Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

70 years since Operation Hurricane: the shameful history of British nuclear tests in Australia

Red Flag, by Nick Everett, Sunday, 16 October 2022

At 9.30am on 3 October 1952, a mushroom cloud billowed up above the Monte Bello Islands, 130 kilometres off the coast of Western Australia. The next day, the West Australian reported: “At first deep pink, it quickly changed to mauve in the centre, with pink towards the outside and brilliantly white turbulent edges. Within two minutes the cloud, which was still like a giant cauliflower, was 10,000 feet [three kilometres] high”.

Derek Hickman, a royal engineer who witnessed the blast aboard guard ship HMS Zeebrugge, told the Mirror: “We had no protective clothing … They ordered us to muster on deck and turn our backs. We put our hands over our eyes and they counted down over the tannoy [loudspeaker]. There was a sharp flash, and I could see the bones in my hands like an X-ray. Then the sound and the wind, and they told us to turn and face it. The bomb was in the hull of a 1,450-ton warship and all that was left of her were a few fist-sized pieces of metal that fell like rain, and the shape of the frigate scorched on the seabed.” 

Operation Hurricane was, up until that moment, a closely guarded secret. ……………………….

Throughout 1946, negotiations took place between the British and Australian governments, culminating in an agreement to establish a 480-kilometre rocket range extending northwest from Mount Eba (later moved to Woomera) in outback South Australia. 

On 22 November 1946, Defence Minister John Dedman informed parliament of cabinet’s decision to establish the rocket range. Peter Morton, author of Fire Across the Desert: Woomera and the Anglo-Australian Joint Project 1946–1980, explains that Dedman reiterated claims made in a report by British army officer John Fullerton Evetts that related to the original proposed site at the more remote location of Mount Eba, not Woomera. Dedman told parliament that Australia was the only suitable landmass in the Commonwealth for such testing, the designated area was largely uninhabited and that impacts on the Aboriginal population in the Central Aboriginal Reserves would be negligible. According to Morton, there were approximately 1800 Aboriginal people living on the reserves at the time. The Committee on Guided Projectiles would immediately begin consultations with the director of Native Affairs and other authorities, Dedman told parliament.

Dedman’s announcement ignited fierce opposition. In her book Different White People: Radical Activism for Aboriginal Rights 1946-1972, Deborah Wilson describes the independent Labor member for Bourke, Doris Blackburn, spearheading a peace movement strongly supported by the Australian Communist Party. She published her speeches in the CPA newspaper, Tribune. Blackburn was the widow of lawyer and parliamentarian Maurice Blackburn, whose left-wing views resulted in his expulsion from the ALP. 

Blackburn insisted that the rocket range amounted to a grave injustice against a “voiceless minority”, Australia’s First Nations people. In March 1947, medical practitioner Charles Duguid told a 1300-strong Rocket Range Protest Committee meeting in Melbourne that he was appalled by the government’s blatant “disregard” for the rights of Aboriginal people. According to a Tribune report, he asked those present: “Shot and poisoned as they were in the early days, neglected and despised more lately, will most of our Aborigines [sic] now be finally sacrificed and hurried to extinction by sudden contact with the mad demands of twentieth century militarism?”

Dedman, supported by the Menzies-led opposition, dismissed concerns expressed by Duguid and anthropologist Donald Thompson that contact between military personnel and Aboriginal people living in the military zone would have devastating consequences for their traditional way of life. Deploying assimilation arguments, Dedman insisted that contact between military personnel and “natives” in the area would simply accelerate an inevitable process of detribalisation. 

Meanwhile, Liberal and Country Party politicians railed against Duguid and other opponents of the project, labelling them dupes of communism with a lax attitude to the nation’s security, according to Wilson. They called on the Chifley government to follow the example of the Canadian royal commission established to weed out alleged communist spies in public sector employment…………….

