Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 5 December 1985
Page: 2984

Senator SANDERS —by leave-First of all, I wish to express my appreciation, and I think the appreciation of all honourable senators in this place, to the staff of the Royal Commission into British Nuclear Tests and the Royal Commissioner himself on the production of a very valuable work which will lay the foundation for a number of very interesting studies into the effects of nuclear testing. Having said that, I go on to address the report itself and point out that it is a perfect example of the dangers of the great and powerful friend syndrome. Our great and powerful friend at the time the atomic testing program was going on was Britain, a former colonial master. We were led to support its testing program against the best interests of Australia and indeed against the doubts of many Australian scientists because of our overwhelming support for Britain itself. History, in the form of this report, should teach us the folly of pandering to overseas interests and putting them ahead of the interests of Australians. I point out that the nuclear damage from our present United States involvement could far exceed anything that has happened in any previous testing program.

In looking through the conclusions and recommendations, I find over and over again a reference to the role of Sir Ernest Titterton in this program. Sir Ernest Titterton was and is a very well-known atomic scientist. The Royal Commission found that he was very closely allied to the British Government in these tests, often to the detriment of Australia. Over and over again, as we look through the conclusions, we find that he has been criticised for withholding information, for manipulating information, for controlling information which would alarm not only the populace but also scientists in Australia. On page 8 of the report, under the heading `Conclusions', it is stated:

Bearing in mind that the yield given in the planning document was about half that of the actual Totem explosions, the categorical and all-embracing nature of the assurance of safety given by Martin and Titterton gave legitimacy to the Australian Government's decision to allow the tests to take place.

So Sir Ernest Titteron was instrumental in the first instance in allowing the tests to go ahead. Page 10 of the report states:

The Royal Commission considers that Titterton recommended to the Minister for Supply that the 1959 series of minor trials be approved by the Prime Minister, without prior consultation with the AWTSC.

. . .

Through his direct channel of communication with Titterton, Penney sought advice on the best way of gaining approval for the Vixen A extension of the 1959 series, including the burning of plutonium.

I think Sir Ernest Titterton can be held almost personally responsible for much of what went on during this testing program and for the great suffering which has resulted from it. I advise honourable senators to get this report and to look at its conclusions and recommendations. I think they will find that, as Senator Durack has pointed out, it is very critical of Sir Ernest Titterton's role. Today Sir Ernest Titterton is still apologising for the atomic field. He is one of the foremost exponents of nuclear power in Australia-the so-called peaceful uses of nuclear power. He is at the forefront in trying to establish enrichment facilities, uranium mines and nuclear power plants in Australia. His advocacy of that course should be evaluated in terms of his previous activities, which led to a number of improper and unhealthy procedures in the nuclear testing program.

I point out one thing in a general scientific philosophical sense. This report is a tremendous indication of the need for social responsibility in science. The original inventors of the atomic bomb have seen the error of their ways. They wish that they had used some control over their development. They did not and now the world is suffering. I urge all members of the scientific community-I count myself as one of them-to examine their goals and abandon any program, such as atomic weaponry, which would work to the detriment of society and humanity.

I move on briefly to the recommendations, and I will take no more time than did Senator Durack. Senator Durack said that there was no increase in risk. Page 21 of the report, in reference to the Buffalo tests, states:

. . . participation at the tests, including residence in the village during the Kite explosion, has increased the risk of cancer to those participants who were exposed to radiation. . .

There is a recommendation that the burden of proof be shifted to the Commonwealth and that compensation should be paid. However, I point out that a very valuable, in fact essential document has not as yet been released to those veterans claiming compensation. That is a book called the blue book, which is a record of their radiation dosages. During these tests personnel on the site were issued with dosimeters, which were little badges with film strips in them, and records were kept of the amount of radiation they received. This information is absolutely necessary to veterans seeking compensation. Indeed, some have already died because of their exposure. These records are not forthcoming. The British Government claims that they are still classified militarily, after some three decades-which is absolute rubbish. They have been presented to the Australian Government. I urge the Australian Government to release that data to the veterans' organisations. Another argument is that medical confidentiality is involved. That argument can also be dismissed because the patients themselves are seeking the records.

It seems criminal that these veterans who have suffered radiation exposure and all the hazards that come from radiation exposure, including the cancerous results and the passing of diseases to their offspring, are not able to request compensation because neither the Government of Great Britain, which has been seen to be culpable in this matter, nor the Government of Australia, which is claiming damages, sees fit to release this data which is necessary for the veterans to obtain compensation. I will conclude my remarks there, and at a later date I hope to continue them.