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Thursday, 18 October 1956

Mr WARD (East Sydney) .- I desire to refer to a matter that vitally concerns a member of this Parliament in the person of Senator Amour. As honorable members are aware, Senator Amour has been very ill for a considerable time. He is suffering acutely from osteoarthritis, which has been accepted as a war-caused disability. Yet this Government refuses to provide him with transport backwards and forwards to this Parliament so that he can attend to his parliamentary duties. In my opinion, Senator Amour is to be commended for the great courage that he has displayed in continuing to attend this Parliament regularly when he is under such a great handicap. Instead of providing him with adequate transport, the Government is doing everything possible to prevent him from continuing to function as a senator. Together with the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and the Deputy Leader, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), 1 took this matter up with the responsible Minister, who expressed a great deal of sympathy, but I have learned to-night that he has cancelled the arrangements for Senator Amour to use a government car.

Let us examine the position. Here is a veteran of World War I. who, in the course of his service, was blown up and buried for a considerable time, and then lost his voice. He is now suffering a disability as a result of his war experiences, and this Government, which is always talking about its consideration for ex-servicemen, has set out to victimize him, probably because of political bias, by refusing him adequate transport facilities.

If the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale), under whose administration the transport of members comes, raises the question of the cost of sending a car backwards and forwards between Canberra and Sydney to transport Senator Amour to and from the Parliament, 1 shall tell him one or two things. First, in order that Senator Amour may attend to his duties in this Parliament, he is now obliged to travel by rail. There is no train from Sydney to Canberra on Monday evenings. So, this suffering war veteran must leave Sydney by train on Sunday nights and twiddle his thumbs in Canberra for 24 hours before any other member of the Parliament is obliged to leave for Canberra. Senator Amour submits to this out of a sense of duty to the people who elected him to the Parliament. What would be the cost of sending a car backwards and forwards between Canberra and Sydney? Any one would imagine that this Government had evercised great care in protecting the interests of the taxpayers in respect of the use of government cars. But 1 guarantee that this is one case in which every decent-minded person in Australia would consider the expense justified. As I have said, Senator Amour's car has been cancelled. If the Government argues that it is too costly to transport him between Canberra and Sydney by car, what has it to say about the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie), who flies to Perth every week-end? I understand that the return air fare is something like £90.

Mr Pollard - He does it every weekend.

Mr WARD - He flies backwards and forwards between Canberra and Perth every week-end. So, I say the Government stands condemned for its treatment of Senator Amour.

Let us consider some of the ways in which government cars are used without justification. Every time 1 arrive at KingsfordSmith airport in Sydney, I find that cars are provided for former Ministers. I make no objection to that. But I find, also, that cars are often provided for typists, many of whom do not even share a car with some one else. Minor public servants are also provided with cars for their sole use. When I arrived at Kingsford-Smith airport the other day, I was denied a car because I was returning from Melbourne, and not from Canberra. While I was waiting, I saw one Commonwealth car leave occupied by only one public servant - at least I take it he was a public servant - and another leave with only two public servants. There was room in those two cars for a number of other passengers. I can give the Minister the number of the cars if he wants them. If one has time to stand outside David Jones's store, in Sydney, for an hour or two on any day of the week one can see Commonwealth cars parked outside waiting for the wives of Ministers while they are shopping. Under present conditions the Government stands condemned for its treatment of Senator Amour. How far will it carry this vendetta against Labour members of the Parliament who were elected to represent people just as much as Government supporters were? Senator Amour has been a member of this Parliament for many years, and has given great service to it and to the country. He should not be treated in this cavalier fashion by the Government and the Minister.

I want to take the opportunity to refer also to another aspect of the Minister's administration and to a statement made by him in this House the other day which is not in accordance with the facts. This matter concerns the explosion of the first atomic bomb in the current series of tests at Maralinga on 27th September. When I implied in a question in this House that an. order had been issued prohibiting aircraft from flying in a particular area the Minister denied that any such order had ever been issued. He either spoke in ignorance or deliberately misled the House On 28th September, the day after the bomb was exploded, an order was issued declaring an area prohibited to aircraft. I understand that the prohibition remained in force for seven hours. The area was not in the far interior of Australia. It covered parts of New South Wales, a corner of Queensland, and parts of South Australia and Victoria. 1 can give the Minister the exact location of the prohibited area if he wants it. It is significant that the order was issued after the bomb had been exploded. So, it was not issued as a normal precautionary measure, as the Minister will no doubt try to convince us. When the bomb was exploded at 5 p.m. Adelaide time on 27th September the wind was not blowing in the direction that the scientists regarded as favorable. The explosion had been postponed fifteen or sixteen times, and the Minister and those responsible for the test were receiving a lot of criticism in the press. It is my opinion that the wind was blowing in a westerly direction when the bomb was exploded, and that the authorities became impatient. They yielded under press criticism and finally said, " Explode the bomb, and we shall hope for the best ". Instead of the atomic cloud being blown in the direction that it was supposed to take it began to travel across the populated areas of Australia. No one can yet tell what harm it has done to the Australian community.

I challenge the Minister to produce in this Parliament the records of the meteorologists so that honorable members may ascertain the wind direction at the time of the explosion. 1 have examined meteorological records, and find that on both 27th and 2Sth September the winds at 10,000 feet, 20,000 feet, and 30,000 feet were blowing from the west. Further eastward they were veering to the north-west. When the authorities discovered that the atomic cloud was not blowing in the direction intended they panicked and issued an order prohibiting the area I have mentioned to aircraft. Either the Minister did not know what had happened after the bomb was exploded or he deliberately misled the House. I challenge him now to lay on the table for the information of honorable members the reports he received immediately prior to the explosion and those which he obtained after it had occurred, and also the meterological reports from which honorable members could ascertain the direction of the wind at the time of the explosion. The people of Australia are not satisfied with the Minister's explanations.

Finally, I ask the Minister again to reconsider the position of Senator Amour.

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