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Wednesday, 16 August 1972
Page: 211

Mr UREN (Reid) - I do not want to over emotionalise the aspect of the fallout from the French nuclear tests but I want to draw to the attention of the House some facts which have been stated by the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts (Mr Howson) in his statement. He said that there are 2 bodies which will deal with aspects of nuclear fallout. The first is the Atomic Weapons Tests Safety Committee. He said that at present this is made up of physicists only.

There should be members other than physicists as physicists are not really qualified to decide the effects of the level of radiation and work out various ways of dealing with them. There should be also biologists and physiologists on this committee. I think that unless this aspect is dealt with it will not be much good having only physicists on this committee. It would be better if the Government considered this suggestion. The Minister, in his statement, also said:

In contrast to the operation role of the Atomic Weapons Tests Safety Committee, the National Radiation Advisory Committee has a purely advisory function. The latter Committee was established by the Government. . . .

The statement goes on to say that this Committee, which is made up of biologists, is a biassed committee. There is emphasis on the one hand that these biologists are biassed but there is no suggestion of any bias in the case of the other committee. It seems to me that it would be better, to get balanced representation on these committees. It may be that on the second committee, namely, the National Radiation Advisory Committee, there is some balance but the Atomic Weapons Tests Safety Committee is made up only of physicists. It is my suggestion that there should be not only physicists but also biologists and physiologists on that committee.

The most recent report available was presented in by the National Radiation Advisory Committee and in referring to that Committee the Minister said:

In addition, the Committee has, from time to time, received in language comprehensible to the lay-reader, the current status of knowledge with respect to biological effects of ionising radiation. The most recent report of the Committee of this nature is that dated October 1965. I am informed by the Committee that it is now undertaking another such review in the light of additional knowledge acquired since that time.

All I can say is that to allow 7 years to pass before acting showed little concern by the Government and the authorities concerned. I believe that the reports of these committees should be made more regularly than they have been made. I quote again from what the Minister said:

On the basis of experimental animal data, and the limited human data, obtained at high doses, international and national bodies have recommended standards for protecting persons against the effects which might arise from sources of ionising radiation. They have considered it prudent to make the working assumption that even down to the lowest radiation dose, the risk of producing particular biological effects (e.g. cancer or hereditary effects) in humans is directly proportional to dose, without a minimum or threshhold dose at which no effect occurs.

The fact is that the French do not accept this proposition. My colleague, the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns), during the parliamentary recess, was in France where he had discussions for over 2 hours with the French authorities on this one aspect. He tried to pursue it to get them to agree that there is a possibility of such a threat. I would like to know what action the Government proposes to take in regard to these facts which the Minister has presented in this House. In his statement the Minister referred to such assumptions as 'cautious* and 'conservative'. If he thinks they are cautious and conservative I would like to know what discussions have occurred between the Australian Government and the French Government to ascertain whether the French accept these findings or not. If the Government has had discussions, what are the findings? We are entitled to know the findings and also what discussions there have been between the 2 governments. Dealing with fallout I quote again from the Minister's statement: the total external radiation dose from fallout deposited on the ground from the 1971 French nuclear tests was, when reduction factors due to shielding are applied, in all cases less than 0.7 millirad.

This referred only to the test on the ground. What was the fallout in the air? Have there been any tests in this regard and if so what are the findings? What about fallout in water falling as rain onto grass which is eaten by cows which, in due course, provide milk? The statement gives no details of the increase in radioactivity in water, grass or milk. An examination of these aspects by other scientists in South Australia in 1971 showed that radioactivity was found to be 550 or 806 picocuries a litre against an assumed safe level of 1,000 and a normal level of 50. This figure of 806 may be a safe level to assume for the consumption of only a litre of water but what happens if a person consumes more than a litre or even more than 2 litres? Again, I am not trying to be emotional about this aspect but there are eminent scientists in Australia who are greatly concerned about this aspect. In South Australia water measurements were taken in the same year as the previous French tests.

There were 6 unexplained cases of babies born with cancer, leukaemia or limb deformities.

Mr Garland - Such cases are never fully explained.

Mr UREN - The cynical Minister says that there are always babies like that. We want scientific evidence.

Mr Garland - You misquoted me.

Mr UREN - The Minister can rise and make a personal explanation if he feels that I have misquoted him. I do not want to misquote anyone but it is cynical to say that there are always babies born with these disabilities. All I want the Government to do is to take a stand on this question. First, it should take a moral and political stand against the French nuclear tests. It has not taken a moral or a political stand against the holding of the French tests. This Government has never resisted the holding of the tests. Never at any time has it given any leadership in this matter.

Mr Garland - It has.

Mr UREN - It has not given any leadership. I spoke with the Minister for the Environment on a radio programme when he was in Stockholm. We know that when the New Zealand Government placed its resolution before the Stockholm conference the Minister for the Environment, who is now sitting at the table who represented the Australian Government opposed the New Zealand Government's proposition. It was only because there was concern among the people in Australia about the negative attitude of the Australian Government's spokesman in Stockholm, that the Australian Government changed its mind and decided to vote. We have to examine the reason for the negative attitude of the Australian Government. It is because this Government wants to co-operate with nuclear powers and to work with them in the production of nuclear bombs; there is a bomb lobby in Australia. That is what we have to examine. There is a bomb lobby in Australia. It is political; it is industrial; it is academic. Australia has taken no action on this matter. In fact I believe that this Government is involved in a nuclear conspiracy and that it believes there is some way by which Australia could have nuclear weapons.

We need leadership in this country to ensure that in this part of the world we are one of the leading nations, if not the leading nation. It is about time that this Government gave leadership particularly by diplomatic communications linking us with those South American countries which border the Pacific and those other nations in the south west Pacific. To achieve diplomatic leadership we should take diplomatic action against France. If diplomatic action does not prevent the holding of these tests we should impose sanctions to make sure that the French Government heeds the people who live in this part of the world. We should tell that Government: 'If you want to test your weapons, test them in the Mediterranean area which is closer to your own country.'

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