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Monday, 23 February 1987
Page: 415

Senator HAINES —I refer the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Defence-if he has not already seen it-to a report in yesterday's National Times on Sunday of a study by Professor Jackson Davis of the University of California's nuclear policy program on the consequences of an accident involving nuclear weapons or a nuclear reactor on a warship in an Australian port. I remind the Minister that the study used the standard methodology of the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission and indicates that such an accident in any major Australian city could result in several thousand cancer deaths. I ask the Minister: First, does he agree that the study is much more realistic than the environmental considerations report of 1976 on which current port safety planning for nuclear accidents is supposed to be based? Secondly, in view of the apparent seriousness of the human, environmental and financial consequences of such an accident and the unresolved issue of liability, will the Government impose an immediate moratorium on visits by nuclear armed and nuclear powered warships to Australian ports until it has fully considered the findings of the current Senate inquiry into the matter?

Senator GARETH EVANS —I have seen the Press report but neither I nor anyone else in the Australian Government or any of the responsible authorities has had an opportunity to examine or evaluate the study in question. The Government does, however, remain quite confident that the very detailed environmental impact statement prepared by the Department of Defence, of which the 1976 report that Senator Haines referred to is a summary, was a fully realistic basis for planning for nuclear reactor accidents. As to the latter part of her question, the Government remains confident that in view of the extreme remoteness of the possibility of a nuclear reactor or nuclear weapons accident occurring on a visiting United States warship, there is no justification for a moratorium on allied warship visits. But I will certainly take steps to have the report examined and evaluated in detail and hopefully will be in a position at some later stage to give a fuller reply.