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Thursday, 19 February 1987
Page: 418


Mr CAMPBELL(9.42) —Madam Speaker, in speaking to the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation Bill and cognate Bills it must be recognised--


Mr Martin —Deputy Speaker.


Mr CAMPBELL —I am sorry, Madam Deputy Speaker.


Mr Beale —Mr Deputy Speaker.


Mr CAMPBELL —Mr--


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —I remind the honourable member that he knows how to address the Chair and I ask him to address the Chair in the proper manner.


Mr CAMPBELL —I offer my humble apologies. I have trouble with my eyes, Mr Deputy Speaker. I hope you do not take it at all personally. It is my view that we should have Madam Speakers of both sexes. A lot has been said about the legislation already and there is not much more I can say about the mechanics of it. Much of it covers the setting up of a statutory authority and the provisions thereof. It is very much the same for any statutory authority. I notice in the legislation that there is one radical provision that the chairperson of the Commission shall be addressed as `chairman', `chairwoman', or `Chairlady', according to sex. This adventurous-dare I say radical-piece of legislation will gladden the hearts of the many Gareth Ryans or Susan Evanses who exist in society today. I certainly commend it as it is a very forward looking notion. As you will appreciate, Mr Deputy Speaker, these Bills are highly technical and I am very grateful for the advice I have had from the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Tickner), the honourable member for Phillip (Ms McHugh) and the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Hand) in explaining to me the technicalities and intricacies of nuclear energy and radiation, all the facets in which I am not very well versed. I thank them very much. There are things about the Lucas Heights establishment which I find quite exciting. It is in the electorate of the honourable member for Hughes, and I have spoken to him at great length about this as he is particularly interested in the medical aspects of the developments that are taking place there. He has been good enough to explain certain aspects in detail to me.

I will mention some of the vital research that is taking place in the establishment such as that into malignant melanoma-it is almost poetic, is it not? While we are talking about poetry I will draw to the attention of the House the poetic licence the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Everingham) took with my electorate. I found it most distasteful that anyone should take poetic licence with the electorate of Kalgoorlie. After all it is twice the size of the electorate of the Northern Territory as you would know, Mr Deputy Speaker; but fear not, after the implementation of the Campbell plan there will be no Northern Territory; it will be divided amongst the adjoining States. The Australian Capital Territory will be returned to New South Wales, and Tasmania, of course, will be placed in the middle of the Gulf of Carpentaria where it will not doubt improve the breeding stock in Queensland.

Malignant melanoma is an important issue. I am grateful to the honourable member for Hughes for explaining to me that boron is readily taken up by the dark pigment, or melanin, associated with malignant melanoma. He tells me that a boron solution injected intravenously concentrates within the dark pigment and therefore is directly within the melanoma cell. That is very important because right in the middle of the melanoma cell is concentrated the isotope boron 10. When that cell is bombarded, as the honourable member explained to me, with a low energy neutron beam, the boron 10 becomes very excited and lithium 6 ions and alpha particles are emitted. It is in this decay process that the good effects take place. These high linear energy transfer particles have the capacity to destroy the cells completely within a radius of 10 micromillimetres. The honourable member explained to me that this is about the diameter of one cell. That is very important. Hence we have a very effective device for destroying malignant cells while leaving others unaffected. This work is being undertaken at Lucas Heights in conjunction with the New South Wales State Cancer Council and is a further development of research done in Japan into the destruction of certain cancer cells in brain tissue where very encouraging results are being achieved. (Quorum formed)

I was explaining how the isotope boron 10 when concentrated in the middle of these carcinoma cells can be destroyed when bombarded. This has relevance to brain cancer and there is the possibility in the future-possibly in the distant future-of providing a cure even for the National Party. Not only the National Party but also other affected organs will be cured by this method. This is extremely important for people in Australia particularly Queenslanders who run the highest risk in the world of being afflicted with malignant melanoma. This work is extremely important as about 1,000 people die or are seriously disfigured each year as a result of this disease, and the incidence appears to be rising.


Mr Lamb —Brisbane is our skin cancer city.


Mr CAMPBELL —That is probably right, and it is not the only cancer one gets there, of course. I am also grateful to the honourable member for Hughes for bringing to my attention the marvellous research being done at Lucas Heights into cystic fibrosis. He explained to me that this disease affects one in every 2,500 children born. It causes extreme discomfort, very poor quality of life and a very short life expectancy. The treatment has been to give supplementary feeding. The problem was that any weight gain was often merely retained water or fatty tissues when what was needed was muscle growth. The Atomic Energy Commission at Lucas Heights, in conjunction with the children's hospital at Camperdown, is developing a process whereby the patient is subjected to a low energy neutron source which activates neutrons in the nitrogen ions present in the muscle and gives doctors a precise measurement of muscle growth, enabling them to tailor precisely any supplementary feeding. This technique is also very useful in treating long term kidney dialysis patients. Cystic fibrosis patients normally develop a lot of mucous and require constant X-ray monitoring. This technique actively reduces the patient's exposure to radiation, as it greatly reduced the need for X-ray exposure. This is an issue in which the honourable member for Hughes has been very interested for many years. The process has the potential for substantial export earnings, a fact to be welcomed in our present economic climate.

