Public diplomacy

A rich resource: government records tell the story of Australia and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

25 September 2013

DFAT has financed and published Australia and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, a new volume in the series Documents on Australian Foreign Policy. The series is part of DFAT’s mission to publish an accurate, comprehensive and impartial record of Australia’s foreign and trade policy.

Co-edited by University of Newcastle (NSW) academic Wayne Reynolds and DFAT’s chief historian, David Lee, the book draws on unpublished records from the National Archives of Australia to document the negotiation of the treaty from an Australian perspective.

DFAT Acting Secretary Gillian Bird launched the book at a seminar in Canberra, hosted by the Australian Institute of International Affairs.

“I can think of no more fitting venue to launch this book than the Australian National University’s Centre for Nuclear non-Proliferation and Disarmament,” Ms Bird said. “The book provides a compelling account of how one nation put aside its own strong reservations for a worthwhile multilateral agreement that has contributed to greater regional and global security.

“And while there tends to be talk of the ‘failures’ of the NPT, it has established rules and I believe it has been a success as a multilateral, norm-building institution.”

Australia and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty consists largely of a faithfully reproduced compilation of government records – cablegrams, minutes, reports and memorandums. The documents commence in 1945 with the beginning of the Atomic Age, and take the reader to a series of communications in October 1974, including an extract of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam’s address at the UN General Assembly, and records naming historical figures – from the internationally famous, such as Henry Kissinger, to players less well known but still active on the world stage.

Australia and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty 1945–1974 is available for purchase online.

Scientist pointing out features of Lucas Heights nuclear reactor

Prime Minister Robert Gordon Menzies officially opens Australia’s first nuclear reactor at Lucas Heights, New South Wales, in 1958. The Australian Atomic Energy Commission’s chief scientist, Charles Norman Watson-Munro, is pointing out features of the top of the reactor. (NAA: A1200, L25993. Photo: J Fitzpatrick)