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Wednesday, 2 May 1973
Page: 1561


Mr SPEAKER -Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.


Mr WHITLAM - Results from the fallout monitoring programs conducted prior to 1969 by the Atomic Weapons Test Safety Committee were published in full in the scientific literature and involved more than 40 separate papers. Since that time a special AWTSC series of reports has been introduced by the Committee and the 5 reports prepared in this series, including reports AWTSC numbers 4 and 5, have been tabled in the Parliament. Together they provide much detailed informa tion relating to the fallout over Australia from nuclear weapons testing. These reports establish clearly and conclusively that the testing of nuclear weapons in the Pacific by France has resulted in the fallout of radioactive material on Australia and the contamination of the Australian environment.

The reports by the National Radiation Advisory Committee deal, as the title implies, solely with the effects on Australians of the testing of nuclear weapons by France during June and July 1972. The assessment of the NRAC is based on data contained in AWTSC report No. 5 to which I have already referred. Using this data, the NRAC has estimated the incidence of genetic defects and leukaemia and all other cancers attributable to the French tests of 1972 for the total population of Australia during the next 25 years. Honourable members should note particularly that this latest NRAC report deals only with the effects on Australia of the French tests of 1972. Earlier NRAC reports deal wilh previous French test series.

In February 1973, I requested the Australian Academy of Science to report to me on 'the actual or potential harm to Australia, including its human and animal population, its resources and environment, from the explosion of nuclear devices in the atmosphere, underwater, or on or near the surface of the earth, with particular regard to the past and prospective explosions by France in the Pacific'. The Academy's expert Committee has therefore independently estimated the incidence of genetic defects and leukaemia and other cancers attributable to all French tests to date. I stress that the Academy's report unlike the NRAC report, deals with the effects of both short and long-lived fallout arising from all French tests to date.

Honourable members will find that the figures given in the 2 reports would appear to differ. This apparent difference arises from the way in which the results are expressed. In this connection, it is useful to quote from the Academy's report:

Wc find no reason to question the estimates of radioactive fallout used in the reports from other authorities; our own independent assessment is given in the Appendix.

The report of the NRAC and the Academy establish that the people of Australia may have been adversely affected by France holding nuclear weapons tests in the Pacific. Therefore, we are prepared to initiate proceedings against France in the International

Court of Justice with a view to restraining France from continuing the testing of nuclear weapons in the atmosphere of the Pacific. The Government has also taken steps to review and rationalise the means by which it is provided with information on the effects of nuclear fallout on the Australian population. Previously this function was the responsibility of the NRAC, supported in this work by the findings of the AWTSC.

Honourable members will note that in the foreword to the reports of the AWTSC it is stated that the AWTSC is responsible for safety aspects of the use or testing of nuclear explosive devices in Australia; evaluation of proposals by other countries to explode nuclear devices outside Australia which might give rise to increased levels of radioactivity in Australia; and monitoring of levels of radioactivity in the Australian environment arising from activities with nuclear explosive devices either in this country or elsewhere.

As Australia is now a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty some of the functions of the AWTSC are consequentially redundant. The opportunity has therefore been taken to establish the functions of continuing significance performed by the AWTSC in a revised organisation and to enlarge the scope of the advisory functions presently carried out by the NRAC. A new institution to be known as the Australian Ionising Radiation Advisory Council will be established and this Council will be the advisory body to the Government on the effects of ionising radiation on the Australian population and environment. The monitoring activities formerly carried out by the AWTSC will be carried out as a purely civil activity within the Department of Science.

Honourable members will also recall that appointments to the previous NRAC were not for a fixed term. Appointments to the new body will be made for fixed periods thus permitting the composition of the new Council to respond more flexibly to the nature and status of emerging problems. The new Council will report to the Government through my colleague, the Minister for the Environment and Conservation (Dr Cass), who will in future table its reports. The members of the NRAC and the AWTSC have already been notified of the Government's decision to review the advisory arrangements. 1 take this opportunity to place on public record an appreciation of the valuable service of the distinguished Committee members.

Finally I wish to comment on one other related document which will have come to the notice of honourable members. I refer here to the report by Messrs Rathgeber, Gibbs and Stevens which deals with the safety regime operating at the French nuclear test site in the Pacific. Honourable members are assured that this document will be tabled at an appropriate time in the near future. I would mention only at this point that this report does not deal with the effects of radiation from the French tests on the Australian people.

Motion (by Mr Daly) proposed:

That the House take note of the papers.


Mr Snedden - I do not wish to speak to the motion, but this is a matter of very great public importance and I ask the Prime Minister whether he will ensure that it will come on for debate pursuant to the motion to take note of the paper. I think the best time would be next week because the size of the paper obviously does not permit me to give it the necessary examination this week.


Mr Whitlam - I cannot give a guarantee when the statement which I have made and the documents I have tabled will come on for debate. This is clearly a matter which 1 will have to discuss with the Leader of the House. There is so much legislation before the House and so much to be brought in this week and next week because I think it will be at least some weeks before there could be such a debate. I will confer with my colleague.

Debate (on motion by Mr Snedden) adjourned.







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