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Tuesday, 29 May 1984
Page: 2099

(Question No. 768)


Senator Macklin asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 29 March 1984:

(1) What Defence Department documents, if any, outlining details of the British atomic tests in Australia during the 1950s were made available to the investigation on the health of atomic test personnel; if no records were made available, why not.

(2) Was the Government aware of the British document dated 20 May 1953 which stated Australian servicemen were deliberately exposed to radiation; if so, was this made available to the investigation into the health of atomic test personnel; if not, why; and if not, has the Government taken action to obtain a copy of the document and will the Government be making a formal complaint to the British Government for not making this information available to the Australian Government.

(3) Will the Government undertake a more detailed and thorough investigation into the health of Australian personnel who were involved in these British atomic tests in light of this information, making available British and Australian defence documents.


Senator Gareth Evans —The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) The Department of Defence, together with other Commonwealth Departments and agencies co-operated in the compilation of information included in the two reports on the health of atomic test personnel-'Health of atomic test personnel' (Department of Health, December 1983) and 'British nuclear tests in Australia-a review of operations safety measures and of possible after effects' (Australian Ionising Radiation Advisory Council (AIRAC) No. 9, January 1983). All documents held by my Department relevant to each of these studies were made available.

(2) The document, of which the government has obtained a copy, did not say that Australian servicemen were deliberately exposed to radiation. The document refers to the need to 'discover the detailed effects of various types of explosion on equipment, stores and men with and without various types of protection'. These studies were effected using dummies, or manikins, clothed in uniforms in various protected and unprotected positions. The impact of these explosions was determined by instruments.

The involvement of Australian servicemen in the first two firings of United Kingdom Buffalo tests at Maralinga on 27 September 1956 and 4 October 1956 was as part of the Indoctrinee Force.

This force was given the opportunity to prepare for the effects of atomic weapons in a wartime situation. Exposure to some radiation was necessarily coincidental to this exercise; but such radiation was monitored and controlled through health physics arrangements.

The planning document to which the question refers has no direct relevance to the health studies which were based on available radiation dose records, survey returns and other relevant information. The document itself, dated 20 May 1953, makes no reference whatsoever to the deployment of the Indoctrinee Force.

(3) As stated in my Press release of 21 March 1984, the question of Australian servicemen being deliberately exposed to radiation is not new and has been addressed, in particular, by Australian Ionising Radiation Advisory Council in its Report No. 9, which concluded that the measures taken to protect the public and the personnel involved in the atomic test programs were well planned and almost certainly effective.