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Thursday, 19 February 1987
Page: 234

Senator MacGIBBON(10.54) —I do not wish to go into a debate on nuclear weapons technology, particularly with such an uninformed audience as we have on the other side and among the Australian Democrats at the moment, but some outrageously ignorant statements need to be corrected for the public record.

Senator Sanders —What would you know about this?

Senator MacGIBBON —A hell of a lot more than you do, Senator Sanders. Current generation nuclear weapons possessed by the United States and by the Western powers are infinitely safer than they were a generation ago. There have been enormous advances in the safety inherent in the storage and transport of those weapons. In the early 1960s when an American Strategic Air Command aircraft crashed near Malaga in Spain the clean up program ran for years. It involved the removal of soil from the Spanish countryside as a consequence of radiation from the crash of that aircraft with nuclear weapons on board. Such a thing cannot happen today. Despite what Senator Vallentine says, one can burn nuclear bombs and nuclear missiles and not have a problem. The design of the casing is so good that those disasters are now avoided. As Senator Jessop said, they do not explode accidentally. I would be much more concerned about having a ship like the USS Missouri, if I were concerned at all. I am prepared to accept that risk because it is so low as to be minimal, but one is much more at risk having a conventionally armed battleship tied up in Sydney with its load of conventional high explosives than one is with a modern United States warship with nuclear weapons on board.

As for all this claptrap about ships in American harbours, I was in San Francisco last month. The nuclear powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise is in dry dock in San Francisco at present. In San Francisco harbour there are nuclear capable cruisers and destroyers. Their weapons are on board and there is no objection from the council or good citizens of San Francisco-which, after San Diego, is probably the second biggest United States navy port on the West Coast. I think that the Enterprise probably is disarmed with respect to nuclear weapons while it is in dry dock, but I do not think the weapons would be terribly far away. Let us have enough of this fear tactic and preying on the ignorance of the Australian people. Let us go into a few facts in this debate.