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Tuesday, 27 March 1973
Page: 763

Mr Garland asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:

(1)   In view of the great concern expressed by him and his colleagues about the effects of radiation from nuclear fall-out, will he have carried out a comparison of the amount of radiation received on the body of a person in Australia from the fall-out during the last 2 years and the radiation received by a person from the compulsory mass chest X-rays carried out; if so, will he inform the House of the results.

(2)   Is the amount of radiation received from compulsory X-rays considered to be safe; if so, at what level is the amount of radiation considered to be unsafe.

(3)   Is it proposed to modify, the compulsory X-ray requirement.

(4)   Has consideration been given by the Government to making the X-ray scheme a voluntary one.

Mr Whitlam - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1)   and (2) It is not proposed to carry out a comparison of the kind suggested. The Government does not believe that the issues raised by fall-out from nuclear testing are to be resolved by comparisons of the kind suggested. It accepts the well-recognised principle that no exposure to the hazards of ionizing radiation should be permitted without the expectation of a commensurate benefit.

(3)   The compulsory X-ray requirement is being modified continuously, in accordance with the medical trends, in order to avoid X-raying persons unnecessarily. For example, the minimum age of persons required to be X-rayed in compulsory surveys has been progressively raised from 14 or15 years to 21 years in all States except Western Australia where it was raised to 25 years in 1966. When the tuberculosis campaign commenced in 1948, the interval between surveys was one year. The interval is now set at 3 to 5 years according to the medical indications. Western Australia has placed its community X-ray surveying under suspension for a period of 5 years. It is anticipated that, with the expected decrease in the numbers of active cases of pulmonary tuberculosis, mass X-ray surveys will become unnecessary, as has happened in Western Australia.

(4)   No. Voluntary X-raying of a community is ineffectual in detecting cases of tuberculosis, whereas compulsory, X-raying of persons uncovers practically all the pulmonary tuberculosis. Voluntary surveys have been abandoned in many countries in recent years.

Agreements Involving the Sea-bed and Continental Shelf (Question No. 144)

Mr Garland asked the Minister for Foreign

Affairs, upon notice:

Is there any difficulty in the Commonwealth negotiating with adjacent countries on matters concerning the sea-bed and the continental shelf, when questions involving the rights of the Commonwealth and the States may be unresolved?

Mr Whitlam - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

My Government has not negotiated any agreements involving areas of sea-bed and continental shelf over which State rights are claimed. On the view of State rights taken by my Government, no difficulties would arise if it did.

Negotiations concerning the Sea-bed and Continental Shelf (Question No. 145)

Mr Garland asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:

What is the present position concerning negotiations with Portugal on the sea-bed and continental shelf in the Timor Sea.

Mr Whitlam - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

The Australian Government has suggested to the Portuguese Government that negotiations be held between Australia and Portugal at a mutually convenient time in 1973. The Australian Government awaits the Portuguese Government's response.

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