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Innisfail residents doubt defence's Agent Ora -

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Innisfail residents doubt defence's Agent Orange probe

The World Today - Monday, 9 June , 2008 13:40:00

Reporter: Nicole Butler

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Two weeks ago the Australian Defence Force said it would take some time to
investigate claims that Agent Orange had been tested in far north Queensland in the 1960s.

But the results are already back and they show the toxic defoliant wasn't used in the area.

That's sparked outrage among some residents who say they have evidence to the contrary.

The local mayor wants to carry out his own tests to double-check the department's report.

Nicole Butler reports from Queensland.

NICOLE BUTLER: The Defence Department declined to comment when claims Agent Orange was sprayed near
Innisfail in the 1960s made national headlines a fortnight ago.

Researcher Jean Williams said she'd found documents in the Australian War Memorial's archives that
detailed the secret tests in north Queensland.

And former soldier, Ted Bosworth, says he drove military scientists to a rainforest near Gregory
Falls, so they could test, an unknown herbicide.

TED BOSWORTH: They sprayed the trees by hand and then in the next couple of weeks I took them back
up and they put ladders up against the trees and took photos of them as the foliage was dying. They
called it some other funny name, I don't know, I hadn't heard of Agent Orange then.

NICOLE BUTLER: Agent Orange was used extensively during the Vietnam War to defoliate the jungle,
and its links to cancer and serious birth defects are well known.

Naturally claims that the toxic chemical was trialled near Innisfail caused widespread alarm among
residents.

The Queensland Government also pressured the Defence Department to investigate the matter, although
it said cancer rates in the town were only marginally higher than the state average.

The Defence Department did agree to an investigation and today it's released its results to the
ABC.

EXCERPT FROM DEFENCE DEPARTMENT STATEMENT: Our search of archived report shows that no trials have
been carried out by defence scientists in the Innisfail area using Agent Orange. One small scale
defoliation trial was conducted in the Gregory Falls area near Innisfail in 1966 to evaluate the
affect of herbicides on tropical vegetation. The chemicals used were commonly available at the
time. The herbicide 24D, a component of Agent Orange, was not tested.

NICOLE BUTLER: But the woman who sparked the investigation, researcher and veterans' advocate Jean
Williams, isn't convinced.

JEAN WILLIANS: I query it because I assume the documents in the War Memorial, and it was restricted
and considered sensitive, because the report recommends use of 24D, another agent in early spring
trials in Innisfail. And the two scientists, one was army, one was scientist, those died and the
chief one died at 51 mentally affected.

NICOLE BUTLER: Ms Williams believes the people of north Queensland are being conned.

JEAN WILLIANS: I'm sick of snow-jobs. I've got the file here that says it recommends the use of 24D
in the trials of Innisfail. I mean, the truth must come out, so they've got to start telling the
truth and not waffling. The people of Innisfail need better replies from the defence then that.

NICOLE BUTLER: At first the Innisfail Mayor Bill Shannon appeared happy with Defence Department's
report.

But when Councillor Shannon was pressed on the issue, it seems even he has his doubts about the
findings.

BILL SHANNON: Because there has been, all this community disquiet, and not that we're not taking
these reports on their face value and in fact we are, we are very pleased that there were no such
tests, we are very pleased that there's no increase in cancer.

But nevertheless, given the trauma that's been caused to the community and the fact that there are
some tests that we can have carried out, we've got a new report from councils, from council health
officers, as to what series of tests we might even conduct ourselves just to be, under the
precautionary principle, completely certain.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Innisfail Mayor, Bill Shannon, ending that report by Nicole Butler.