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Thursday, 19 February 1987
Page: 236


Senator VALLENTINE(11.02) —I must make another point about a matter that Senator MacGibbon raised, not about the nuclear test ban treaty but about the personnel involved in handling the weapons. It is very important that this matter be addressed, even if briefly. Ex-Naval Commander Michael Lynch, who was in the Royal Australian Navy for 20 years and for 2 1/2 years was in charge of naval visits to Western Australia before his retirement, had a great deal to do with the people who came off the submarines and other nuclear ships. He said that the more he saw of these people the more he became concerned about their mental welfare. This applied particularly to those who came off the nuclear submarines. They had been at sea, under water, for something like 60 days or more and he said that when they came off those ships they were like walking zombies. They had their five to seven days leave in the port and when they got back on their ship having had, as Senator Sanders said earlier, their rest, recreation and other adventures, they were in an even worse state. Commander Lynch was extremely worried about the mental state of these people who were controlling nuclear weapons in the submarines. He had a great deal of experience and he was doing his job as a loyal member of the Royal Australian Navy, but that was one of the things that forced him to have less and less confidence in the visits of these ships, serving either our welfare or the welfare of any people anywhere. He was extremely concerned about the mental and physical well-being of those people.

Also, there have been studies done in the United States of America on the personnel serving at the bottoms of the missile silos-people who are under an extreme amount of pressure. These personnel have to change regularly because they are found to be on drugs and highly involved in alcohol consumption because of the enormous pressure which they know they face day by day. If the orders come through to launch nuclear weapons those people must ultimately make the decision whether to follow the orders or not. They are under extreme pressure, and that kind of pressure makes people crack. I doubt very much the statement that Senator MacGibbon made about the sanity of the people who are involved. The pressures that they serve under are just too great for them to remain sane even if they go in having had all sorts of psychological tests. I do not have any confidence whatever in the people who are controlling the nuclear weapons, either on land or at sea.