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Thursday, 9 May 1985
Page: 1646


Senator KILGARIFF —I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. Is the Minister aware of a report in the English magazine New Scientist of 21 March this year which suggests that the black mist and black cloud which have been described by witnesses before the Royal Commission into British Nuclear Tests may have been from simulated nuclear blasts which were designed to add an element of realism to training exercises? Will the Minister investigate these claims, which indicate that these exercises involved the exploding of barrels of waste sump-oil with plastic explosives which, when detonated, are said to have projected a vertical column of dense black smoke which rose to a considerable altitude, surmounted by a large black smoke ring, and could have been mistaken for the real thing? If this matter has been followed up by Australian Government, is the Minister in a position to report to the Senate on the matter? If not, does the Government believe that the doubts which the report has raised should be inquired into and the people of the outback who have been alarmed by much of the evidence presented to the Royal Commission informed of the outcome?


Senator GARETH EVANS —I am not personally aware of the article to which Senator Kilgariff referred. No doubt it will be of interest to the royal commission presently conducting its proceedings. With the degree of interest and knowledge that Senator Kilgariff has shown in this matter, he will be prepared no doubt to contemplate himself making a submission to the best dressed judge in central Australia. I will refer the matter to my colleague the Minister for Defence, but I think it is essentially a matter for my Department and the royal commission. I will see in any event what possible reply it is appropriate to make at this stage. No doubt it will be something canvassed by the royal commission.