I020 COMMONWEALTH PARLIAMENTARY HANSARD REPRESENTATIVES 20 MARCH 1980 Mr UREN (Reid) (12.35) (Australia)
– in today’s grievance debate I want to raise further questions about the British nuclear weapons tests that were conducted in South Australia from the early 1950s to the early 1960s. In particular I would like to open up the question of the effect of those tests on the health of Australians who were involved in the weapons testing program at that time.
I raise this matter because I have received further evidence which I present to the House that people who formerly worked at the weapons test sites have since contracted cancer and some of them have died. I also raise this matter because there is more and more evidence in the United States that many have suffered as a consequence of the Nevada nuclear weapons tests. Yet in this country the Fraser Government still refuses to acknowledge that there have been people whose health has been affected by such tests. It even refuses to carry out or follow up any studies of health by the Australian personnel who worked at Maralinga and Emu Last year I was approached by a Melbourne woman concerning her continued attempts to gain fair compensation for herself and her children for the death of her husband in 1966. The woman’s late husband. William Jones had been a member of the Army from 1952 to 1965 when he was discharged as medially unfit for military service. He died of carcinoma nine months later in 1966 at the age of 39. Mrs Jones says that her husband was sent on a secret mission for several months from his home base at Puckapunyal to Woomera in South Australia in late 1953. She says that his crew took a tank to be placed in the blast of an atomic explosion.
She believes that after the explosion he went back to bring the tank out but it did not work; so he remained in the blast area for two days waiting for parts. There is evidence to support her story in the book Blast the Bush by Len Beadell. It is the story of the first atomic test at Emu on 15 October 1953. Mr Beadell says that a Centurion tank was transported to Emu and placed close to the bomb with a dummy inside to test the effects of the atomic blast. I believe that Mrs Jones’ claims should be examined and investigated. After her husband’s death Mrs Jones applied for compensation for herself and her five children on his behalf. After a long battle she was finally awarded compensation in 1974. under the Compensation (Australian Government Employees) Act. The delegate of the Commissioner for Employees Compensation determined that the disease William Jones had suffered from constituted a disease due to the nature of his employment with the Army.
I want to stress that aspect It was a metastatic carcinoma of bone. He also determined that William Jones death resulted from a disease due to the nature of his employment. I seek leave to have these two determinations incorporated in Hansard. Leave granted. The documents read as follows –
COMPENSATION (AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES ) ACT I 971-1973 William Charles Jones, also known as William Cameron JONES Ex 34221 Warrant Officer Department of Defence (Army Office) In the matter of the claim of William Charles JONES also known as William Cameron JONES for compensation in respect of muscle weakness upper and lower limbs DETERMINATION 1. on the evidence before me including specialist medical opinion I find that the condition of metastatic carcinoma bone and carcinomatous neuropathy suffered by the said William Charles Jones also known as William Charles Jones constituted a disease due to the nature of his employment by the Department of Defence ( Army Office) within the meaning of section 10 of the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act 1930, as amended 2. NOW THEREFORE in pursuance of the provisions of the Compensation (Australian Government Employees) Act 1971-1973 including Sections 4 ( 2 ) and 104 (1) of that Act I hereby determine: (a) the determination dated 30 Oct 1964 is hereby revoked. (b) the said William Charles Jones also known as William Charles Jones contracted a disease namely metastatic carcinoma of bone and carcinomatous neuropathy in circumstances under which the Department of Defence (Army Office) would have been liable to pay compensation under the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act 1930 as amended, and the Department of Defence (Army Office) is therefore liable to pay compensation in respect of the said disease in accordance with the provisions of the Compensation (Australian Government Employees) Act 1971-1973. D E RUMBLE Delegate of the Commissioner for Employee’s Compensation 2 April 1974 COMPENSATION (AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES) ACT 1971-1973 William Cameron JONES ( Deceased) also known as William Charles JONES-Warrant Officer – Department of Defence (Army Office ) In the matter of the claim of Audrey Beagle JONES for compensation in respect of the death of William Cameron JONES also known as William Charles JONES formerly Warrant Officer Department of Defence (Army Office) DETERMINATION ( 1 ) on the evidence before me I now find that the death of the said William Cameron Jones also known as William Charles Jones on 9 January 1966 resulted from a disease due to the nature of his employment by the Department of Defence (Army Office) within the meaning of section 10 of the Commonwealth Employees ‘ Compensation Act 1930 as amended ( 2 ) NOW THEREFORE in pursuance of the provisions of the Compensation (Australian Government Employees) Act 1971- 1973 including sections 4 (2) and 104 (1) of that Act I hereby determine : (a) the determination dated 5 May 1972 is hereby revoked (b) the death of the said William Cameron Jones resulted from a disease in circumstances which the Department of Defence (Army Office) would have been liable to pay compensation under the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act 1930 as amended (c) the Department of Defence (Army Office) is therefore liable to pay compensation in accordance with the provisions of the Compensation (Government Employees) Act 1971- 1973 (d) the dependants of the said William Cameron Jones also known as William Charles Jones are: Audrey Bessie Jones widow Terrence William Jones born 13 July 1954 Leanne Patricia Jones daughter born 3 January 1959 Tracy Darlene Jones daughter born 29 October 1962 and Rick Cameron Jones son born 29 October 1962 (e) the amount of compensation payable to the said Audrey Bessie Jones in accordance with the provisions of sections 43 (3) and 104 (4) of the Compensation (Australian Government Employees) Act 1971-1973 is $8,600 (f). the amounts of compensation payable in accordance with sections 5(1), 43(5) and 104(8)of the Compensation (Australian Government Employees) Act 1971- 1973 (i) in respect of Terrence William Jones are $2.25 (two dollars twenty five cents) per week from 10 January 1966 until 8 November 1967. $2.45 per week from 9 November 1967 until 2 December 1968, $2.50 per week from 3 December 1968 until 23 June l970 and $2.80 per week from 24 June 1970 until 13 July 1970. (ii) in respect of Leanne Patricia, Tracy Darlene Jones and Rick Cameron Jones, are $2.25 per week each from 10 January 1966 until 8 November 1967, $2.45 per week each from 9 November 1967 until 2 December 1968, $2.50 per week each from 3 December 1968 until 23 June 1970, $2.80 per week each from 24 June 1970 until 24 May 1971, and $5.00 per week each from 25 May 1971 until a date to be determined by the Commissioner or his Delegate. and I further determine: (i) the amount of $8,600 shall be Paid in a lump sum to the said Audrey Bessie Jones; and (ii) unless otherwise directed by the Commissioner or his Delegate, the weekly amount payable in respect of Terrence William Jones, Leanne Patricia Jones, Tracey Darlene Jones and Rick Cameron Jones shall be paid to the said Audrey Bessie Jones (g) the amount Payable in accordance with the provisions of sections 44 and 104 ( 10) of the Compensation (Australian Government Employees) Act 1971-1973 in respect of funeral expenses is $120 and the said amount shall be paid to the said Audrey Bessie Jones. D E RUMBLE Delegate of the Commissioner for Employees’ Compensation Mr UREN – I thank the House. Let us examine the evidence these documents present.
The delegate has determined that some factor in William Jones ‘ Army work caused him to get this cancer. If Mrs Jones’ story is accurate then we can conclude only that this factor was radiation at Emu. (South Australian Nuclear Test Site). If her story is denied by the authorities then we must also be told what was the factor that led to the delegate’s determination. But the evidence as it stands suggests that William Jones was a victim of radiation at Emu and that this was reluctantly admitted even within the bureaucracy. One of the features which stands out in this case is the frustration and secrecy which confronted Mrs Jones throughout her struggle. William Jones tried to get compensation for his illness before he died, but failed. Mrs Jones says that she then first sought compensation as far back as 1968, but from the start she was hampered by secrecy. Everyone associated with her late husband’s trip to Woomera had been told to keep quiet. They were too scared to say too much and the Army was not about to offer any information. That is the sad situation in these sorts of cases.
The Army had little concern for Mrs Jones and the children she was struggling to bring up. She persisted. despite knock backs. until 1974 when she won the determinations to which I have referred. Eight years after her husband’s death a lump sum of $8.600 and small weekly payments for each child were awarded. and I am pleased to see that the Minister for Finance ( Mr Eric Robinson) who is sitting at the table. is listening intently to this speech. But the Army then haggled for three and a half years over how much should be paid for William Joneses medical expenses and lost wages. The amount of $585 that was awarded is still disputed by Mrs Jones. But 12 years after her husband ‘s death she has had enough. Mrs Jones still feels that her husband ‘s life was worth more than the compensation she received in 1974. Why has Mrs Jones had to battle so long for fair compensation? Why has there been so much delay and frustration? These questions should be answered. We also must ask how many other people who worked on the weapons tests have cancer. How many of them have sought compensation? How many have been too intimidated to try?
(text continues after the following photographs of the tank involved)
A number of these vehicles saw service in Vietnam. Every piece of machinery, including induction systems, cylinders, bores, crankcases etc, every crack, crease and crevice of the vehicle became a hidden hazard to crews and mechanical staff in the decades that machines were in service. Stripped and overhauled at 4 Base Workshop, RAEME, where I served, the “perfectly safe” tanks were anything but. The RAAF aircraft used during the tests became famously hot. It is for this precise reason that the Royal Air Force did not chase the nuclear clouds in Australia. the British government would rather us colonials send up Australian aircraft and crew to get contaminated.
