Launch of Australia and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty 1945–1974

On Wednesday 25 September 2013, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Ms Gillian Bird, will launched the latest volume in the Department's Documents on Australian Foreign Policy series, covering Australia and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, 1945–1974.

The launch was held at the ANU Centre for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament. Chaired by the Executive Director of the Australian Institute of International Affairs, Ms Melissa Conley Tyler, it included presentations by Associate Professor Wayne Reynolds, who discussed the historical aspects of Australia’s approach during the negotiation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in the 1950s and 1960s; Professor Ramesh Thakur, who talked about the role of the NPT as a norm-building institution in international affairs; and Mr Mike Smith, a former Ambassador for Disarmament, who focused on the challenges and rewards of negotiating and implementing the NPT at the multilateral level.

The volume, edited by Associate Professor Reynolds of the University of Newcastle and Dr David Lee of the Department’s Historical Publications and Information Section, draws on unpublished records from the National Archives of Australia to document the negotiation of the NPT from an Australian perspective. Commencing in 1945 with early post-war efforts to control nuclear energy following the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the volume traces Australia’s changing attitude to the issue of nuclear arms control and disarmament during the Cold War years of the 1950s and 1960s and its ambiguous approach to the acquisition of nuclear weapons in the subsequent negotiation of the NPT. While the Department of External Affairs (DEA) led the debate in Canberra favouring Australian signature and ratification of the Treaty, other agencies strongly believed that Australia should develop a defensive nuclear capability and therefore had reservations about committing to the NPT. The DEA view won out. Signed by the Australian government in 1970 and ratified in 1973, the NPT has formed a fundamental plank in Australian attitudes and policies towards international efforts to reduce and eventually eliminate nuclear weapons.

You can order the publication.