47 Minute of Defence Committee Meeting

Canberra, 29 April 1960


Vice Admiral Sir Roy Dowling, K.B.E., C.B., D.S.O., Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee (Acting Chairman) 
Air Marshal Sir Frederick Scherger, K.B.E., C.B., D.S.O., A.F.C., Chief of the Air StaffS. Landau, Esq., O.B.E., Acting Secretary, Department of Defence
Lieutenant-General Sir Ragnar Garrett, K.B.E., C.B., Chief of the General StaffP.R. Heydon, Esq., C.B.E., Acting Secretary, Department of External Affairs
Vice Admiral H.M. Burrell, C.B., C.B.E., Chief of the Naval StaffC.L. Hewitt, Esq., Representing Secretary to the Treasury M.C. Timbs, Esq., Representing Secretary, Prime Minister's Department
Major General I.T. Murdoch, C.B.E., Deputy Chief of the General Staff, and Major-General J.W. Harrison, C.B.E., Chairman, Joint Planning Committee, were also present.

Agendum No. 41/1960 No. 44/1960: Disarmament-Australian Defence Principles

Matters Referred

Joint Planning Committee report No. 34/1960 on the above subject.


[matter omitted]

2. The views of the Defence Committee are contained in the attached report.

Disarmament-Australian Defence Principles

Conclusions of Defence Committee


The Department of External Affairs has requested Defence views on disarmament, with a view particularly to furnishing advice which might be helpful to the Prime Minister in his discussions in London and Washington.1

  1. Our detailed report is at Annex.2 It revises the 1955 Defence principles3 in the light of developments since that date and then applies the revised principles briefly to the 1960 Soviet and Western disarmament plans.4 Our conclusions are set out below.

    Australian Defence Principles5

  2. The following are the principal considerations which should govern the Australian defence attitude towards disarmament:
    1. In the absence of a general climate of international confidence, any agreement on the reduction or limitation of armaments and armed forces can be entered into only if the assurance exists that all parties to the agreement will faithfully fulfil their undertakings. This requires that in present circumstances agreement on an effective system of international verification, inspection and control must precede the adoption of any system of reduction or limitation of armaments and armed forces.
    2. Such an agreement must not at any stage give a significant military advantage to any one country or bloc. The two main requisites are that the agreement cover all militarily significant states and especially Communist China, and that it embrace both nuclear and conventional disarmament, which should be related to each other.
    3. In determining the size and shape of the armed forces of countries party to the agreement, account must be taken at all stages of essential strategic considerations and of economic, political and demographic factors. This is particularly important to Australia in view of its size, geographic location and limited population, and to the British Commonwealth, by reason of its geographic distribution and dependence on the security of sea and air communications.
    4. There should be no impairment of the inherent right of individual and collective selfdefence, as expressed in the United Nations Charter and in arrangements to give effect to it, such as ANZAM,6 ANZUS and SEATO.
    5. Any agreement which provides for national disarmament to the point of leaving each country with only lightly armed internal security forces must also provide for some suitably-equipped international force to keep world peace. Otherwise the internal security forces of a country such as China, with its repressive regime, its large population and its minority problems, would be so large as to exercise, unless checked, a dominating influence in the region.

[matter omitted]

Communist China

  1. With the increased military significance of Communist China to the Western position in South East Asia, and the increased importance to the West, and especially to Australia, of the West having adequate conventional forces, the relegation of Communist China to Stage II has serious drawbacks from the military point of view. Further, since this relegation is strongly influenced by political difficulties of associating Communist China with a disarmament agreement, which might postpone Stage II for some considerable time, the absence of emergency provision (both legal and practicable) for the force levels in Stage I to be revised, should the situation require this, is a most serious deficiency.

[NAA: A1209, 1960/469]