Fact or Fission?: The truth about Australia's nuclear ambitions
Scribe $35 pb, 331 pp
Richard Broinowski, a retired senior diplomat who has served in seven legations, three as ambassador, has long been interested in matters nuclear, as this excellent work demonstrates. Broinowski traces Australian nuclear developments from the early days of World War II to the most recent developments under Prime Minister John Howard. In the process, he chronicles Australian nuclear ambitions, from the early flirtations with acquiring a nuclear weapon and its related strike capability, to the later development of uranium exports.
Throughout Fact or Fission? it is clear that it is not possible to study Australian nuclear history in isolation from the US. Australia ultimately renounced nuclear weapons and signed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1970 because of US pressure. Gorton was aware, as he flirted with the construction of a reactor that could build fissile material for bombs, that ANZUS itself might be sacrificed. Later, Washington would be indirectly responsible for undermining Australian non-proliferation credentials by stressing that ANZUS was defended by nuclear weapons. In this sense, the book reinforces what many writers have long concluded: Australia is a dependent power that seldom stands up to its ‘great and powerful’ English-speaking friends. John Howard has more in common with John Curtin then many would suspect.