124 Cablegram from Department of External Affairs to Shaw1

Canberra, 1 [May]2 1968

373. Top Secret Immediate

Non-Proliferation Treaty

Cabinet has considered the report of the Defence Committee of 26 April3 a copy of which you will have received. The Australian delegation's course in the General Assembly should be governed by what is set out in this telegram. References are to the paragraphs in the Defence Committee's report.

2. At this stage, the Cabinet has specifically set aside the question of whether Australia should, or should not, sign the treaty, or should or should not, vote for any particular resolution. This would avoid any commitment now and would leave these questions to be decided at a later stage.

3. The Cabinet contemplated that Australia might make an initial statement of her position to the General Assembly which would declare support in principle for an effective treaty, but would also register in a general way that the present day draft raises a number of considerations for Australia which she must take into account when considering her position. It also contemplated that the delegation would not, either in debate in the Assembly or in discussion with other delegations, appear to be opposed to a treaty or to be playing a leading part in opposing sections of this treaty, but that, at the same time, it would be careful not to allow any suggestion which would lead to the impression that Australia is prepared uncritically to accept the treaty as it stands.

4. The Cabinet remained of the view that in a number of directions the implications of the treaty were such as to be matters of high concern for Australia. The delegation will have these matters particularly in mind. Rather than necessarily take an initiative to pursue them in thecAssembly debate, especially at the outset, the delegation might seek opportunity to raise them in discussions with other delegations or groups of delegations. It will raise them at this stage not to suggest that the Australian Government is laying down conditions, but on the basis of seeking explanations, clarifications and assurances. It may be necessary to seek to clarify and define some aspects of the treaty at a later stage in the Assembly debate in order to have particular assurances or interpretations on the record.

5. Having thus defined its initial approach, the Cabinet discussed particular sections of the report of the augmented Defence Committee as appended to the submission, commencing at paragraph 12, page 4. Its views on these sections, which are to be read in conjunction with the initial approach mentioned above, were as follows:

  1. Efficacy of the Treaty - para. 12.
    The Cabinet agreed that it would be of critical importance to Australia's position not only that the treaty should attract the necessary number of adherents, but that particular countries in Australia's region, i.e. India, Pakistan, Japan and Indonesia, should ultimately join.
  2. Impact on Australia's Commercial Interests - paras. 13 and 14.
    It noted that here also Australia must be concerned in relation to the countries, e.g. Japan, which ratify the treaty.
  3. Manufacture - paras. 15-21.
    The Cabinet attached importance to this whole section and indicated that it wished the Australian delegation, in its discussions with other delegations, to pursue the course proposed in para. 20-which is directed at securing the United States interpretation of the word manufacture as it appears in Articles I and II4 of the treaty-and, assuming the outcome is satisfactory, to seek instructions as to how it should be placed on record.
  4. Safeguards - paras. 22-61.
    The Cabinet indicated a general agreement with the approaches suggested in these sections of the report, subject to the following understandings:
    1. It attached importance to retaining a right to reject particular IAEA inspectors - para. 31 - and felt that this right should be asserted and established.
    2. It supported the first sentence of para. 32, i.e. 'the Australian delegation should exchange views with other delegations on this problem and should support acceptable comment by other responsible countries'. At this stage, it did not feel called upon to support the second sentence of para. 32, 'however it is not thought that the prospect of increased risks of industrial espionage would be sufficient reason for Australia to refuse to support the treaty'.
    3. It wished the Australian delegation to take, as Canada has done, the position that its activities on the mining and refining of uranium source material will not be subject to safeguards, and indicated that the list of exclusions mentioned in para. 35, i.e., ores, minerals, mines and ore treatment plants, should be extended by the incorporation of refining plants.
    4. Australia will not necessarily accept future extensions of definitions under Article XX of the IAEA Statute - para. 37.
    5. The Cabinet indicated that the outcome of the delegation's efforts in relation to para. 46 could be critical to Australia's eventual decision on signing. What the Cabinet wished to see was a result in line with the position taken by the American team. It was not necessarily accepted, as the last part of para. 46 may suggest, that transfer of excess material to IAEA, even though not exported from Australia, would be approved.
    6. The American view on distribution of costs of safeguards suggested in para. 49 is to be supported.
    7. It felt that there was no need to give any instructions to the delegation on the aspect of regional groupings-paras. 50-53-since this is not an element of the treaty. (It was agreed that the study mentioned in para. 53 should go ahead with a view to its results being available by the time the government is required to take a detailed position in regard to the treaty.)
    8. The Cabinet did not dissent from the proposition - para. 56 - that any suggestion during the U.N. debate to re-negotiate the IAEA Statute should be resisted, nor from the general argument of paras. 57-59. It specifically resisted the proposition that later amendments to the IAEA Statute and/or safeguards systems would be mandatory on parties to the treaty and observed that this point would enter critically into Australia's consideration of signing.
  5. Espionage Security Risks - para. 62.
    The Cabinet noted that this point was affected by its earlier decision on para. 31, I.D., 5 (iv)(a) above.
  6. Peaceful Nuclear Explosions - para. 63.
    The approach proposed was endorsed-and its importance noted.
  7. Withdrawal - paras. 64-67.
    The Cabinet indicated a view against limiting of Australia's right to withdraw and accordingly indicated that it did not wish the delegation to take any initiative in raising questions of interpretation of the withdrawal article. If the question of interpretation should arise, the delegation should seek instructions from Australia, and in the meantime it should know for its guidance that the present view of the Cabinet is against any attempt to alter or interpret Article XI in a manner which would restrict Australia's right of withdrawal.
  8. Proposed Security Council Resolutions - paras. 68-72.
    The Cabinet placed emphasis on para. 71, i.e. protection for Australia under the ANZUS Treaty, as being the point of importance under this heading of the report. It saw little protection in the proposed Security Council resolutions.
  9. Duration - paras. 73-82
    The Cabinet discussed whether it might be practicable or tenable course for Australia to seek to bind herself for a term of years shorter than 25 and the considerations which arose in this regard, e.g., to possible threats from China, developments in nuclear technology, the treaty provisions on withdrawal. The Cabinet did not reach a decision on the point. It agreed that the delegation should not raise the issue of the 25 year term, but, if any other delegation raises it, should refer back for instructions.
  10. International Co-operation in Peaceful Use and Development - paras. 83-84.
    It did not appear to the Cabinet that any instructions were called for in relation to this section.
  11. Conclusion - paras. 85-88.
    The Cabinet took the view that its position in relation to these paragraphs was covered by the initial approach which it had defined as set out in paras. 2-4 above.

[NAA: A1838, 680/10/2 part 4]