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Wednesday, 27 February 1985
Page: 287

Senator CHILDS(6.57) —I briefly refer to a booklet entitled Nuclear Weapons-Their Effects and Your Protection. This booklet is published by the Department of Defence Natural Disasters Organisation. As a person who has taken an interest in the question of nuclear weapons, it is a matter of concern to me that this organisation has published a booklet which I strongly disagree with and which I think has a very one-sided approach to the whole problem of nuclear war and what Australia should do. I am particularly concerned because I believe the booklet distorts the position as far as a balanced view on nuclear war is concerned. I am particularly offended by a sentence in the introduction of the booklet which states:

Knowledge of the potential hazards of nuclear weapons explosions will also help dispel the more hysterical or exaggerated notions held by many people.

I believe that we should not attempt to hide the horror of nuclear war, nor should we pretend that, with good civil defence, the concept of limited nuclear wars is acceptable. I do not intend to go through the book at great length. I will give some examples to draw the Senate's attention to what I believe is a very one-sided approach to the problem. I respect the people who are involved in the national disaster area, the many people who participate voluntarily in times of stress in our community, but I think that they do not adequately or completely understand how horrible nuclear war will be. As it is the most important issue that humanity faces, I refer to page 28 to illustrate some of the sorts of things contained in this booklet. Under the section headed 'There will be survivors' at 5.1., it states:

Australia is fortunate. In the event of global nuclear war, we would not have the risk that northern-hemisphere countries have of being at the centre of conflict or being blanketted with fallout.

As a member of the Australian Labor Party I know that our disarmament policy is very clear when, under the disarmament resolution, we say:

The threat of nuclear war is a threat to the existence of humanity. If it should occur, no country will escape the devastating consequences, the full extent of which are incalculable, but are likely to go beyond the immediate effects of nuclear explosions to include a climatic catastrophe of monstrous proportions.

That is the Labor Party position, which, I suggest, is a very sound and common sense one based on information that is available in the world. It is scandalous that a committee dealing with this matter could ignore the whole question of the nuclear darkness which, it is now accepted, will occur as part of the problem.

In fact, recent studies indicate that assertions such as this are no longer valid. Far from the implications here that people in the southern hemisphere need not be affected by nuclear explosions in the northern hemisphere, work by analysts such as Crutzen and Birks writing in 1982, indicate that far from the effects of nuclear war being contained, they may well be catastrophic globally. This conclusion has been confirmed by detailed calculations by Turko and others. Briefly, the assumption that nuclear war-that is, in the Northern Hemisphere-is the northern hemisphere's problem, and not ours, has lost credibility.

This conclusion is repeated in other sections of the report. In paragraph 6.1 of Part 6, under the heading 'Some Nuclear Misconceptions', the report states:

It would be catastrophic but there would be survivors. Nuclear war in every country of the world would never occur. Many countries would not be affected by the explosions. Given the rate of decay of radioactive fallout . . .

Here the report completely ignores the nuclear winter concept which, especially in the last two years, has been accepted by more and more scientists. The report minimises the real danger we face. This is an attempt to promote the idea that people should start burrowing into the ground in the belief that they can save themselves by very primitive nuclear shelters. It is common sense that, for a person to survive in a nuclear war, he or she will have to have the most sophisticated and expensive fallout shelters, far beyond our present resources. Political parties across the board agree, and honourable senators in recent times have indicated this in debates in the Senate, that the main emphasis must be placed on organising a controlled disarmament. I think every political party accepts that great emphasis has to be placed on that matter and that that is a solution to the problem.

I do not intend to get wound up into a speech on that issue, which has been canvassed, but I feel that it is necessary to draw attention to the report. I ask honourable senators to look at it and to agree with me that it is inadequate. Certainly, as far as I am concerned it does not reflect the views of the Government. I ask the Minister for Education (Senator Ryan), who is at the table, also to examine this report. I certainly hope that it will be carefully examined. It should be debated in the Parliament. I believe that people agree with me, and indeed I think experts throughout the world agree, that the answer has to be nuclear disarmament.

In one section of the report there is a reference to people being treated. This is another example of the stupidity of the people applying the ordinary concept of disaster to nuclear warfare. At a medical seminar in Sydney in November 1983 Professor Beverley Raphael, who has specialised in disaster work and who did psychiatric work relating to the bereavement of the Granville train disaster victims and the bushfire victims, pointed out that it was impossible for people to be adequately treated. She said that the trauma of nuclear warfare would be such that we could not expect the medical and health workers to continue in their work of repairing people in the way they did in the Granville train disaster, say, where almost all the resources of a whole country were exerted in one area. That is just another example of where those responsible for this report have relied on the experience of the relatively small disasters we have had in this country and applied the same sort of logic to the holocaust of nuclear war. I ask the Minister to examine this report. I hope she will make sure that there is a debate in the Senate on the issues I have outlined.