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Tuesday, 29 May 1973
Page: 2774


Mr MacKELLAR (Warringah) - I rise this afternoon to raise a matter" which I have spoken on previously in the House. It is a matter which concerns every Australian and one which has provided the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) in particular with a great deal of publicity over the last few weeks. I refer to the question of atmospheric nuclear testing. I raised this matter before for 2 main reasons. Firstly 1 wanted to try to reduce the public hysteria and lack of knowledge about nuclear radiation. I did this by outlining the causes of radiation, both natural and man made. I would like to stress this point again because I think that there is a degree of public hysteria which is being whipped up most irresponsibly. Unfortunately the Attorney-General is by no means guiltless in this respect.

I would like to point out again that natural background radiation which every Australian is exposed to is of the order of 100 millirads a year whereas the total man made radiation which he is exposed to is in the order of between 2 and 4 millirads per year. I say this because there are a number of people, particularly pregnant women in Australia, who are extremely concerned about the effects of radiation upon their unborn children. Of course, they are not the only ones concerned.

However a number of constituents have written to me about this very point. I think it is of the utmost importance then that, when we are discussing what can become a most emotional issues, we keep a degree of objectivity in that discussion. The second reason I raised this matter was to stress my position against nuclear atmospheric testing by whatever country carries out this testing. As we know there are only 2 countries at present which test nuclear weapons in the atmosphere, and they are France and China. In my previous speech on this subject I said that we were right to protest against the French. I still think that we are right to do so. But I argue for the need for consistency. Unfortunately I have not been supported to any great extent by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), whose position with respect to Chinese atmospheric nuclear testing has been ambivalent in the extreme. Firstly, he put to us the extraordinary position that because China was in the northern hemisphere and the winds went one way in the northern hemisphere and the other way in the southern hemisphere the Chinese testing did not have any influence on Australia. This, of course, was swiftly shown to be wrong by anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of the geography of this planet. Then on 8 May he put forward the extraordinary position that there had been an oral protest to the Chinese Government about their tests. But when he was asked whether he would expect a reply, he said no, he would not expect a reply to his protest because it had been an oral protest and therefore there would not be any reply. On the 15th of this month he was forced to repudiate this statement. In a written answer to a question on the Senate notice paper he said that in fact the protest note had been a written protest note which had been handed to the Chinese Foreign Minister. But he did not in a further question in the House, when he admitted that it was a written note, then follow up the obvious response to that question and say when he expected a reply.

More information has been tabled by the Prime Minister on the effects of atmospheric nuclear testing and the resultant fall-out on Australia. A report dated April 1973 by the National Radiation Advisory Committee on Biological Aspects of Fall-out in Australia from French Nuclear Weapons Explosions in the Pacific, June-July, 1972, was tabled in this Parliament after I made my previous speech. I would like to quote from this report because I think it is very germane to my previous remarks about the need for objectivity and lack of panic when assessing the atmospheric fall-out from nuclear weapons on Australia. Paragraph 3 on page 2 of the report states: the Committee assessments of these data were embodied in the NRAC Reports in March 1967, December 1967, March 1969, March 1971 and July 1972 on Biological Aspects of Fall-out in Australia from French Nuclear Weapons Explosions in the Pacific. It was concluded that fall-out over Australia from these series of French nuclear weapons tests in the Pacific did not constitute a hazard to the health of the Australian population.

The report goes on to stress on a number of occasions that the fall-out did not constitute a serious hazard to the Australian population. In paragraph 8 on page 4 the report states: . . monitoring of the nine major milk supplies gave no evidence of any sustained presence of iodine 131 following the tests. Further, the highest dose rcorded represented less than one four-hundredth of the dose to the thyroid which was the acceptable dose limit recommended in the NRAC Report of November 1965 to the Prime Minister. The NRAC concludes that these radioactive iodine doses do not constitute a hazard to the population.

Paragraph 9 of the report - and this is a very interesting section - states:

In relation to long-lived fall-out the situation is complicated by the fact that some parts of the very large injections of these isotopes by U.S., Soviet, and to a lesser extent British tests, are still appearing in Australia.

Here is an interesting point for the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam):

There is also a growing contribution of these materials from Chinese weapon testing.