In June 1947, federal parliament rushed through the Approved Defence Projects Protection Bill, a gag tool preventing critical commentary about the government’s defence policy. Transgressors were threatened with fines of up to £5,000 or a 12-month prison sentence.

Under the cover of “national security”, federal bans were imposed on union officials visiting the Woomera rocket range site, now a no-go area for anyone other than sanctioned military personnel. Anti-communist fearmongering helped set the scene for the Chifley government’s establishment of a new and powerful security organisation, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), in 1949.

In mid-1947, 446 kilometres north of Adelaide, the Woomera township was swiftly constructed on the traditional lands of the Kokatha people. By mid-1950, its population had grown to 3,500 and, over the following decade, doubled to 7,000. Roads gouged through Aboriginal country. Electricity and telegraph lines soon followed, connecting the military base with centres of political power.  

The nature of the missile testing remained a top secret to all but those firmly ensconced within the upper echelons of the Department of Defence. However, rumours of a nuclear testing program abounded. The detonation of a 25-kiloton nuclear weapon off the Monte Bello Islands made Britain’s nuclear ambitions, and the Australian government’s complicity, visible for the world. 

In the film Australian Atomic Confessions, witness May Torres, a Gooniyandi woman living at Jubilee Downs in the Kimberley, described observing a cloudy haze that remained in the sky for four or five days. At the time she did not know that it carried radioactive particles that were to contribute to cancer and an early death for many of her community, including her husband, in the early 1960s.

Another witness, Royal Australian Air Force pilot Barry Neale, described aircraft operating out of Townsville identifying nuclear particles in the air three days after the detonation. Two days later, New Zealand Air Force aircraft similarly observed radioactive particles that had emanated from Operation Hurricane. Still today, signs on the Monte Bello islands warn visitors about the dangers of elevated radiation levels.

In October 1953, two nuclear tests (Operation Totem) took place at Emu Field, 500 kilometres northwest of Woomera. In May and June 1956, nuclear testing returned to the Monte Bello Islands. Operation Mosaic detonated the largest ever nuclear device in Australia: a 60-kiloton weapon four times as powerful as that which had destroyed Hiroshima. 

My aunt was among the children who witnessed the Monte Bello explosion from the jetty in the Pilbara town of Roebourne. The spectacle left her and her siblings covered in ash, oblivious to the toxicity of the fallout they were exposed to. 

Meanwhile, west of Woomera, Aboriginal people were being relocated from their traditional lands. In preparation for Operation Buffalo, a series of four nuclear tests at the Maralinga Testing Ground, an 1,100 square kilometre area was excised from the Laverton-Warburton reserve and declared a no-go area. 

Two patrol officers, William MacDougal and Robert (Bob) Macaulay, were given the nearly impossible task of keeping Aboriginal people out of the no-go area. The pair’s reports to the range superintendent were frequently censored, according to Morton. 

In December 1956, a Western Australian parliamentary select committee, led by Liberal MLA William Grayden, visited the Laverton-Warburton Ranges. The select committee’s report (the Grayden Report) identified that displaced Aboriginal people suffered from malnutrition, blindness, unsanitary conditions, inadequate food and water sources, and brutal exploitation by pastoral interests.

News reports in the Murdoch-owned Adelaide News dismissed the committee’s findings, insisting that the claims could not be substantiated. Responding to the Murdoch media whitewash, Tribune reported on 9 January 1957 that the committee had “ripped aside the screen that has veiled the cruel plight to which our [g]overnments condemn Australian Aborigines”.

Tribune asserted that “huge areas of the most favourable land are being taken from [Aboriginal] reserves and provided for mining interests, atomic and guided missile grounds, and other purposes”.

