Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons
Australian Nuclear Weapons Capability
- Reservations expressed concerning safeguards and inspections are directly related to our aim of developing unhindered, nuclear power for peaceful purposes. On the question of signature and ratification, however, Australia's position has been and should continue to be influenced by long term strategic considerations. In this regard the 'Strategic Basis of Australian Defence Policy 1971', approved by the Defence Committee in March 1971, states:
'Finally there is, in our opinion, no present strategic need for Australia to develop or acquire nuclear weapons; but the implications of China's growing nuclear military capacity, and of the growth of military technology in Japan and India, need continuous review. We consider that the opportunities for decision open to the Australian Government in future would be enlarged if the lead time for the acquisition of a nuclear weapons capability could be shortened. We recommend regard to this, without undue claims upon resources, in the future development of Australia's nuclear capacity for peaceful purposes, in the Defence research and development programme, and in other relevant ways.'
- The Government's present public assessment-as expressed in the Department of Defence paper 'Australian Defence Review', March 1972-is that 'in the present strategic circumstances there is no requirement for an Australian nuclear weapons capability. Australian policy on the acquisition of nuclear armaments recognises the danger which could arise from the spread of nuclear weapons and from an increase in the number of nations possessing such weapons ... In present circumstances, however, it would be prudent to continue to watch developments in nuclear technology.'
- Ratification of the NPT does not mean that a country's national interests are necessarily subordinated permanently to the Treaty. Under Article X, any State Party may withdraw from the Treaty 'if it decides that extraordinary events, related to the subject matter of the Treaty, have jeopardised the supreme interests of its country.' Moreover, even after ratification, some steps towards development of a nuclear weapons capability would be possible. To what extent those steps would reduce the lead time is not known. Further study would be needed to determine this.
[NAA: A1838, 919/10/5 part 25]