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Tuesday, 5 June 1984
Page: 2506


Senator Sir JOHN CARRICK(4.30) —The Expert Committee on the Review of Data on Atmospheric Fallout Arising from British Tests in Australia, the Kerr Committee, was given 16 days to study and report on very comprehensive terms of reference. Incidentally, those 16 days included four days over weekends . When one looks at the terms of reference it becomes abundantly clear that the only action of such a committee could be to recommend a further comprehensive inquiry. A simple reading of the terms of reference indicates that they are very comprehensive and very detailed, requiring weeks, even months, of thorough study , enormous searches of documents and scientific data and, therefore, the purpose at the very start was negated. I say that not in any criticism of the Government setting up the inquiry. Like the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Chaney, I welcome any balanced, expert and comprehensive inquiry. Every piece of information that we can get about that period will be of value in the future. That has been the policy of Liberal governments in the past, certainly during my time in the ministry.

I suggest that one should reserve judgment on any criticisms that one might find running through the report. In fairness, no committee could really reach valid criticisms on any aspects except ones which say that there is more to discover and more to investigate. I draw attention to the fact that whilst the criticisms themselves relate to report No. 9 of the Australian Ionising Radiation Advisory Council, the Committee went out of its way to say that its criticism was directed only towards AIRAC document No. 9 and not towards AIRAC, the scientific capabilities of whose members it holds in high regard. This Government and preceding governments are indebted to the various members of AIRAC in the past who have been people with very high scientific qualifications and who have done their job well.

Senator Chaney has referred to AIRAC report No. 9 and to the previous 1979 reports of AIRAC. There was an overlap of nine identical members of AIRAC between the reports of 1979 and the report of 1983. It is true that Professor Kerr was a member of AIRAC in 1979 but not in 1983. It is equally true that much of the data that was surveyed in 1979 and the conclusions reached was data common to 1983. It is equally true, as Senator Chaney has said, that as the years go by and as more scientific knowledge is acquired, the approach to particular problems widens. I have said that in whatever direction one could pursue this matter, be it through trying to get 15,000 Australians, through the living or through the records of those who are dead, to speak, be it through documentation, dosimeters, defence and movement records or by way of analysis of scientific data, one should try to expose every piece of information that one can. I trust that any inquiry will be undertaken by a highly expert and balanced committee and that it will be comprehensive and detailed. Only then can it add to the storehouse of our knowledge.