That is from the report presented to the Prime Minister by the National Radiation Advisory Committe in April 1973. As we know, the Prime Minister commissioned the Australian Academy of Science to prepare a special report on nuclear fall-out, and I have a copy of that here. It is entitled: 'The Biological Effects of Nuclear Explosion Fail-Out. Report to the Prime Minister, April 1973'. This again was after I had made my previous speech. I wish to quote a couple of passages from that report. I quote firstly, from the Summary, wherein the first conclusion states:

We find no reason to question the estimates of radioactive fall-out used in the reports from other authorities . . .

So the Academy is going along with reports previously presented to the Government by official bodies. Conclusion 3 states:

It is assumed (as all official reports have hitherto done) that the responses to the dose are proportional over the whole range. Australia, as the result of the French tests which have already taken place, could have -

And I stress the word 'could' -

One case of thyroid cancer per year due to the isotope iodine-131 and 1 to 4 other cancer cases per year due to strontium-90, caesium-137 and carbon-14.

The report goes on at page 5 - this is rather interesting, too - to talk about the deposit of long-lived isotopes from various atmospheric tests. It states: . . the longer lived isotopes will also be deposited on Australia from tests conducted in the northern hemisphere. Tests conducted in the northern hemisphere may be expected to deposit in the southern hemisphere roughly one-sixth of the long lived fission products which they inject into the stratosphere.

These 2 reports lead me to a position which I find necessary to state in this House. I am afraid there are complaints involved. Firstly, I complain very strenuously about the scare tactics which have been used by this Government and to a certain extent, I am afraid, by the Australian Academy of Science in presenting the case against French nuclear testing not only to this country but to the world at large. Conclusion 4 in the report of the Australian Academy of Science states:

We draw attention to the improbable event in which the explosion of a high-powered bomb was combined with quite exceptional meteorological conditions giving a high fall-out over Australia.

I stress the words: 'improbable event . . . with quite exceptional meteorological conditions giving a high fall-out over Australia. The report goes on:

Though this would be a singular episode, some increase in the above figures would be expected.

The report goes on to deduce that higher figures for effects in relation to cancers in Australia could result from what the Academy says is an improbable event. The report does not say they would, it says they could. It also says: Other cancer cases due to the other isotopes could increase to much higher figures than at present levels of radiation. Mutations could lead to 2 deaths and disabilities per year in the first generation and to more than a thousand deaths and disabilities in all subsequent generations. A couple of aspects of this really worry me. Why would the Academy of Science put in as one of its conclusions a hypothetical case when it is supposed to be presenting to the Prime Minister and to this Parliament a factual case? Why would it present a hypothetical situation? Let us see what the French said about this. In another paper presented in the Parliament entitled 'Biological Effects of Nuclear Explosion Fail-Out - Report of Meeting between Australian and French Scientists, the French were very restrained. They stated under the heading 'Biological Interpretation':

The risk calculated from observations made following high doses of radiation and without taking into account the various considerations described above therefore represents the upper limit of risk and not the actual risk. The actual risk may be considerably lower it may be nil.

This was not mentioned in the report of the Australian Academy of Science. It stressed the upper limits and probabilities. It did not put the other side of the case, which is that the risk may be considerably lower or nil. With reference to the hypothetical case presented as a conclusion by the Academy of Science, the French scientists had this to say:

The 2 groups examined the problems posed by the existence of temporary unusual occurrences in the behaviour of the atmosphere which, as the Australian Academy of Science report indicates, could cause, for a given Jest, over a limited region, fall-out higher than that observed simultaneously in the surrounding areas.

For this effect to happen, the occurrence of these atmospheric peculiarities, which are moreover rare, must coincide with the simultaneous presence, in very exact locations, of radioactive cloud.

The French group presented the results of studies of experiments on this complex problem carried out in France; certain of these results have been published by the French Academy of Science.

The French experts judge that because of the relative geographic position of Australia and the test zone as well as the meteorological constraints imposed on those conducting the experiments-

And this is important - it is highly improbable, if not impossible, that this effect could lead to a noticeable increase in fall-out over the Australian continent.

Moreover, this phenomenon has not been observed in Australia during previous tests. As for the rare cases observed in the northern hemisphere, only a low increase (of the order of a few per cent) in dose commitments has resulted, because of the temporary and local character of the increase in radioactivity.

The French very nicely point to the rather low standard of academic objectivity in the presentation of the report by the Australian Academy of Science. But what does the Attorney-General, Senator Murphy, do with these figures? This is what really concerns me. The Attorney-General of this country says: Australians are going to pay with their lives'. This was said in a case before the International Court of Justice. Not even the seemingly biased report of the Academy of

Science goes that far. It says that it could or it may happen; it does not say that it will happen. However, the good Attorney-General is not deterred by this fact at all. He says that Australians are going to pay with their lives.

