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Wednesday, 10 October 1956

Mr E JAMES HARRISON (BLAXLAND, NEW SOUTH WALES) . - in addition to the section of the Estimates just dealt with by the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate), the committee has before it a section dealing with funds for the Department of Supply, and it is to this section that I wish to direct my remarks. Members of the

Opposition feel that in these days, when nuclear weapons such as hydrogen and cobalt bombs are being manufactured, a pertinent question is: " How long will the mad rush for world power and destruction continue, and where will it end? ". Members of the Opposition recognize that nuclear energy is a great gift to mankind, and that it is now being investigated by the scientists. Undeniably, advantage is to be gained from nuclear power for this nation, mainly because of the high cost of producing power from coal and the limits of hydro-electric power in Australia.

On 6th August last, honorable members were astonished to read in the daily press, particularly in the " Sydney Morning Herald ", a report of severe cuts in federal expenditure on nuclear weapons. It was obvious that such a cut must have a severe effect on a nation seeking means of using nuclear energy to assist in its development. I shall first read the report that appeared in the " Daily Telegraph " on 6th August under the headings, " Big money cuts - Almost all nuclear works stops ". It is as follows: -

Severe cuts in federal expenditure have almost stopped work on Australia's atomic energy programme.

The Nuclear Research Foundation's chairman (Mr. R. G. C. Parry-Oakden) last night said he understood that the cuts had stopped work.

The report adds -

Nucleus, the journal of the Atomic Energy Commission, refers editorially, in ils current issue to the effects of the cms - "The Australian atomic energy programmes have suffered a further setback - in fact, it has practically drawn to a stop. Funds for the project, which are voted on a yearly basis, have been cut, with the consequent losing down of most of the building programme ".

The report further states -

This tragic turn of affairs is difficult to understand in face o£ ever-increasing activity in this field by all other forward-looking nations.

A later paragraph reads -

It is widely felt that many responsible Australians have not taken the trouble to acquaint themselves - as their counterparts in England, America, Canada and other countries have - wilh even the rudiments of the peaceful application of nuclear energy. Only Australia can be the loser in this instance.

The " Daily Telegraph " report went on -

The " Daily Telegraph " telephoned Mr. Beale at 9.30 p.m.

We presume, from the report, that that is the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale). It continued -

A woman who answered the telephone said Mr. Beale was asleep and she would not awaken him.

Mr Beale - That woman happened to be my wife.

Mr E JAMES HARRISON (BLAXLAND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am nol saying anything detrimental about the Minister's wife. I am only reading what the report contains - that she said the Minister was asleep and she would not wake him. My only comment is that the Minister for Supply is still asleep, particularly with regard to nuclear development.

Mr Beale - I rise to order. I do not like to interrupt the honorable member for Blaxland, who has dragged in the " Daily Telegraph ", a newspaper that has been conducting a campaign against me on this matter for a long time. However, the honorable member will have to deal with this matter at another time, because the committee is now discussing the Estimates for the Department of Supply. These do not relate to the Atomic Energy Commission, which was discussed last week. I suggest that the honorable member might bring this matter up at some other time, but not to-day.

The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Adermann).Order! There is some substance in the point taken by the Minister, but I have been listening carefully to the honorable member. What he has been saying is associated with defence services and I am prepared to allow him to continue, but he must keep to the point.

Mr E JAMES HARRISON (BLAXLAND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I have no intention of going outside the proper bounds of this discussion. As a consequence of the Minister still being asleep, danger is developing in Australia as a result of atomic tests at the Woomera Rocket Range and elsewhere. I direct the attention of honorable members again to the statement contained in the editorial of " Nucleus " which points out that we are still concerned - and unless the Minister is still asleep he should be also concerned - with the development of atomic power in Australia for peaceful purposes more than for any other purpose.

Mr Beale - Rubbish! The Estimates for the Atomic Energy Commission have been doubled this year.


Minister will have his opportunity to reply. In May last, a nuclear weapon was tested at Monte Bello. I assume that the Minister was not asleep on that occasion, but was interested in what was happening. Consequently, I direct his attention to press reports of the event, and I will not quote the " Daily Telegraph ", since the Minister has the impression that that newspaper is antagonistic to him. Possibly all the press of Australia will be against him if he goes to sleep over this matter. On 25th May, the " Sydney Morning Herald " published the following report of what happened after the Monte Bello tests: -

Scientists went ashore on Tremoville Island, in the Monte Bellos, a few hours after Britain's latest atomic device was exploded there last Wednesday, Professor L. H. Martin said yesterday.

