisation.
We were not the first generation in history to live in fear of the end of the
world. But we were the first to have proof that it could happen. From what
we knew of Hiroshima and Nagasaki we knew what it would be like. And as
first the Soviet Union and th th9er-countries developed weapons, and
tested them, and the weapons became infinitely more powerful than the
Hiroshima bomb, the threat grew.
For half a century we have lived with this threat: that a miscalculation or a
moment of madness among a handful of men in Washington and Moscow
might bring an end to human life.-
To say that this knowledge profoundly changed our thinking is to understate
the case. The mushroom cloud has lived in all our minds. It has pervaded
our thoughts about the future; about our children, about human nature.
So long as the Cold War continued, the shadow of nuclear war grew larger.
New technologies emerged to make weapons and their delivery systems ever
more efficient and deadly. We became familiar with terms like Mutual
Assured Destruction, but we never got used to the idea.
The Cold War limited our options, but many countries did what they could to
make the world safer. Australia was among those countries. In fact, at the
forefront of them.
We worked through international organisations to persuade the international
community to heed the dangers of nuclear competition and prevent nuclear
proliferation and reduce nuclear stockpiles. We created a new post an

Ambassador for Disarmament. In 1985 we took a leading role in developing
the Treaty of Rarotonga which established the South Pacific Nuclear Free
Zone. Protocol 3 of that Treaty prohibits nuclear testing in the South Pacific.
The end of the Cold War came as an unexpected and promising coda to the
century. It promised a way out of the nuclear prison. For a moment it
seemed possible that what we had assumed to be a permanent feature of our
lives might have been a temporary nightmare.
It created a great opportunity: but to seize this opportunity the two great
questions of nuclear proliferation and nuclear testing had to be addressed.
At an international conference in May this year, it was agreed to indefinitely
extend and strengthen the operation of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of
Nuclear Weapons ( NP T). The purpose of thei NPT is -to-p revent the
emergence of new nuclear weapons states. Without the NPT it is likely that
many countries would have found it impossible to resist the temptation to
develop nuclear weapons.
It was a key to the agreement that non-nuclear weapons states were assured
the nuclear powers would play their part in diminishing the nuclear threat and
exercise ' utmost restraint' in testing weapons before a Comprehensive Test
Ban Treaty ( CTBT) was agreed.
A commitment to conclude an internationally binding and -genuine CTBT no
later than the end of 1996 was one of the most important outcomes of the
NPT conference in May. This would achieve a goal for which Australia,
among other countries, has long fought in the United Nations.
Australia played an influential role at the May conference. We have been
active in the work underway to complete the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty
as soon as possible and have tabled a draft text. The conclusion of the
CTBT should bring a permanent end to nuclear testing and will be a major
boost to the cause of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. It is a key
policy aim of the Australian Government.
The 50th anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki the only times nuclear
weapons have been used in war is an appropriate moment to urge all
governments to redouble their efforts for the completion of a Test Ban Treaty.
Continued testing gives comfort to would-be proliferators and sours the
atmosphere in which the Treaty negotiations will take place. Australia calls
on all nuclear weapons states to put an immediate end to nuclear testing.
We have made our position on this clear to the Government of the People's
Republic of China and the Government of France.
The Australian Government recently sent a high-level delegation to the
nuclear weapon states to underline our concerns. I am pleased that all five

nuclear weapon states have confirmed their commitment to a successful
conclusion to the CTBT in the agreed time. We intend to hold them to this.
In addition to the effort for a CTBT, Australia is supporting another measure
flowing from the Non-Proliferation Treaty conference: the immediate
negotiation of a convention to cease the production of fissionable material for
nuclear weapons or other nuclear devices.
The French Government's decision to resume testing at Mururoa caused
anger in Australia and throughout the world not only because of concern for
the Pacific environment, but because it puts all this work at risk. It puts at risk
our hopes for a post Cold War world which does not have the nuclear
shadow hanging over it.
The French nuclear testing program is a symptom of the wider problem the
problem of what we do to reduce and eliminate nuclear weapons in the 21 st
century. Since 23 June when I announced the measures we have taken to bring home
to the French Government the extent of Australian concerns about their
policy, we have continued to build coalitions with other countries which share
our view of the testing program.
We have been particularly pleased at the way many people in Europe, both
within governments and outside, have spoken out against the French
decision. Similarly welcome expressions of concern have been made by
Japan, by our ASEAN neighbours and by the countries of Latin America.
A central aim of our policy is to work with this international coalition, not only
in our opposition to French tests but also on wider nuclear issues.
The South Pacific Forum Regional Action Committee has begun its work. An
import it fieeting of EiiVironment Ministers from the~ fiWf6en South Pacific
Forum countries will be held in Brisbane on 16 and 17 August to discuss the
environmental impact of testing.
At the international level, the Government has decided that Australia will join
with other countries, including Japan, in bringing before the 50th anniversary
session of the United Nations General Assembly a resolution calling for a
complete and imi~ di~ td end to nuclear testing.
We also believe that progress towards a nuclear weapons-free world may be
aided by the creation of linkages between the existing or potential nuclearweapon
free zones which already cover most of the Southern Hemisphere.
We will be exploring this with the members of the S. outh Pacific Nuclear Free
Zone and the other zones involved.--
In order to strengthen our communication with the governments and people of
the European countries, many of whom share our views, and to ensure that
our position is fully understood, I have asked the Minister for Pacific Island

Affairs, the Hon Gordon Bilney MP, to lead a Parliamentary delegation to
Europe in-early September. -This will be additional to a delegation, led by the
President of the Senate,. Senator Beahan, which will also be in Europe
meeting members of the European Parliament.
The Government has been considering the issue of whether Australia can
take action in the International Court. of Just_ e against the French tests. At
present, the legal advice suggests that such avenues are not open to us. We
will, however, be making oral submissions to the Court on the advisory
opinions sought by the World Health Organisation and the UN General
Assembly on the legality-df--ing nuclear weapons. As the French tests
raise important issues relevant to these proceedings, our position will be
firmly on the record before the court.
There have been a number of calls for the Government to send a ship to
Mururoa Atoll as part of an international protest against the testing program.
I have previously ruled out sending a naval vessel. The Government takes
the view that naval vessels should be used for naval purposes.
We have also considered the possibility of sending a non-naval vessel. The
Government has decided against such an action in the current
circumstances. Our reasons are principally strategic and financial. It would
be a costly exercise and it is by no means certain that it would have any
practical effect. We believe, on balance, that our resources can be put to
better use developing other elements of our campaign.
The Government is, however, concerned about the safety of Australian
participants in the flotilla. Present indications are that around ten Australian
yachts could be involved. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority, in
consultation with the Australian Defence Force, will be in touch with relevant
South Pacific search and rescue agencies to offer any additional support if
this is required.
The Government will also strengthen consular support for Australians in
French Polynesia.
With the tragedies of World War II and Cold War tension now behind us, we
have for the first time in many generations an opportunity to remake our
concepts of world security and take positive steps towards a world without
nuclear weapons.
Hiroshima is a most powerful reminder that we must not waste that
opportunity. CANBERRA Issued 5 August 1995

Transcript 9686