10 Minute by Shedden1

Canberra, 14 July 1948

Top Secret

Defence Committee Minute No. 83/1948 and the Appreciation enclosed therewith,2 relative to the above subject, have been submitted to the Minister […].

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Attachment

An Appreciation by the Defence Committee of the Possible Effect of the Use of Atomic Bombs against Australia

Part I

General Considerations

Section I-Characteristics of the Atomic Weapon

Atomic Weapons

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8. There is no current evidence that any potential enemy possesses atomic bombs. Although productions costs are high, there is no scientific reason why any country should not be able ultimately to produce atomic bombs, though their numbers will be limited by the availability of raw materials.

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Section III-International Agreement

  1. The possibility of obtaining certain protection as a result of international agreement is largely dependent upon the success or otherwise of the United Nations in prohibiting the production of atomic weapons, and the establishment of a completely effective system of policing such agreement.
  2. The existence of such an agreement, however adequate, would not eliminate the knowledge of atomic weapons. There would appear to be also no certain means of ensuring that a nation, bent on world domination, would not evade the policing procedure of the agreement, and apply existing knowledge of atomic weapons to their secret production. Despite any international agreement which may be reached, the possibility of atomic attack should not be discarded.
  3. If war does take place, it is reasonable to assume that any international control of atomic energy, whatever method has been set up by international agreement, will lapse coincident with the commencement of hostilities. Under these circumstances, the powers concerned could then initiate production of atomic weapons even if they had not commenced earlier.

A possible result of the existence of an international agreement might be, therefore, that atomic weapons would not be used in the opening phases of a war.

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Section IV-Counter Measures

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Active Defence3

  1. Until an effective international agreement on atomic energy is reached, the need for providing active defence measures against attack with atomic weapons continues to exist. The preparedness of a nation to meet attack from mass destruction weapons and to retaliate will have a deterrent effect on a potential aggressor.
  2. Weight for weight the atomic bomb is much more effective than other known destructive methods. Despite its high cost of production, the ratio of its cost to the value of the results achieved from its use is lower than that for orthodox weapons required to produce equivalent results. It is conceivable that a nation, with access to raw materials, could steadily manufacture and store bombs and their carriers in peace, and be ready to discharge them at short notice with devastating and demoralising effects.

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[NAA: A5954, 1473/4]