It goes on to say something about Professor Martin, and then reports the remarks of another member of the committee, the chief of the Commonwealth Meteorological Bureau, Mr. L. J. Dwyer, in these terms -

The whole of the radio-active cloud was dissipated over the Indian Ocean. " None of it drifted anywhere near the mainland ", he said. There was no cause to fear that cattle or other animals on the mainland would be affected by radio-activity.

Mr. Dwyersaid also ;

The meteorologists in the parly checked and re-checked thi." weather conditions up to the last possible moment during, the morning of the tests. Their forecasts of 36 hours previously were extremely accurate.

Dealing with radio-active cloud, he said that it was dissipated over the Indian Ocean. In the same report one further comment was made. It is this -

The higher an atomic weapon is exploded from the ground the less debris is sucked up by the explosion, thus minimizing the radio-active fallout.

On Thursday, 27th September last, another atomic test was made. Honorable members will recall that it was intended to make this test on about 11th September, but day after day the winds were not in the right direction and the press begun to make comments which may have irked the Minister. Newspapers began to ask what kind of wind the scientists responsible for these tests really wanted. That was understandable, in view of the great care that was taken in connexion with the Monte Bello tests last May.

The scientists and all those concerned were so sure that if the wind was in the right direction all the radio-active material would be carried harmlessly away, and that if the bomb were exploded at a great height from the ground no radio-active fallout would settle on the land and everything would be right, as it was at Monte Bello. But what are the facts?

Mr Beale - The honorable member does not know.

Mr E JAMES HARRISON (BLAXLAND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is because the Minister has not made a report to Parliament about this test. On the day that the test was made no instruction was issued about the grounding of aeroplanes in the area, and the bomb was exploded at 5 o'clock in the afternoon - not in the morning, as was originally intended. Immediately afterwards - and these facts must surely be known to the Minister - a cloud came directly over New South Wales and southern Queensland at 10,000 feet. On the following day, 28th September, instructions were issued for the grounding of all aeroplanes in a vast area bounded by a line running from just north of Dubbo to Cunnamulla, in Queensland, and over into South Australia.

Mr Beale - Not a single aeroplane was grounded in Australia following the last test.

Mr E JAMES HARRISON (BLAXLAND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - -Instruc-tions were issued that aircraft were noi to fly over the area.

Mr Anderson - Read the instruction.

Mr E JAMES HARRISON (BLAXLAND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That N what we are asking for. The Minister ha.-, to answer to the people of Australia for this. The point I am making is that in May we were told it was necessary that the tes should be conducted in such a way that all the fallout would go over the sea. I know many of the western parts of New South Wales, and I am entitled to know why, if such precautions were necessary in May, the people who live north of Dubbo were not accorded the same precautions that were observed at Monte Bello. Was it because some of the organizations under the control of the Minister got a bit ruffled or, shall we say, a bit panicky following press criticism of the delay in conducting the test?

Mr Beale - Does the honorable member realize that Monte Bello is 2,000 or 3,000 miles from Maralinga?

Mr E JAMES HARRISON (BLAXLAND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I realize that, but if there was need for care in keeping the fallout away from the mainland on the occasion of the Monte Bello test, there is greater need for keeping it away from the people who live in Dubbo and just north of that town. If the testing of atom bombs in central Australia is to continue, we want to know what is to be the policy of the Government, the Minister, or the persons who are in charge of these tests. We want to know whether, irrespective of the fact that the wind might take the fallout across New South Wales, future tests ure to be conducted at 5 p.m. or at some other selected time as late as sixteen days after the original time set. It is possible that the kind of wind that was blowing on the evening of 27th September was also blowing on more than one occasion between 1 1 th September and that date.

This committee and the country are entitled to know from the Minister for Supply during this debate all the facts of the matter. We are entitled to know why. aircraft were prevented from flying over this vast area on the following day, all the instructions that were issued, and why the fallout from this test was different from that of the Monte Bello test when it was ensured that the fallout would not pass over the mainland. We know the Minister is in the " second eleven "; but it might be that he would only get the job of tallying the scores. However, the question of this fallout over Australia should be treated in a different manner from that in which the Minister is treating it.

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