103 Letter from Baxter to McIntyre

Sydney, 6 February 1968

Top Secret

Thank you for your letter of 5th January, 19681 in which you referred to the agreement2 reached by the Americans and the Russians on the text of a draft treaty relating to non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. You mentioned that a meeting will be convened in your Department on Friday next, February 9th, 1968 at 10.00 a.m. to discuss a draft submission recommending that Australia should accede to the Treaty. The Commission will send representatives to the meeting.

Reports relating to negotiations for a Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty have been discussed by the Atomic Energy Commission on a number of occasions. In addition, at the request of the Minister, the Commission has been asked to prepare certain basic papers for a review of Australia's nuclear weapons policy. You will know that this review was initiated by the Prime Minister3 and it is very relevant to the matters to be discussed on Friday. This review has not been concluded and some of the more important Committees have never been convened.

The Commission is surprised in these circumstances to note that the Joint Planning Committee has reached an advanced stage in its consideration of these matters since it appears to have done so without any technical guidance on the prospects and possibilities of an Australian nuclear weapons programme. Sir Leslie Martin who, until recently, was the Defence Scientific Adviser to the Government, is a member of the Commission and fully shares our concern at the course which events have taken.

I feel it incumbent on me to state for the record that, up to the present time, a co-ordinated study of the implications of the Treaty-political, military and civil-has not been made. Nor have our requests to your Department for interdepartmental discussions of these aspects of the Treaty met with a positive response.

The Minister for National Development4 is naturally concerned and has requested me to draft a letter to the Prime Minister urging that a thoroughly co-ordinated study of all aspects of this Treaty should be made before the question of accession by Australia is submitted to Cabinet for consideration.

The political aspects of the Treaty are essentially a matter for the Minister for External Affairs and it may well be that the Government will feel that they are completely overriding. I have placed on record the fact that the review of the defence aspects as directed by the Prime Minister is not complete. But from another point of view - namely, the safeguards provisions - the Treaty as drafted is discriminatory against countries which produce nuclear raw materials and it could well have a profoundly adverse effect on a number of important industries in Australia as well as on the introduction of nuclear power in this country.

[NAA: A1838, TS919/10/5 part 2]