Further to my note that Defence Department should turn their minds to considering the implications of these proposals,3 I have this to add:
- The Outward Telegram from the Department of External Affairs of the 28th May raised some questions which would require consideration, particularly in paragraph 2(f) of telegram 2622 to London.4 The commitment not to acquire nuclear weapons outside of a general agreement to which all countries submitted is a major one for Australia living in the shadow of Communist China; likewise for India and Japan. At this conference Australia and India5 will be the major countries adversely affected by the terms of this document.
- I think that the British Government have acted improperly in rushing us in this matter and owed it to us, having in mind that China only a few weeks ago released its second experimental weapon, to talk the matter through with us before submitting it to the general forum. Having failed to do this, and assuming that we have an interest to protect, it becomes a matter of some importance tactically to know how we should handle it. The British Government have invited our comments (telegram 4413 from London).6
- You will note that the British contemplate the possibility of circulating a revised draft about 10 days before the meeting begins.7 If we were to get our amendments in this week we could therefore ensure that the British take account of our views in a revised draft. However, I understand that Mr. Hasluck8 does not take the view that we should propose any amendments. He does this on tactical grounds. His view is that it should come forward now as a British document, that if we make amendments it will be a composite document. I think that there is some merit in what Mr. Hasluck says, if we propose amendments. However, it should be open to us without destroying Mr. Hasluck's point to put to the British our considered views on the scheme leaving it to the British to take account of them. You may wish to consider how this could be done. Do you intend to leave it to the Prime Minister or should some interdepartmental work be done. I have spoken to External Affairs, but they feel paralysed by Mr. Hasluck's ideas and informed me he intended to speak to the Prime Minister. Anyway these are the handling problems in this matter to which I think you should address your mind and leave some instructions. My own view is that the British should have the benefit of our views time enough to take account of them in any draft. I do not think they should be led to believe that we accept what has been put forward and then find themselves surprised at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' meeting to discover otherwise. In other words, I think some real action is needed with the British before this thing gets into the ring.
[NAA: A1209, 1965/6117]