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Peace Campaigns in the 1960s

In 1960 the CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) formed at Melbourne University and in 1962 another in Sydney. A year later a national body was formed. Though confined largely to academic circles and surviving only a few years these groups can be seen as the incipient Nuclear Disarmament Party, which flourished in the 1980s. Church assemblies and women’s bodies continued to call for testing to cease.[51] A petition, canvassed by the peace movement, and which gathered 200,000 signatures, called for the government to support an initiative within the UN for a Nuclear Free Zone in the whole southern hemisphere.

The quiet seclusion of Canberra, was shattered ‘when 1000 men and women converged there from all over Australia in a mighty cavalcade for peace’, the Tribune reported triumphantly in August 1962. They had brought a petition with 205,000 signatures, calling upon the Australian government ‘to enter into an agreement not to manufacture, test, station or acquire nuclear weapons’ and ‘to assist towards a universal and permanent test ban treaty’. The petition was tabled in parliament by Jim Cairns but the speaker refused time for the house to debate it.[52]

In the face of a great surge of world opinion against the tests, Britain, the United States and the Soviet Union signed the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, on 6 August 1963, notably Hiroshima Day. A week later a cavalcade converged on Canberra where it marched through the streets and then descended on parliament house. Instead of being rejected, like the year before, the Kings Hall this time ‘resounded to animated discussion of hundreds of delegates with numerous members of parliament’. That night people gathered in the Albert Hall. A sweet smell of success permeated the hall. A resolution was carried saying: ‘We rejoice at the signing of the partial test ban treaty by the U.S.A., U.S.S.R. and Britain...[and] that 64 nations, including Australia, have indicated their intention to become signatories to the treaty’. One factor in the breakthrough ‘has been the determined and faithful work of peace workers throughout the world’. However, ‘the test ban treaty does not affect the kill and overkill of existing armaments’.[53]

The signing of the test ban treaty was something of a victory for the peace movement. Its efforts in community education on nuclear weapons, in the difficult Cold War climate, were an important factor in the building up of public pressure to stop the tests. However, testing continued underground and even intensified.