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Monday, 8 October 1984
Page: 1362

Senator CROWLEY —Has the attention of the Minister for Resources and Energy been drawn to reports in the Queensland Press that contaminated material from a Lincoln aircraft used in cloud sampling activities associated with Monte Bello British nuclear tests is buried at Amberley Royal Australian Air Force Base, Queensland? In view of the importance of such claims and the current Royal Commission into British Nuclear Tests in Australia, can the Minister provide any information which would clarify this matter?

Senator WALSH —I am aware of the report on 2 October or thereabouts, published in the Queensland Press. I do not seem to have the report with me but I think it is to the effect that a Lincoln aircraft had been buried at Amberley. Some time prior to that, I think on 26 September, Mr Garran, from my Department, wrote to the Secretary to the Department of Defence inquiring about a memo received from the Department of Defence on 12 December 1980 which provided comment on a letter which had previously been written to Senator Sir John Carrick. I am not sure whether the writer of that letter wants his name mentioned so I will not mention it, but apparently it was a substantial letter. Mr Garran from my Department sought advice as to whether the Department of Defence had any other information on the burial of contaminated items at Amberley. On 4 October the Department issued a Press statement saying:

The most heavily contaminated RAAF Lincoln bomber used in the 1953 British atomic tests at Maralinga is buried in a tip at Amberley air base, the Defence Department confirmed yesterday.

There is absolutely no question, in my view, that that is in quite severe conflict with the advice from the Department of Defence in December 1980. I might add that Senator Sir John Carrick was told that this question was going to come up, and I want to make it quite clear that I am not reflecting in any way on the manner in which he handled the matter. The blame, if any, clearly rests with the Department of Defence. Providing information which at best was inadequate and at worst misleading and which was provided to Senator Sir John Carrick is, in my view, clearly the responsibility of the Department of Defence and is no reflection on Senator Sir John Carrick.

To get back to the Department of Defence Press statement of 4 October this year , there is another error in the first paragraph. It refers to the 1953 British atomic tests at Maralinga. There were in fact no tests conducted at Maralinga in 1953. The tests were conducted at Emu. I expect that this information will be sought by the McClelland Royal Commission and possibly followed up further. I would table all the letters and memos except that I am not sure whether the writer of the original letter to Senator Sir John Carrick dated 9 July 1980 would like his name to be published at this stage. Otherwise, I would be quite happy to table all the documents to which I have referred.