176 Memorandum from Cumes to Waller

Canberra, 19 July 1971


Ratification of the N.P.T.

In recent conversations with me, the Executive Commissioner of the A.A.E.C., Mr. Maurice Timbs, has shown a disposition to support Australian ratification of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, largely because he believes that our failure to ratify might adversely affect the United States' attitude to co-operation with us in a multi-national project for establishment of a uranium enrichment plant in Australia. This A.A.E.C. attitude differs from the Commission's attitude to the N.P.T. in the past-an attitude which was largely determined by the Chairman of the A.A.E.C., Sir Phillip Baxter.

  1. So far, United States references to our ratification of the N.P.T. in relation to uranium enrichment seem to have been rather mild.1 However, they have said on a couple of occasions that it would be easier for the United States to join with us on uranium enrichment if we had ratified the N.P.T.
  2. On 16th July, the United States delivered an aide memoire looking to exploratory talks for the construction of additional enrichment capacity on a multi-national basis.2 This aide memoire was delivered to the E.E.C., the member states of the E.E.C., Britain, Canada, Australia and Japan. Of these countries, only Britain and Canada have ratified the N.P.T. France, Germany, Japan and Australia have not. Australia is, therefore, far from being alone as a non-ratifier among those countries with whom talks on construction of additional enrichment capacity are envisaged. It may be, of course, that the United States would propose to exert pressure on all the non-ratifiers, but this has not emerged yet.
  3. Timbs has left me with the impression that he will be pursuing the matter of ratification both within the Commission and with his Minister. He raised with me the question of a possible further approach to Ministers on ratification.
  4. I responded with the view that, although progress had now been made in the establishment of a safeguards system within I.A.E.A., there had been virtually no progress on ratifications by significant governments since we signed the treaty about 12 months ago. As well as safeguards, Ministers had had in mind that there should be progress on ratification by such countries as, for example, Germany and Japan, before any final decision was taken about Australian ratification. It may be therefore that Ministers will not yet be ready to consider ratification in any final way. Some change may have occurred because of the movement of the People's Republic of China towards entry into the international community,3 but Ministers might want to argue either way as to whether this would be or would not be a justification for Australian ratification at this stage.
  5. At the moment, there does seem to be developing some further pressure for Ministers to look at ratification again in the light of possible multi-national co-operation for uranium enrichment. Perhaps we will need to know more about the United States proposals and the way in which they might link their release of technology and, generally, co-operation in a multinational effort for ratification of the N.P.T., before we put anything further to Ministers. On the other hand, multi-national co-operation could be important to us from a number of points of view and it may be, therefore, that we could bring the matter to Ministers' notice again, even though our judgement might be that Ministers might not yet be ready to move on ratification. In any event, it appears to be at least a possibility that A.A.E.C. and the Minister for National Development might want to put the matter to Ministers and we should be prepared with our attitude towards ratification if, in fact, they do do this.
  6. It is difficult to be clear about timing, but I have a suspicion that in the light of the relative speed with which the United States and other governments are approaching the question of multi-national co-operation for uranium enrichment that the A.A.E.C. could contemplate putting proposals to Ministers fairly quickly. Our latest advice is that the United States would propose having discussions with the other countries they have approached on uranium enrichment late this summer, that is, perhaps in September or October, and the A.A.E.C. and possibly Mr. Swartz might want to move before then.
  7. My suggestion is that we should re-examine our position on ratification of the N.P.T. and be prepared to advise our Minister and to formulate our attitude to a Cabinet submission.

[NAA: A1838, 720/4/9 part 2]