29 Defence Committee Minute1

Canberra, 6 February 1958

Top Secret Guard

Agendum No. 16/1958 & Supps. 1 & 2 No. 18/1958: Nuclear Weapons for the Australian Forces—Plutonium Production in Australia

Nuclear Weapons

  1. The Defence Committee considered a memorandum of 22nd January, 1958, from the Department of External Affairs,2 in reply to a Defence Department memorandum, regarding the above subject and suggesting that the matter be discussed with the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during his visit to Australia,3 together with a paper submitted by the Joint Planning Committee on the subject under cover of Report No. 6/1958.4
  2. The Defence Committee concluded that:
    1. On the information available, Australia has no requirement for high yield (megaton) nuclear weapons.
    2. The acquisition of a low yield nuclear capability by the Australian forces would vastly increase our defensive and offensive strength for national defence, and also enhance the value of our contribution in operating under collective security arrangements.
    3. However, other factors are involved and the real requirement is for a comprehensive appreciation. This appreciation would include factors such as:
      1. Military considerations;
      2. External political considerations;
      3. Cost: which could have an important effect on the level of other armaments which it is possible to maintain within a limited defence vote.
    4. Therefore an approach should be made to the United Kingdom Prime Minister with a view to Australia obtaining access to United Kingdom information which would permit us to explore further the possibilities of possessing a nuclear capability. The information would comprise factors such as cost, facilities required for storage preparation and delivery, manpower and training requirements, etc. It is emphasised that the information we seek is solely related to nuclear capability in the range of low-yield weapons.
    5. Additional information concerning nuclear weapons is also required to further the organisation and training of Australian forces for participation in war employing nuclear weapons.
    6. Early consideration should be given to informing the United States of the approach being made by Australia.

[matter omitted]

[NAA: A571, 1958/677]