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Wednesday, 10 October 1956

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Mr Bowden (GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA) - Order! The honorable member's time has expired.

Mr. BOSTOCK(Indi) 15.301.- The proposition of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) that we should cease atomic weapon tests reflects, I believe, the wishes of all sensible people in the world. But we will not achieve that position merely by talking about it. To forego essential tests whilst atomic weapons are not completely banned and controlled would be toforego the race to keep pace with our potential enemies in the development of this modern, disastrous weapon of massdestruction.

Already the United Nations has a Disarmament Committee which is constantly examining the question of banning and properly controlling atomic weapons. It has been unable to reach any satisfactory arrangement which would ensure the proper policing of such a system. Until that situation is arrived at, it would be nothing less than suicidal for the western democracies to relax their efforts to develop atomic weapons.

As was pointed out by the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton), in this atomic race we have to consider very carefully not only the attack side but also the defence side of atomic weapons. I notice in the Estimates that last year the provision for civil defence was £234,000, of which only £88,782 was spent, and that this year the provision is only £70,000. That does not seem to me to reflect an energetic policy for the promotion of civil defence in this country. Quite recently, Lord Montgomery said that unless civil defence is effective in any future atomic war, it is doubtful whether any nation could survive. In other words, unless an effective civil defence organization is established, the attack organization is likely to fail because the morale of the people will be destroyed. I know that civil defence is a very difficult matter and that a great number of people say that the probability of attack is remote. But the result of an atomic explosion on one of our major centres of population would be such a catastrophe - such a horrible affair - that we should take reasonable precautions even if the possibility of attack is not strong.

We could do certain things which, I believe, would help but which perhaps would not cost a great deal of money. I think we could do three things. Firstly, we could promulgate information about personal survival. I do not think that there are many people in this country who know what to do, in the event of an atomic attack, to preserve their own welfare. It would not be very expensive to promulgate throughout the Commonwealth, and particularly in our more populous centres, information on some of the simple things that a person can do to preserve his life. To give an example of the sort of thing that I have in mind, I shall read a paragraph from a publication by the Home Office of the United Kingdom Government. The paragraph reads -

People in the open might receive second degree burns ... on exposed skin at a range of 16 miles from a10 megaton ground burst bomb. . . If, however, they should take cover in a few seconds they would escape this damage. Moreover, at this range the blast wave would not arrive for another minute and a half so that any effects due to the blast in the open . . . could be completely avoided.

That is a very simple instruction, butI am prepared to wager that if one asked the first half-dozen people one met whether, in the event of an atomic explosion, they would be better inside a building or outside it, they would not know. There are a number of other steps of this kind that we could take. They would not cost a great deal, and an education campaign of this nature would pay good dividends.

The second matter that we should attend to, and which would not involve very much expenditure, is the establishment of some sort of radiation warning network, using existing communication systems in conjunction with the meteorological organizations, so that if an atomic blast did take place our warning organization could tell people within the radius of radioactive danger that they should do something about it quickly. That is merely a matter of organization and planning, and would cost virtually nothing.

Thirdly, we should increase very greatly the number of people who are trained in matters of civil defence. The Government has established a school and has turned out four or five classes of trained civil defence instructors. That is not nearly sufficient. We want large numbers of trained people dispersed throughout the Commonwealth, and particularly throughout the major centres of population. The way in which this might be done, I suggest, is to transfer Commonwealth responsibility for civil defence from the Department of the Interior to the Department of the Army. That responsibility should, logically, rest with the Department of the Army, because, in modern times, civil defence is definitely a military responsibility. If an atomic bomb fell on Sydney or Melbourne, martial law would be inevitable. The military authorities would have to take over, and it seems only logical and reasonable that civil defence functions should be allocated to the Army. If that were done, and if the Army included civil defence as a major subject in the curriculum of national service trainees, every year we would turn out thousands of young men trained, to a significant degree, in civil defence duties. Furthermore, they would be dispersed throughout theCommonwealth.

While I do not advocate the expenditure of large amounts of money on shelters or things of that kind at this stage, I do believe that there are a few simple matters,which would not cost very much, that we could attend to. We should disseminate widely information about personal survival. We should tell the people of the action that they should take, ontheir own initiative. We should establish a warning organization, so that people may be informed whether they are in the path of resultantradioactive fall out from an atomic explosion. Thirdly, we should considerably increase the numbers of persons trained in civil defence matters, by transferring that function from the Department of the Interior to the Department of the Army, and including it as a major subject in the training of national service trainees.

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