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Tuesday, 5 June 1984
Page: 2492

Senator CROWLEY —Can the Minister for Resources and Energy affirm the accuracy of the reports in newspapers today claiming that the Minister cannot table the Symonds report into the history of British nuclear tests and the Kerr report into radiation fallout on Australian cities together, because some material which had been intended for inclusion in Dr Symonds's chronological summary had been derived from classified British documents given to Australian officials earlier this year and the United Kingdom has objected to the inclusion of some of that material? If so, can he say what effect this delay in tabling of the Symonds report may have on the possible establishment of a full inquiry into the Maralinga tests, fallout, health effects and land effects?

Senator WALSH —The last part of Senator Crowley's question asks what effect on the possible establishment of an inquiry will the delay in the release of the Symonds report have. The answer to that is none, because the relevant sections of the Symonds report, as I said yesterday, are not relevant to health and safety matters but to other matters. The report by Professor Kerr and his committee has already been tabled, I am told, by Senator Grimes. I thought I was to do it at the end of Question Time but apparently it was done earlier.

For reasons which will become obvious to those who read that report, the Government must seriously consider a wider and deeper inquiry, although I think the type is a matter which needs to be thought about in some detail and for some time before a decision is made. I do not personally favour a royal commission approach because of, among other things, the present experience of the Royal Commission on the Use and Effects of Chemical Agents on Australian Personnel in Vietnam. It has not completed its task. It has been sitting for a very long time and has entailed very substantial expense.

However, I give this assurance to Senator Crowley, Mr O'Neil, the honourable member for Grey, and other South Australians who have approached me on this matter: The Government is determined to retrieve and publish all the information that it can, with that one exception given before of classified material supplied by the United Kingdom Government. It is our duty to do that, and if we did less we would be shirking our duty. It is a pity past governments did not have the same sense of duty. Indeed, it is a pity that the previous Government and the previous Minister, Senator Sir John Carrick, had not finalised this issue and put it to bed once and for all the last time it arose, in 1978 and 1979.

The whole story, when one looks at it in detail, is rather sordid and the major villain in that sordid story is without doubt the then Prime Minister in the early 1950s, the lickspittle Empire loyalist who regarded Australia as a colonial vassal of the British crown. I refer of course to Sir Robert Menzies, the twentieth century satrap who invited the British to pollute Australia with nuclear fallout, the pseudo patriot who cravenly surrendered Australian sovereignty to a declining imperial power. If I remember Mark Anthony correctly, he said at Caesar's funeral:

The evil that men do lives after them;

The good is oft interred with their bones.

I am not sure whether the second line of that quotation-I trust it is an accurate quotation-could be applied to Sir Robert Menzies but I am certain that the first line can be. There is probably no better example of the legacy of the evil that lives after the death of those who perpetrate it than the after- effects of the atomic weapons and other tests which were conducted in Australia.