He said the decision to conduct yesterday’s test at Fangataufa Atoll was deplorable and against common sense. It further damaged France’s international reputation and was contrary to the wishes of its own people.
“The French Government has failed to ask the question – would nuclear tests of this kind be tolerated in metropolitan France?” he said.
“Clearly they would not. With every new test it holds, the immediate and long-term costs to France increase.”
The Opposition Leader, Mr Howard, condemned the French Government for its “arrogant Gallic contempt” for world opinion. He said the only thing that would stop President Chirac was the growing domestic opposition to the tests.
“It is not an ideological dispute any more. It is a situation where one Government is completely and utterly at odds with the decent mainstream of world opinion on this issue,” he said.
France, anticipating a repeat of the mob violence that followed the first test in this series on 2 September, placed its security forces on alert in the Tahitian capital, Papeete, but the city was quiet late yesterday except for heavy police patrols.
In Sydney, refuellers placed bans on Air France flights arriving after midnight last night.
The Foreign Minister, Senator Evans, was expected to hit out at the French this morning in a speech to the United Nations in New York.
In Washington, a White House spokesman, Mr Mike McCurry, said: “The United States regrets this action. We continue to urge all of the nuclear powers, including France, to refrain from future tests and to join in a global moratorium.”
The Fangataufa test – a blast of up to 150 kilotonnes – produced a shockwave reading about six on the Richter scale.
Australian seismologists said yesterday’s bomb, the second of eight planned, was up to 15 times more powerful than the device exploded at Mururoa last month.
The acting Foreign Minister, Senator McMullan, called in the French ambassador, Mr Dominique Girard, to convey the Australian anger.
Before meeting Senator McMullan, Mr Girard defended the French testing program and said his country had nothing to apologise for. He said the program would result in the country signing a comprehensive test ban treaty.
“We are the first country which has taken a commitment to sign the CTBT and to make it a negotiation which will be safe and sure with the smallest possible threshold for the future,” he said.
6 August, 1945. Hiroshima: about 12 kilotonnes. Measured between 3.5 and 4 on the Richter scale.
6 September. Mururoa Atoll: less than 20 kilotonnes. 4.9 on the Richter scale.
2 October. Fangataufa Atoll: up to 150 kilotonnes. 6 on the Richter scale.