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Thursday, 1 March 1984
Page: 197


Senator Sir JOHN CARRICK(10.35) —This is an important survey. In the early post-war years something like 16,000 Australians took part in tests in Maralinga, Emu and Monte Bello areas. Many British servicemen and civilians were also there. Amongst the Australians there were also civilians. The tests were done at a time when not as much was known as is now known about the effects of radiation on people's health. The tests were done under what were then regarded as strict precautions. It was important to be able to look at this situation to determine whether there were any effects upon the Australian people .

The Government of the day determined that the most intensive survey should be carried out. Indeed, I, as the responsible Minister insisted that it should be done under objective and expert advice so that there could be a health study of as many human beings as could be contacted and a survey of the cause of death of those who had died. The task of locating 16,000 people or their relatives was immense. The task of searching records in the Department of Defence was major. These tasks were undertaken. Some 10,000 or 11,000 people who were alive responded and were invited to fill in questionnaires. Something like 1,500 death certificates were examined. This was done by the Department of Health and the then Department of National Development and Energy. A thorough survey was conducted. Most importantly, every person was led to understand that, if he or she had any worries at all about his or her health, an application could be made to the Department. People could be medically examined and, if they felt that they qualified for compensation, they could approach the Commonwealth Employees' Compensation Tribunal. The whole approach was one of humanity, trying to find the truth, trying to offer all those people medical examination and compensation services if they had any such claims.

A report from the Australian Ionising Radiation Advisory Council which, is listed for debate, has given us information. Taken together the two documents are of very considerable importance. In effect, the final report on the Maralinga, Emu and Monte Bello areas, indicates that there was no evidence to believe that there had been a pattern of either morbidity or mortality from radiation. At the same time people could apply for compensation.

I commend all those who took part in this survey. I commend the departmental officers in both the Department of Health and the former Department of National Development and Energy. I repeat: Every person who feels that he or she has suffered any disability from those tests has a right to medical examination and a right to approach the Commonwealth Employees' Compensation Tribunal. The important thing for Australian people to understand is that the government of the day wanted, and I am sure this Government would want, the most open and searching inquiry and the greatest possible help for those people. I commend the report.