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Friday, 13 November 1964


Senator ANDERSON - The Acting Minister for Health has furnished the following answers -

1.   The annual expenditure on cancer research in Australia is now approximately £200,000. Accurate figures on research expenditure are not available for the years prior to 1963.

2.   The Commonwealth Government, directly or indirectly, provides about half of the funds spent on medical research in this country.

3.   The main problem in the treatment of cancer of the pancreas is to diagnose it early enough. Unfortunately, early cancer of the parcreas may not produce any symptoms or signs of illness and so it is often not revealed until a later stage when radical care cannot be expected. However, if early cancer of the pancreas is detected, surgical removal is generally the best treatment. I am informed that the resulting deficiency of pancreatic secretions can readily be controlled by substitution therapy. 4 to 8. Fallout measurements in Australia undertaken by Commonwealth authorities are made throughcomprehensivesampling programmes operated by the Atomic Weapons Tests Safety Committee established under the Department of Supply and by the X-ray and Radium Laboratory of the Commonwealth Department of Health. The above Committee and Laboratory work in close collaboration. The programme of sampling and measurement has been in operation for more than sevenyears. The results of the measurements are published from time to time in the scientific literature, mainly the " Australian Journal of Science." They have formed an important part of the data provided from the Southern Hemisphere to the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation for its assessment of fallout levels.

The programme has two broad aspects:That of a continuing nature to assess long lived fallout of strontium 90 and caesium 137 reaching the Australian environment, diet and specific human organs and tissues from all past nuclear weapons tests, and that which can be instituted when circumstances warrant the search for, and measurement of, short lived radioactive materials - such as iodine 131 - from any more recent nuclear weapon tests. The current continuing programme of sampling and measurement involves the sampling over each month of the fallout reaching the earth's surface, the weekly sampling of milk, the production sampling of wheat and vegetables, the annual sampling of soil and the continuous sampling of human bone tissue. The sampling is carefully designed to be representative of major population groups in Australia and is centred on Townsville, Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth. Hobart and Launceston. However, sampling in these areas is supplemented by certain types of sampling in major food producing areas in the various States and in a number of remote areas in Australia to give a nation-wide coverage.

The major effort in the programme is appropriately aimed at providing information which allows of an assessment of any biological effects in man, and the National Radiation Advisory Committee appointed by the Prime Minister is kept informed of the results of measurements so that it may have under constant review the question of biological effects. Directed as they are to the calculation of fall out levels in total diet and to the measurement or estimation of levels of radioactivity in specific human organs or tissues, the sampling and measurements of fallout in the programme of the Atomic Weapons Tests Safety Committee and the X-ray and Radium Laboratory are complex. They are not meaningful if considered in isolation on a short term basis. Accordingly, it is the practice to assemble the results of the programme in detail on an annual basis and to publish them in all the scientific literature.

It is not practicable to present here results of measurements in detail in answer to the honorable senator's question but, if he wishes it, a list of scientific references or copies of the actual scientific papers could be made available to him. The honorable senator can be assured that the information available to the Government as the result of the continuing programme for the sampling and measurement of fallout in Australia is comprehensive, reliable and in accordance with the most up-to-date scientific criteria. Even on the most pessimistic basis of assessment, possible consequences, if any, to the health of the Australian population as a result of fallout from all nuclear weapon tests conducted to date are insignificant in comparison with the normal hazards to health arising from natural background radiation unavoidably encountered in everyday life.

9.   Yes. For the past two years the usage of chlorinated hydrocarbons has been limited by State legislation. Prior to that time tests showed varying amounts of these pesticides in meat, butter and milk. Meat had been found with a content of as high as 600 milligrams per kilogram, and figures of 10-20 milligrams per kilogram were common. At that time butter contained½-2 milligrams per kilogram but on occasions much higher amounts were found. Most milk samples contained less than one milligram per kilogram. Although tests continue, it is now rare to find chlorinated hydrocarbons in foodstuffs exceeding the accepted tolerance levels.







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