A brief madness: Australia and the resumption of French nuclear testing

Author/s (editor/s):

Kim Richard Nossal

Publication year:

1997

Publication type:

Policy paper

Canberra Papers on Strategy and Defence No. 121

In June 1995, the newly elected president of France, Jacques Chirac, announced that his government was planning to conduct a number of underground nuclear tests at the French testing facilities in Polynesia. The announcement sparked public protest around the Asia-Pacific, but nowhere was the anger at Chirac's decision more vigorous or widespread than in Australia. If anger is a 'brief madness', as Horace suggested, then over the winter of 1995, Australia was gripped by such a brief madness: hundreds of thousands of ordinary Australians, from all parts of the community, expressed their opposition to the testing, engaging in a variety of the protests. This monograph traces that opposition, looking at the ways in which the anti-nuclear movement unfolded. It pays particular attention to the role of the media in shaping those protests. It also seeks to explain this brief but unprecedented spike of national anger. The authors look at the various explanations put forward to account for the outburst of Australian rage, and argue that none of them adequately explains this case. Rather, they conclude that the most potent explanation lies in the nature of the nation doing the testing rather than the testing itself.

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