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Thursday, 26 May 1983
Page: 1101


Mr COLEMAN(11.52) —I want to refer the House's attention again to the Crone report of the Department of Defence on yellow rain or rather to the use or misuse of this report both in Australia and overseas, especially overseas . This report is misused by the usual organisations to bolster the case that there is no such thing as Soviet or Vietnamese use of yellow rain to kill people in Kampuchea and Afghanistan-in violation of the 1972 biological weapons convention and the 1925 Geneva protocol. Honourable members will recall that in April last year the Materials Research Laboratories of the Department of Defence received some suspected yellow rain samples for analysis. There were three small packages and a glass bottle. The contents were leaves and pebbles given to Australian officials in northern Laos. The report, prepared by H. D. Crone, concluded that the samples were not toxic and showed no presence of any chemical warfare agent. In fact, they were 'composed of yellow pollen grains, probably with a small amount of binder'. The samples, however, were not natural phenomena ; they had been manufactured or fabricated. The report continued: 'The conclusion is therefore that the yellow spots'-on the leaves or pebbles-'were deliberately applied either by brush or by a spraying process'. They were in other words 'obvious fakes'. but-and this is the important element in the Crone report-the report twice warns against generalising from its finding in this case to reject other evidence of yellow rain killings. It says: 'Since the samples are obvious fakes they convey no information at all as to the veracity or otherwise of the reports of chemical attacks. The reasons for their fabrication can only be guessed at; monetary gain, desire to ingratiate oneself with authority or as a disinformation campaign'.

The report repeats this later with the words: 'In conclusion, I reiterate the statement that the examination of these fake specimens sheds no light at all on the main questions as to whether mycotoxins have been used as warfare agents in Laos or Kampuchea'. The evidence for Soviet and Vietnamese use of yellow rain remains overwhelming. People are being killed by it almost daily. This fact has been generally accepted since the report of the United States Secretary of State on the matter six months ago. His report and evidence received support from a range of usually sceptical United States newspapers such as the Washington Post and the Christian Science Monitor. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace was also persuaded as the evidence mounted from survivors, refugees, medical workers and communist defectors. Now the Crone report is being used or misused both here and in the United States and elsewhere to cast doubts on the evidence as a whole and to present the evidence as a Central Intelligence Agency stunt. As I have shown, the Crone report does no such thing.

Of the three possible explanations offered in the report for the fakes-money, ingratiation or disinformation-the first two are of course plausible but the third, namely communist disinformation, also carries weight. It reminds one of the recent Canadian inquiry led by Lieutenant-Colonel G. R. Humphreys of the Canadian Defence Department which confirmed that yellow rain is being used in South East Asia. It also reported a strange attack by a small plane on a Thai village near the Kampuchean border in which the village was covered with yellow powder but no one died. The Thai authorities saw this as part of a disinformation campaign to discredit reports of lethal yellow rain. Later it turned out that about a score of the villagers suffered respiratory and other symptoms resembling a mild manifestation of those the Hmong tribesmen had described as resulting from yellow rain. One theory was that the Vietnamese had decided to trick the Thais with harmless pollen but they failed to clean the tanks of their previous yellow rain contents. In any event, there is an increasing attempt, principally by disinformation, to discredit the evidence for yellow rain killings and it is deplorable that a fine and professional report by an Australian scientist should be misused to support this foolish or squalid campaign.