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Tuesday, 16 October 1984
Page: 1770


Senator Sir JOHN CARRICK(5.36) —The Senate has before it two very important reports. I would ask the Attorney-General (Senator Gareth Evans) to ensure, if it has not already been done, that these reports go to the McClelland Royal Commission into British Nuclear Tests in Australia. They are fundamental to it and I would ask that that be done. A great deal of publicity has been given to the report of the Expert Committee on the Review of Data on Atmospheric Fallout Arising from British Nuclear Tests in Australia, the Kerr Committee. When that Committee was set up I made the point in this chamber that it was impossible to give to a committee to do in the space of two weeks the job of surveying highly technical subjects which would take months to do. Inevitably , when the Kerr Committee's report appeared apart from any other criticism that may be directed to it, it suffered from that defect. In the time available to it , that Committee could not have discharged its terms of reference.

It is a sad fact that we now have before us 27 pages from a body which has served this country very well indeed. I refer to the Australian Ionising Radiation Advisory Council, which comprises very distinguished people who set out clinically chapter by chapter, paragraph by paragraph, their conclusions criticising the Kerr Committee. I do not want to adjudicate between any of them. We must always remember that we are dealing with human beings. I sympathise with Senator Coleman. I repeat what I said many times when I was a Minister in this chamber. If there are in Australia any of those 15,000 people who now believe that having been to Maralinga they are suffering at all from any kind of illness or any kinds of effects, I plead with them, as I did as a Minister many times, to come forward and give their information to the Department of Resources and Energy. I plead with them to take the opportunity to go before the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Commission and have a medical examination.

I made that plea many times, and under my ministry we set up a complete health study to try to locate the 15,000 people concerned. We located about 11,000 alive and discovered that about 1,500 had died. We urged people to come forward to get a medical examination. Nothing should be hidden, everything should be brought out; but anecdotal evidence is not good enough. Those who are before the Royal Commission or who propose to go before it, should go through the process, if they have not done so already, of approaching the Government, obtaining medical examinations and coming before the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Commission. That Commission in itself has the onus of proof upon it, so that compensation there is more generous than it would be under ordinary common law. I make this plea because after a lapse of 30 or 40 years all sorts of statements will be made. I do not criticise those who are making those statements but we need to get at the facts.

This is a story about individuals and one must ask: Were they or were they not hurt? There is only one test. The death certificates show no pattern, so the health study says, nor do the morbidity statistics of those alive today. Let us take them one by one, and let us help them if there is a need to do so. That is what we need to do. I cannot abide the horrible revelation in these documents of scientists quarrelling with each other because of some apparent difference of view. That does no good to anybody at all. I repeat that AIRAC has served Australia very well indeed. If there is to be some analysis of its ninth report, let it be done thoroughly and not in a fortnight. Let us not have the disgraceful situation of the public of Australia having to read headlines about which nobody knows the truth or falsity. I commend the fact that AIRAC has come forward with the report but, above all else, I urge that the Royal Commission be given all available documents.