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: 2986


Senator VALLENTINE —by leave-The report of the Royal Commission into British Nuclear Tests in Australia confirms what Australians have long suspected-that the Australian land and the Australian people, particularly the Aboriginal people, were used in a most callous way by the British Government to suit its own interests. Information about the tests was withheld from the public, the media and even the Cabinet of the day in the initial stages. I quote from page 7 of the conclusions and recommendations of the report:

The Australian Government was placed in a position where it was forced to accept UK assurances on the safety aspects of the test without any critical examination by its own scientists.

It further states:

There was virtually complete government control of the Australian media reporting of the Hurricane test and the lead-up to it, thus ensuring that the Australian news media reported only what the UK Government wished.

There was no opportunity for the Australian public to have an understanding of the nature of the Hurricane test and so make any critical analysis of the conduct of it. This was to be a recurrent theme throughout the entire weapons testing program.

I think that that is an indictment of both the Liberal Government of the day and the Government of the UK. The Australian Government agreed to make the mainland available with no independent advice or analysis, and little consideration or consultation. Federal Cabinet was not informed until the preparation of the Emu site was well under way. So, once again we have an example of the Australian people being used as a colonial client state in the most outrageous manner. People are still suffering from the effects of that high-handed attitude by the British Government and the grovelling subservience of the Australian government of the day. The Atomic Weapons Test Safety Committee was established late in the day but the membership of that Committee was vetted by the United Kingdom authorities. That is referred to on page 8 of the conclusions and recommendations of the report. Even when an Australian consultative committee was established, the membership of that committee was at the decision of the United Kingdom Goverment.

There are many aspects of this report which call into question the whole decision-making process in the Australian Government. Right from the early 1950s secrecy has been very much a part of the whole nuclear scenario. The secrecy that surrounds all things nuclear in this country has continued from these testings right through to the agreements to establish United States bases on our soil, and now, the visitation of United States warships armed with nuclear weapons and powered by nuclear generators. It is very necessary for the Australian people to understand that some people are still suffering from the effects of these tests 30 years on, and that our land is still suffering. That applies particularly to the Aboriginal people and the service people who were involved. They were not adequately prepared for the dangers involved with the tests. They were told to turn their backs to the blast. How ridiculous, when the scientists who were conducting the tests knew very well that they were dealing with very dangerous materials although the general public may not have been aware of that fact. We must never allow the situation to occur again where our land and our people are used by another nation against our own interests.

Uranium mining has many similar consequences on the land and the people, and we should end altogether Australia's involvement in the nuclear fuel cycle by putting an end to uranium mining in this country. Furthermore, as we continue to protest French testing in the Pacific, United States testing underground in the United States and also in the Pacific, and Chinese testing, we need to be mindful that the Soviet Union has undertaken a moratorium on all nuclear testing which it would be prepared to extend beyond the 1 January deadline if the United States Government reciprocated its initiative.

Finally, I endorse the recommendation that some small part of the damage that has been incurred by the continent of Australia and its people could be undone by ensuring that the British Government undertake the clean-up and compensation requirements, and bear the costs.