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Thursday, 17 May 1973
Page: 2261

(Mr Whanhaving addressed a question to the Minister for Health) -

Dr EVERINGHAM (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) (Minister for Health) - I have seen reports of the statement by Professor Pauling referred to by the honourable member. In fact, I raised the subject with him this morning. The Professor has agreed with me that although nuclear tests as a whole have been about as dangerous as chest X-rays in certain respects - I should not really use the word dangerous'; I should say that the tests have done as much harm as X-rays in certain respects - nevertheless, with the precautions and techniques that have been developed here the damage to future generations is approximately one-sixtieth as much from the chest X-rays done in Australia as the damage from the French nuclear tests and other nuclear tests in the atmosphere. This comes mainly of course from French tests as far as Australians are concerned.

Mr Malcolm Fraser - I rise to a point of order. I ask that the papers from which the Minister is quoting be tabled under the Standing Orders for the benefit of all honourable members.

Mr SPEAKER - Unless it is classified information the Minister must table them. Does the Minister claim that it is classified information?

Dr EVERINGHAM - 1 am quoting from a personal letter but I will be perfectly willing to table the technical data which I am about to quote. I have not yet quoted any of it.

Mr Malcolm Fraser - On a point of order, Mr Speaker, under the Standing Orders the Minister must claim that the papers are confidential and classified. If he does not make that claim, he is required to table the papers.

Mr SPEAKER -I did not know that it is a personal letter. The Standing Orders do not apply to persona] letters.

Dr EVERINGHAM - In that case I will be able to quote from the letter, but I am quite happy to give the answer without quoting from anything. The only figures which I propose to cite show that the maximum numbers of cases of cancer expected to arise from X- rays of 75,000 people - 'the estimated number in the Australian Capital Territory - are as follows: Lung cancer, 0.069; leukaemia, which is caused by bone marrow irradiation, 0.039; thyroid cancers, an average of 0.018; female breast cancers, 0.005; all other body organs, 0.072. In the same survey of 75,000 people it could be expected that the number of deaths or disabilities due to genetic effects on later generations would average, in males, 0.0004 and in females, 0.005.

Mr Malcolm Fraser - Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. Standing order 321 states:

A document relating to public affairs quoted from by a Minister or an Assistant Minister, unless stated to be of a confidential nature or such as should more properly be obtained by address, shall, if required by any member, be laid on the Table.

The standing order does not exclude a private letter of any kind.

Mr Barnard - It is a confidential letter.

Mr Malcolm Fraser - The Minister has not declared it to be a confidential document.

Dr EVERINGHAM - In these circumstances, I declare this letter to be confidential.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! I inform the honourable member for Wannon that May's 'Parliamentary Practice' states:

The rule for the laying of cited documents cannot be held to apply to private letters or memoranda.

Mr Garland - Mr Speaker I raise a point of order. The Minister is giving information which he has failed to give me in answer to a question I placed on notice on this subject. I cannot find the question quickly among the many questions that are on the notice paper, but it is on the notice paper.

Mr SPEAKER - There is no substance in the point of order. I could not be expected to be able to keep in my head all of the things that are asked in questions on notice.

Dr EVERINGHAM - In other words, the total number of cancers and disabilities in later generations revealed by such a survey is estimated to be 0.21. As against this, the benefits that will be obtained by the survey are estimated to be the detection of 15 new cases of unsuspected active tuberculosis, 125 cases of inactive tuberculosis and 400 other significant conditions which require investigation such as cancer, heart complaints and emphysema. When I quoted those figures to Professor Pauling, he conceded that they were far in excess of the tuberculosis and other diseases detected in the California surveys. The important point is that the California surveys to which he referred and which he was successful in stopping, because they were-

Mr Garland - Mr Speaker, I draw your attention to Question No. 443-

Mr Whan - Do you want anybody to suffer from tuberculosis?

Mr Garland - I wish you would help the Minister answer the question. Mr Speaker, I draw your attention to Question No. 443 on the notice paper.

Mr SPEAKER - I think the question asked by the honourable member for Eden-Monaro does bear similarity to Question No. 443. Despite the fact that the Minister has answered most of the question, I think it is still out of order.

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