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Tuesday, 19 August 1980
Page: 429

Dr Everingham asked the Minister for Veterans' Affairs, upon notice, on 22 April 1980:

(   1 ) Is he able to state whether the Commonwealth Institute of Health has been directed to redirect to his Department inquiries and submissions concerning defoliant effects on Vietnam veterans.

(2)   If this directive has been given, (a) who initiated it and (b) what Ministers have authorised it.

(3)   Will he ensure that the public has prompt access to all (a) demographic (b) statistical and (c) medical information available to the Institute and the Government from (i) Vietnam, (ii) the United States of America, (iii) within Australia and (iv) elsewhere.

(4)   Will he (a) ensure and (b) make clearly apparent to the public by published reports of independent monitors, that the Institute is not failing to obtain, collate or reveal evidence.

(5)   Will this monitoring be entrusted to a judicial inquiry to allow public testing of evidence obtained in the Institute's inquiry as it proceeds.

Mr Adermann - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1)   Yes. Professor L. Davidson, Principal of the Commonwealth Institute of Health has been asked to redirect any queries relating to veterans to my Department for action.

(2)   This procedure was made clear in preliminary discussions with Professor Davidson and was not the subject of separate ministerial approval.

(3)   Information available to the Department is already available to the public in the form of reports and articles in periodicals and learned journals. United States agencies have recently declassified a number of reports and studies on medical and environmental aspects of herbicides. These are fully available to all interested persons. Material collected from Vietnam is now being translated and the information in these reports will not be restricted. Information gathered from within Australia and abroad is based substantially on published scientific material.

(4)   A Scientific Advisory Committee consisting of internationally recognised scientists is being established which will assess and endorse the methodology used by the Commonwealth Institute of Health and ensure that any alterations which may become necessary during the study are scientifically valid. The complete independence of the Institute is an important aspect of the study and any findings obtained by the study will be made available to the public.

(5)   No. The Institute's study is scientific, not legal. The methodology of the study must be able to satisfy the scrutiny of the international scientific community.

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