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Thursday, 5 December 1985
Page: 2982

Senator GARETH EVANS (Minister for Resources and Energy) —For the information of honourable senators I table the report of the Royal Commission into British Nuclear Tests in Australia, dated 25 November 1985. I seek leave to make a statement relating to the report.

Leave granted.

Senator GARETH EVANS —by leave-I move:

That the Senate take note of the report.

The Royal Commission was established by the Government in July 1984 in response to public concern about the events which took place during the atomic tests in Australia and in particular the possible effects of the tests on people's health. The report is the result of a comprehensive investigation involving hearings at many locations in Australia and in London. Numerous witnesses were called and evidence was collected from contemporary records of the United Kingdom and Australian Governments. The sifting of all this information presented a formidable task to the members of the Royal Commission and its staff. Seven recommendations are contained in the report, dealing with clean up of the test sites and compensation arrangements. I will be giving careful but urgent consideration to these recommendations before proposing to the Government appropriate actions to be taken.

Certain of the recommendations call for discussions with the British Government, and I am already in contact with the United Kingdom Minister with responsibility for these issues. Other recommendations affect State governments and Aboriginal interests and here too consultations are necessary. The Government will announce its detailed response to all the recommendations as soon as possible.

The documentation accumulated by the Royal Commission will be of interest to many who wish to research aspects of this subject. As many of these documents are not yet 30 years old, I have recommended to the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) that he approve accelerated release, wherever practicable, under the provisions of the Archives Act 1983. The Prime Minister has agreed to take this course of action as soon as the necessary review and clearances have been completed.

Senator Durack —I thought I should seek leave to make a statement. I am not sure that this is the appropriate time to debate the issue.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —The motion is:

That the Senate take note of the report.

Senator Durack —I understood that comments were to be made by leave, so that the motion would be debated fully at a later stage.

Senator GARETH EVANS —Under those circumstances, I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.