There is evidence that other people have been affected in. 1977 1 was approached on behalf of a group of former Commonwealth police who had worked at Maralinga in the 1950s and 1960s. I was told of four of their colleagues who had died of cancer and two others who were dying of cancer. At that time I made the information public in a Press statement. I have since been informed that these people know of others who worked at Maralinga and who are now suffering from cancer. There have been other disturbing reports in the Press. In 1978 I asked the then Minister for Health to institute a follow-up health study among all those who had worked at Maralinga during the weapons tests. This is what had been done in the United States. But he refused with the stock reply that the monitoring procedures were stringent and no one was exposed to dangerous radiation. I have since asked him to explain in what way the situation differed from the United States weapons tests but he has failed to answer that. I have also asked the Minister for Administrative Services (Mr John McLeay) for details of the health of former Commonwealth police who were stationed at Maralinga. He also has refused to follow up that matter. 1 seek leave to incorporate in the Hansard those questions and the answers from the Ministers.
The documents read as follows: Atomic Tests: Radiation (Question No. 921 ) Mr Uren asked the Health Minister upon notice April 1978: ( 1) Has his attention been drawn to the United States Government follow-up study on personnel who were involved in their past atomic testing programs. ( 2 ) Will the Australian Government institute a similar inquiry amongst all persons who worked at Maralinga, South Australia , during the years 1950 to 1965 in order to ascertain what ill-effects they may have suffered. Mr Hunt -The answer lo the honourable member’s question is as follows (l) yes (2) All personnel working at Maralinga were subject to stringent health procedures. Their activities in the field were strictly controlled and they were constantly monitored to ensure that they were not exposed to dangerous radiation.. The majority of those who were conducting and monitoring the tests at Maralinga were UK personnel. Any follow up studies on those persons would be a matter for the UK Government to decide upon.
Because of the stringent monitoring procedures undertaken at the time and the fact that they were not exposed to dangerous radiation, there is no proposal to institute studies on Australians who were in support of the UK activities at Maralinga from the rear areas.
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Question No. 3515
Mr Uren asked the Minister for Administrative Services upon notice on 27 March 1979: ( I ) How many Commonwealth policemen were stationed at Maralinga and its immediate surrounds over the period of the British weapons testing program. (2 ) How many of these policemen have (a) since contracted cancer or leukaemia and (b) died of these diseases Mr McLeay – The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (1), (2)(a) and (b) Having regard to the expenditure of resources involved in searching out records that are between 14 and 27 years old, and the ensuing problem of tracing ex members of the Commonwealth police who could be located in a number of countries, I do not think it would be appropriate for me to authorise the considerable expenditure necessary to search out and check the detailed information required to answer the question by the honourable member. If however, the honourable member has any specific information, I would be happy to discuss the matter further with him.
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Question No. 2746
Mr Uren asked the Minister for Health upon notice on 9 November 1978: ( 1)is he able to say whether the health risks encountered United States personnel during the United States atomic weapons testing program were greater than those encountered by British and Australian personnel at Emu, Monte Bello and Maralinga. (2) Is he also able to say whether the monitoring procedures undertaken by the US Government during its weapons testing program were less stringent than those undertaken at Emu, Monte Bello and Maralinga; if so, in what way did the procedures differ. Mr Hunt – The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (1) and (2) My Department has no detailed knowledge of the health risks encountered by United States personnel or the monitoring procedures employed during the United States atomic weapons testing program and it is not possible to make a comparison with the tests conducted within Australia by the British. However, for nuclear tests conducted within Australia by Britain the most stringent safeguards to the health of personnel were implemented at every level.
Mr UREN – I thank the House. So the Government can give no greater assurance about the health effects of the weapons tests than its tired old rhetoric. The Government says that the risks were too small and monitoring too stringent for there to be anything to worry about. The United States Atomic Energy Commission has said that for years, but people in the United Slates are continuing to agitate. Many exmilitary personnel have been located and found to be suffering from the effects of leukaemia and cancers. The evidence indicates that the incidence of these diseases is higher than normal. Ten people in the United States are receiving compensation for what they have suffered. I am now asking the Government, through the Minister at the table, to reexamine Mrs Jones’ case and to award adequate compensation if the facts I have outlined are as stated. The Government should be more compassionate. The mount of compensation awarded to Mrs Jones is mean and miserable. Not only should the Government have another look at Mrs Jones’ case but it should also undertake a thorough investigation into the health of those people who worked on weapons testing in the 50s and 60s. If a government has made a mistake, whether it be the United States Government, the United Kingdom Government or the Australian Government, it is about time they said: ‘ we were wrong.. Let us now correct our mistakes ‘. The real issue is one of compassionate treatment by the Government. The Government should give consideration to these people particularly those who are suffering so much.
I hope that the Minister for Administrative Services (Mr McLeay ) who is responsible for police matters and who has just entered the chamber, will take cognisance of what I have said.
MR DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drummond) Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. It now being 12 45 pm., in accordance with Standing Order 106 the debate is interrupted, and I put the question: That grievances be noted Question resolved in the affirmative.