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Wednesday, 14 December 1983
Page: 3758


Senator MASON(3.20) —I was a little distressed to hear Senator Sir John Carrick who, like myself, is a senator for New South Wales, raise this matter and canvass some important issues; but they are not the only important issues at stake. The Australian Democrats and I would be the last to denigrate the ANZUS alliance; we would be the last to say that we should not assist Britain whenever we can. We are very well aware of the historical background and the importance of these friendships and alliances. But I should have thought that the duty of a senator for a State is to think first for the people of that State. I cannot for the life of me see why we should tolerate or continue to tolerate a situation in which our largest population centre, Sydney, is being compelled by circumstances to be the place in which nuclear weapons are to be regularly located. That, after all, is what is being said by people who say that HMS Invincible should not have been denied dry docking in Sydney.

The other side of the coin is to say that the people of Sydney must tolerate a situation in which, without notice or knowledge at any time, peacetime or wartime, they must have nuclear weapons in their midst. Let us remember that Garden Island is right in the middle of Sydney. It is a quarter of a mile from the Opera House. Sydney is our largest centre of population; approximately 25 per cent of Australians live there. I do not believe that anybody will bring in nuclear weapons with the idea of them exploding. But the history of the world has always depended on the odd chance. Although the risk of having these weapons in Sydney is a very small one-I acknowledge it to be small-the consequences could be absolutely appalling.


Senator Sir John Carrick —But they do not explode.


Senator MASON —They explode if somebody hits them with another missile.


Senator Sir John Carrick —They do not.


Senator MASON —Indeed they do. I suggest that Senator Sir John Carrick do some more reading. I can recommend some material to him. If a nuclear weapon were dropped over Garden Island and there were a ship in that place carrying nuclear weapons, of course those weapons would vapourise and their isotopes would be scattered over a wide area. Writers of the calibre of Jonathan Schell, the noted American who wrote the highly respected book, The Fate of the Earth, last year, have researched this matter and have set the consequences for a city. If a nuclear bomb or a nuclear reactor is exploded by a bomb, there would be approximately eight times the extent of damage as if the city were hit by a nuclear weapon without those things being in place. I recommend that honourable senators read that book and check on the research, as I have, because it is impeccable.

The answer is not, of course, to deny our ANZUS allies facilities, nor is it to say that the people of Sydney should be put at risk. That is woolly thinking; it does not grasp the necessary nettle; it is irresponsible. We must look very carefully again at the means which we are to use to help our allies. As I have said in this place before, it is ridiculous that we should locate B52 bombers in a population centre, in Darwin. We have a large new airfield at Learmonth right on the Indian Ocean to which we have allocated a great deal of money. Why can that airport not be upgraded? Is it that rest and recreation are more important than the lives of our citizens? I have yet to hear any other reason for the absolute insistence that these dangerous weapons should be placed in our centres of population at the risk of our own people.

Garden Island is an extremely large section of central Sydney in an area of very high property values. I put this point at Question Time to the Attorney- General (Senator Gareth Evans), who comes from Melbourne and not Sydney so I will forgive him. He does not appreciate the enormous value of the real estate on Garden Island which, after all, would be the equivalent, if it were half park and half high rise development, to that of Elizabeth Bay and areas of that kind. The opportunity exists for us to move Garden Island out of Sydney. It is a nettle we should grasp, and the sooner the better. Not to do so is simple, lazy irresponsibility bordering on the criminal.

Question resolved in the affirmative.