52 Report by the Joint Planning Committee1

Canberra, 28 September 1961

Top Secret—Guard

Agendum No. 58/61. Report No. 64/61. The Strategic Basis of Australian Defence Policy

Matter referred

As a prior step to consideration of the New Three Years' Defence Programme commencing 1st July, 1962, the Joint Planning Committee has prepared a new draft Strategic Basis of Australian Defence Policy. The last Strategic Basis is dated January, 1959.2


2. We have prepared the attached draft 'Strategic Basis of Australian Defence Policy' and a covering draft 'Memorandum by the Defence Committee'.3 The Joint Intelligence Committee was consulted during the preparation of the draft Strategic Basis.

[matter omitted]


4. It is recommended that the attached draft Memorandum and draft Strategic Basis of Australian Defence Policy be endorsed.

Joint Planning Committee
(Sgd.) G.E. Pettit(Sgd.) J.W. Harrison
Joint Secretary (Sgd.) R.J. Robertson
(Sgd.) J.M. Sutherland(Sgd.) C.T. Hannah
Wing Commander, Joint Secretary (Sgd.) T.F.B. MacAdie
 (Sgd.) L.G. Poyser

Strategic Basis of Australian Defence Policy

Appreciation by the Defence Committee

Australia's Area of Strategic Interest

[matter omitted]

The Need for a Nuclear Capability

  1. The acquisition of a tactical nuclear capability by Australian forces would vastly increase our defensive and offensive strength and would also enhance the value of our contribution in operations under collective arrangements. Moreover, in the future some weapons systems will be dependent on nuclear warheads for their effectiveness. The availability of nuclear weapons would be of considerable importance to Australia should a situation develop which posed a direct threat to Australia, requiring defensive operations in the northern approaches. In the event that our allies were unable to come to our assistance in a global war, and Australia were confronted by a hostile Indonesia (with or without a nuclear capacity), our possession of a nuclear capability could be essential to national survival.
  2. In the current assessment of the likely threat to Australia, it is considered that there would be no threat of nuclear attack except in global war, and that even in this context, which itself is regarded as unlikely, Australia would not be an early or primary target for nuclear attack. Having regard to the present strategic situation and the security provided by our Treaty arrangements (particularly ANZUS), in which our most powerful ally has a nuclear capability, there is no immediate requirement for an independent Australian nuclear capability. Moreover, the priorities of effort determined by our limited resources call for a concentration on improving the strength and effectiveness of our forces in the conventional field. Australian forces, however, should have, as far as possible, a potential capability to operate with nuclear weapons and in the face of nuclear opposition.

[matter omitted]

[NAA: A1838, TS677/3 part 2]