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Wednesday, 10 September 1958
Page: 1112

Mr Ward d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -

1.   Did he, upon receipt by the Government of a report from the National Radiation Advisory Committee to the effect that it considered radioactive fall-out in Australia from bomb tests to have been insignificant, declare that the committee's report would do much to allay the fears whipped up from time to time by people with no real knowledge of the subject?

2.   Does he accept this report as evidence that the Australian community is now absolutely safe from any future danger arising from bomb tests already carried out in any part of the world?

3.   Can he state whether radioactive material created by bomb tests could circle the world for many years before eventually depositing itself on the earth's surface; if so, would such uncertain factors as wind velocity and direction finally determine the area which would be affected?

4.   Is it a fact that radioactivity is cumulative; if so, even though the degree to which bomb tests have affected the position in Australia might up to date be insignificant, is it reasonable that State governments should be asked to control and reduce the danger from radiation arising from the use of particular types of medical appliances, whilst the Commonwealth Government continues to permit and to engage in bomb tests which add to the pollution of the air by radioactive material?

Mr Menzies - The answers to the honorable member's questions are as follows: -

1.   Yes. 2, 3 and 4. The level of radioactivity in Australia arising out of the testing of nuclear weapons is under constant review by distinguished scientists in whom the Commonwealth has the fullest confidence. The report of the National Radiation Advisory Committee and other authoritative documents indicate that any ill-effects the Australian community may suffer in the near future as a result of all weapon testing to date would be so small as to be impossible to detect amongst effects which occur as a result of our exposure to natural background radiation.

Mr Ward d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -

1.   Has waste from atomic bomb tests been dropped in the ocean off the coast of Australia by the Royal Australian Air Force?

2.   Is it a fact that Dr. j. h. Green, Senior Lecturer in Chemistry at the New South Wales University of Technology, has stated that this practice is dangerous because at 1,000 fathoms the pressure is tremendous and there is a risk that a container would burst?

3.   Has expert opinion now rejected dumping at sea as the best method of nuclear waste disposal in favour of burying this extremely dangerous material?

4.   If so, will he state whether it is intended to continue dumping this waste at sea?

Mr Menzies - The answers to the honorable member's questions are as follows: -

1.   No radioactive material from weapon test sites has been dropped in the ocean. However, low activity waste from the cleaning of certain aircraft used in the interception of clouds from nuclear weapons tens during 1956 was dropped in the ocean SOO miles off the Queensland coast during June of this year. The solid material was set in concrete and enclosed in a steel drum and could not mix with the seawater. The soluble waste was dropped in such a way as to quickly mix with the seawater; its total activity was very smalt, being much less than that of the naturally occurring potassium 40 in the seawater that would be needed to fill an ordinary swimming pool.

2.   Dr. Greenwas reported to have made such a statement. It has little relevance when considered in the light of the information above.

3.   No.

4.   Not applicable in view cf 3 above.

Mr Ward d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -

1.   Is it a fact that Dr. E. L. Deacon, a Principal Research Officer of the Division of Meteorological Physics of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, has stated that rain clouds carrying radioactive fall-out from nuclear bomb tests carried out in the Pacific Ocean must reach Australia and that the time when they do so will depend on the wind velocity in the upper atmosphere?

2.   If so, does he regard the statement as being of a serious nature and has he taken, or does he propose to take any action, or is there any action which can be taken,, to protect the Australian community against this danger?

3.   Does the Government propose to take any positive action in an endeavour to bring about a cessation of these nuclear tests?

Mr Menzies - The answer to the honorable member's questions is as follows: - 1, 2 and 3. I believe that in answer to a press inquiry, Dr. Deacon was reported to have expressed certain facts which are widely known to scientists. This matter does not require any additional action on the part of the Government. Previous experience has shown that only extremely small changes in radio-activity would be expected, and these have contributed much less than an additional I per cent, to the natural background dose to which we are exposed. With regard to the cessation of nuclear tests, the Government has frequently announced that it will support any practical proposals which are generally agreed between nations covering the cessation of nuclear tests.

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