Another aspect at which we can look with great pride in Australia is the support given at Lucas Heights for the development of synroc. Synroc is unsurpassed as a method of waste containment as it locks up the nuclides in the lattice of the atomic structure of the synthetic titanic rock. Is that right?


Mr Milton —It is experimental, isn't it?


Mr CAMPBELL —Yes, that is right. It is experimental and it is going very well indeed. Borosilicate glass is probably safe, but synroc is a magnitude safer. Safety is one thing we should all be very conscious of. One aspect that concerns me is the development of the once through system, which dispenses with the need to reprocess nuclear waste. I find it very disconcerting that the world today seems to be prepared to use fuel elements once and dispose of the whole lot. This presents real problems for monitoring as the bulk is so much larger. I know that Professor Ted Ringwood is very concerned about this aspect of the industry. I believe Australia has the best geology, the best geography and the best technology, and has a clear responsibility to seriously attend to this problem.

I am aware that some thought has been given at Lucas Heights to the technology for the recovery of the platinum group minerals ruthenium, rhodium and paladium from atomic wastes. This could be a major source of supply of these valuable minerals in years to come and will substantially offset the cost of reprocessing.

When the uranium, which is a valuable high bulk component of nuclear waste, and the other valuable material is recovered, the bulk is drastically reduced and this obviously makes it easier for monitoring and containment. This is a very important issue because if we are to monitor where these various components are going, obviously it is much harder if we are dealing with a great bulk. Incidentally, it is probably not economic at the moment to store plutonium, and this could be permanently locked up in the synroc system. It could be locked up until the end of time-or, to be more dramatic, until enlightenment comes to Queensland. But I doubt whether anyone will live that long. This would remove the concern felt by a lot of people about the proliferation of plutonium and would give Australia a very good bargaining chip for a processing and reprocessing industry to give value added to our resources.

Adding value to our resources is absolutely vital and is certainly a part of the Australian Labor Party's platform. It would provide us with an income of a couple of billion dollars a year and massive short term capital inflow as the industry was established. I wonder, Mr Deputy Speaker, how long we can go on pandering to the ill-informed, greedy, selfish, shortsighted environmentalists and ignore this piece of economic salvation that is staring us in the face.


Mr Beale —Say that again.


Mr CAMPBELL —The honourable member wants me to repeat it. This is a matter that concerns me, and it does seem to me that both parties tend to pander to greedy, selfish, shortsighted environmentalists and ignore the realities of our economic plight. Having said that, I would just like to make a few remarks on the speech of the honourable member for Dawson (Mr Braithwaite). It was predictably stereotyped; it was hide-bound-if honourable members will excuse me, I do get stuck with adjectives in situations like this--


Mr Fitzgibbon —Asinine?


Mr CAMPBELL —Asinine-that sounds like a good word; yes, whatever that means. The truth is, and the honourable member for Dawson knows it, that the National Party and the Liberal Party, together or independently, have done nothing. That reminds me of that great line from Bjelke-Petersen, `No, no, no; I don't want to, er, I don't want to break the coalition-I just want them to go their separate ways'. It was the Australian Labor Party that allowed companies operating existing mines to write new contracts. The coalition in government did not dare do that because it knew that it had within its constituency many of the people who oppose this industry. So, while it postured a great deal, it never took the very positive steps of allowing companies to write new contracts for the supply of uranium in the ground at existing mines. Of course, it was also the Australian Labor Party that allowed Roxby Downs to go ahead-the largest uranium mine in the world-a fact of which I am particularly proud. I am sure that in the future it will be a great source of income and wealth for Australia. While people are perhaps a little pessimistic about the economics of Roxby Downs, I point out that it is probably the greatest source of rare earth minerals in Australia today, and those minerals will be extraordinarily valuable. I suggest that we have not yet begun to explore the value of rare earth minerals. New uses are being found all the time and this will be a tremendous long term advantage to South Australia.

I am pleased to have had the opportunity to speak on this Bill because I think that the establishment at Lucas Heights has a very good record on safety, as has the Western world generally. The Chernobyl disaster has often been raised with me. The truth is that Chernobyl was the accident that the environmentalists had all been waiting for. This was the big one; unfortunately, it turned out to be a bit of a damp squib because, according to the Swedes, I think that country will lose only about eight people as a result of additional cancers, in a climate in which more and more cancer cures will be rapidly found. It always needs to be pointed out that Russia has the worst safety standards of any country-worse even than those of the United States, which are a magnitude worse than those that exist in Europe. I have had a very good look at the industry in Europe and I am very impressed with safety standards, as I am impressed with the safety and dedication of the people at Lucas Heights. The honourable member for Hughes and I have had many arguments and disagreements in the past but I recognise his dedication to his electorate. I know he is in constant consultation with the unions at Lucas Heights and, while he is probably more conservative than I am, I certainly respect his integrity and in a sense I am jealous that I do not have in my own electorate an industry as viable and as dynamic as that at Lucas Heights.