A subsequent Tribune article reported a week later on the observations of Pastor Doug Nicholls, who accompanied the West Australian minister for native welfare, John Brady, on a tour of the Warburton-Laverton district. According to Tribune:

“Pastor Nicholls said that at Giles weather station, deep in the heart of the best hunting grounds in the Warburton reserve—a region that the Government had stolen as part of the Woomera range—the white people lived like kings, and the Aboriginal people worse than paupers … The Commonwealth had spent a fortune on Woomera, but has not even supplied a well for the Aboriginals.”

The Grayden Report deeply shocked the public. A film documentary produced by Grayden and Nicholls, Their Darkest Hour, further exposed these crimes. Wilson describes scenes from the film:

“Images of malnourished, sick and poverty-stricken Aboriginal people bombard the viewer. A mother’s arm has rotted off with yaws. A blind man with one leg hobbles grotesquely on an artificial leg stuffed with furs and bandaged into an elephant-like stump. Malnourished children with huge swollen bellies stare blankly at the camera. A baby lies deathlike beside a mother too weak to walk. A sickening close-up of a toddler who fell into a fire reveals cooked flesh covered with flies. Skeletal remains of a man, dead from thirst, lie beside a dried-up waterhole. As the film concludes, his body is buried in an unmarked grave.”

The detrimental impact of British nuclear testing in Australia wasn’t limited to traditional Aboriginal people. It also exposed thousands of military personnel and their families to nuclear radiation, survivors still feeling the effects seven decades on, according to submissions received by the 1985 McClelland Royal Commission into British Nuclear Tests in Australia

In 2001, a group of Melbourne scientists made a startling discovery: thousands of jars of ashed human bone that all contained strontium 90, a by-product of nuclear testing that can cause bone cancer and leukaemia. All had been collected from autopsies without the consent of family members, according to a 2002 report by the Australian Health Ethics Committee. This officially sanctioned “body-snatching” provided vital, and until then hidden, evidence of radioactive contamination with widespread effects on human health. 

In the mid-1950s, CSIRO scientist Hedley Marston was tasked by the Atomic Weapons Tests Safety Committee (AWTSC) with studying the radioactive iodine uptake in sheep and cattle as part of wider effort to monitor the biological effects of radiation caused by atomic-bomb testing in Australia. Marston argued that radioactive iodine found in the thyroids of animals indicated the presence of radioactive strontium in the food chain, which would endanger the health of humans, particularly children. Marston’s discovery put him in conflict with the AWTSC, who denied the tests resulted in significant radioactive contamination.

According to the Australian Health Ethics Committee, between 1957 and 1978, the AWTSC and its successor, the Australian Ionising Radiation Committee, covertly took samples of bones from 22,000 human remains during autopsy to test for the presence of strontium 90. The surviving samples located in 2001 suggested that radioactive contamination was far more widespread than previously admitted.

The winding down of the British nuclear testing program in Australia in 1953 did not bring an end to the Australian government’s role in the global nuclear industry. Since 1954, Australian uranium has supplied nuclear reactors around the world, including to the Fukushima reactor in Japan, which in 2011 was the site of the most severe nuclear disaster since the 1986 Chernobyl meltdown. Australia has also committed to acquiring nuclear-powered submarines to better pursue its imperial interests, and those of its allies, in the Asia-Pacific. And the nuclear industry is trying to promote itself as a viable alternative to polluting fossil fuel industries. 

Its shameful history, and the dire threat it poses to humanity, must not be forgotten. https://redflag.org.au/article/70-years-operation-hurricane-shameful-history-british-nuclear-tests-australia

October 17, 2022 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, history, reference, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Who are the war criminals?

Pearls and Irritations , By Brian Toohey, Sep 29, 2022

One of the few heartening things to come out of Russia’s war against Ukraine is the renewed emphasis on how it’s a crime for national leaders to start a war of aggression. Putin is not the only one who can reasonably be accused of committing war crimes. Most US president since World War II have done so. So have some Australian Prime Ministers.

None of the wars Australia has fought in since World War II were necessary for defence. Instead, they all involved dispatching military expeditions to intervene in countries that posed no threat to Australia. All were wars of aggression, or soon became so, after the initial goal had been quickly achieved…………………………………………………….