We should get into perspective the possible effects of nuclear fall-out. Let me give some actuarial figures on the risk of death in any one year in Australia. These figures put the case in perspective for people who are frightened about radio active fall-out from atmosperhic nuclear tests. The risk of death from lung cancer in any year in Australia is 1 in 4,000; from car accidents it is 1 in 5,000; from leukaemia due to natural causes it is 1 in 15,000; from drowning it is 1 in 23,000 from murder it is 1 in 100,000; from leukaemia due to the fall-out from all tests carried out so far it is 1 in 45 million; from .leukaemia due to the fall-out from the French tests it is 1 in 500 million. People who are worried about these things should keep these facts in mind. I have said earlier that I believe the report of the Australian Academy of Science is open to a great deal of question. Knowing some of the people on this body, I am surprised that they have put their names to it. I just hope that they were not subject to too much political pressure in their compilation of this report.

It is also interesting to note that the Government, despite its open government policy, has not released 2 other reports on the effects of French testing on Australia. One is the independent report of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission which, I am told, has been given to the Prime Minister. It has not been released to the Australian public. The other is the report of 3 people who were sent to the French test site - 2 public servants and a person from an academic establishment. They actually journeyed to the French test site to report on the measures taken to ensure the cleanest - if one can use that word - possible testing. This report has not been released either. Let us look at one other aspect of the Government's position; that is, its position in relation to the Chinese.

Remembering that Academy of Science report, let us consider these figures: The total injection of nuclear fission products so far into the atmosphere in the northern hemisphere comes to approximately 511 megatons. From the Academy's own report, we can assume that one-sixth of this will find its way into the southern hemisphere. That gives us approximately 85 megatons in the southern hemisphere. The total amount of nuclear products injected into the atmosphere by the Chinese tests was 12.6 megatons. Taking again the Academy's figures of one-sixth, we would get an injection into the southern hemisphere from the Chinese tests of 2.1 megatons.

The French so far have injected into the atmosphere 7.6 megatons. So rather than the very low figures that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has sought to portray the Chinese as having contributed, in fact the Chinese tests contributed more like one-quarter of the nuclear fallout on Australia of the French total. Compare this with the one-sixth which the Prime Minister indicated was the figure. He first said it was one-tenth and upgraded it to one-sixth but in fact the real figure is closer to one-quarter. I think it is rather interesting that the New Zealanders say it is closer to one-third, but let us give the Prime Minister the benefit of the doubt. There is very little doubt that the Chinese contributed closer to one-quarter as much of the nuclear fallout as did the French.

So under any measurement, there is a very real case for Australia being consistent in its opposition to atmospheric nuclear testing and, if we are going to the extreme of taking the French to the World Court, we should certainly place a much stronger protest with the Chinese than the one which was firstly described as an oral protest to which, therefore, we would receive no reply and which secondly was seen to be a written protest and to which still we do not know whether we are to receive any reply. We certainly do not know whether there is to be any follow-up action.

Let us take just one other aspect of this issue. The Australian Labor Party prides itself on its concern for all mankind. It is not a narrow, insular Party, confined to the shores of Australia. No, by jove, it is going to make its mark on the world. The Prime Minister is going to bestride the diplomatic world like a Colossus. Australia is really going to make its position felt. If that is so - if we are talking as we should about the real damage to mankind as a whole - let us analyse 2 interesting aspects of the countries which are testing nuclear weapons in the atmosphere. I refer firstly to test sites. The position of the Chinese test site means that fallout from the Chinese tests goes across the most highly populated portion of the earth's surface. The fallout goes right across China - its own country - and then goes immediately across Japan and finally on to the North American continent and around on to Europe. Therefore, the fallout from the Chinese tests affects literally thousands of times more people than do the French tests carried out on their site in the southern hemisphere. So there is no comparison on world figures or world effects between the 2 countries. If we are to be consistent - if this Prime Minister is to have any credibility in the eyes not only of Australians but also of the world - then he must protest to the Chinese as well as to the French.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order!The honourable member's time has expired.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

Third reading

Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.

Bill (on motion by Dr Cass) read a third time.

APPROPRIATION BILL (No. 6) 1972-73 Second Reading

Consideration resumed from 11 April (vide page 1320) on motion by Mr Crean:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.







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