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Thursday, 27 November 1986
Page: 2859

Senator KILGARIFF(12.20) —I have followed this debate with considerable interest. I note what the Minister for Resources and Energy, Senator Gareth Evans, has said. I think all senators from this side would agree that he has been most helpful and has taken a completely responsible attitude to this very difficult subject. I have also noticed the remarks of Senator Sir John Carrick, who was the Minister for National Development and Energy in the Fraser Government. Of course, having had that responsibility he too has followed through this debate. I think it is fair to say that there are few more expert than Senator Sir John Carrick on the matter. It was interesting to see the answers given by the Minister to questions asked by Senator Sir John Carrick during the hearings of Senate Estimates Committee E relating to resources and energy and the Royal Commission into British Nuclear Tests in Australia concerning the Maralinga tests.

At this stage I should like to ask some questions which arise from the Committee hearing. The Minister may not be in a position to answer the questions immediately but, in continuing to endeavour to clear up the matter by making information available to the people interested, in this chamber or elsewhere, he may be able to table the answers in the Senate at some future time. I note that the Minister conceded that the Government has virtually no scientific evidence of the existence of the black mist, as has been indicated a few months ago. He said that apart from anecdotal evidence the only evidence of the mist is a report 10 days after the Totem 1 experiment which referred to the size of the cloud. Senator Sir John Carrick mentioned this.

It seemed during the exchange of questions and answers that the Minister was careful, for good reason, to ensure that it was made clear that the Government was picking up the language of the Royal Commission. He said: `We make no judgment about whether claims', that is, relating to the black mist, `have any validity'. In spite of this, the Government announced that it would pay some half a million dollars in compensation to Aboriginal communities with traditional interest in the Maralinga area. This was before any scientific research had been undertaken, as I understand it, to establish what effect the testing had upon the Maralinga area. I note that the first instalment in a series of compensation payments was to be used to assist in the provision of roads, permanent water supply and basic communications.

Senator Gareth Evans —Excuse me, Senator. You did give us notice of the series of questions, to which I have written answers now available. I think we can possibly pre-empt this process by my simply tabling the answers.

Senator KILGARIFF —Then I shall not go through the questions which some time ago I sent to the Minister.

Senator Gareth Evans —I do not want to cut Senator Kilgariff off in full flow but it may short-circuit the process if I table the answers.

Senator KILGARIFF —I shall briefly finish my comments. I was talking about water supplies, basic communications and such which are being provided for the Aboriginal people. That is commendable because those sorts of facilities are needed throughout the outback. I would be interested to know whether this compensation is to be taken as some sort of admission by the Government that the tests had a detrimental effect of some nature upon the Aboriginals in the area, as mentioned by Senator Sir John Carrick. I do not wish to take up any further time unnecessarily. The Minister has indicated that he has answers to my questions available so I hand over to him.