The Labor leader Arthur Calwell gave a parliamentary speech demolishing Menzies rationale that North Vietnam was a Chinese puppet. He explained that Vietnam had a “1000-year history of hostility towards China” and said Labor opposed a “cruel, costly and interminable” civil war that would “prolong and deepen the suffering” of the Vietnamese people.

In a particularly despicable war crime, the US dropped more bombs on tiny Laos than the combined total on Europe and Japan during World War II. The total for Laos was the equivalent of a bomb load dropped every eight minutes, 24 hours a day, for nine years. Many were mines or unexploded cluster bombs that continue to kill. The US called this a “secret war”. It was no secret to the Laotians beneath the falling bombs.

The people of Indo-China were no threat to Australia or the US. But the invading forces subjected them to death and disfigurement from carpet bombing, deliberate crop destruction, torture, massacres, assassinations, napalm, and dioxin – the persistent poison that still condemns anguished mothers to give birth to terribly deformed children they spend years nursing.

About 60,000 Australian troops, including 19,000 conscripts, were sent to the war. A total of 521 died and over 3000 were wounded. Estimates of the number of Vietnamese, Cambodians and Laotians killed vary from 1.2 million to over 3.8 million. Far higher than is likely for the war in Ukraine.

While John Howard was Australia’s prime minister in 2003 he made a demonstrably false statement in his March 2003 television address at the start of the illegal invasion of Iraq. He said Iraq possessed chemical and biological weapons that, “Even in minute quantities are capable of causing destruction on a mammoth scale”. Iraq had not produced any new chemical and biological weapons since they were disarmed by UN weapons inspectors in 1991.

Howard also claimed that the supply of intelligence was a “priceless component” of the relationship with the US and the UK. Far from priceless, the intelligence on WMD was worse than useless: it provided the rationale for a disastrous invasion. With few exceptions, the Australian media peddled nonsense in support of invasion.

Unlike Bush and Blair, Howard has never admitted that he was wrong to help invade Iraq. In 2016, Sir John Chilcot’s devastating report on the British involvement on the war found that the “benefit of hindsight was not needed to understand the intelligence was flawed”. But Howard told journalists he wouldn’t “retreat” from his decision to invade. Howard’s grotesque mistakes reinforce the need for the full Parliament to authorise a decision to go to war.

Howard also announced the dispatch of Australian SAS and other troops to Afghanistan to combat the Al Qaeda terrorist group. This group escaped in the opening months of the war. With the terrorists gone, there was no rationale for the US or Australia to stay. Their continued participation in a war of aggression was a war crime. No Afghanis took part in the September 11 attacks or helped al-Qaeda plan these atrocities. Before September 11, the Taliban government in Kabul offered to hand bin Laden over to the US. The offer was ignored……………………………………..

The last of the Australian military left in April 2021 after 41 had died and 260 were wounded or injured. How many they killed is unknown. The financial cost of the Australian contribution was $8.4 billion.

On August 30, 2021 the last of the US forces left Afghanistan behind with a rapidly growing humanitarian crisis in which starvation is rife……………………..

By the standards now rightly being applied to Vladimir Putin, the American and Australian leaders who brought devastation to Iraq and Afghanistan, George W Bush, Tony Blair and John Howard should arguably appear in the dock, subject to the presumption of innocence. Justice also demands a reasonable effort be made to bring them before a court. That hasn’t happened and won’t until the public demand justice.  https://johnmenadue.com/who-are-the-war-criminals/

October 3, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, history, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

25 September – anniversary of nuclear bombing at Maralinga – causing Aboriginal deaths, and later deaths of soldiers exposed to radiation.

David Jarvis

On 25 September 1957, a 6 kiloton nuclear device was exploded at Maralinga range South Australia. None of the aboriginals whose bodies were discovered by the armed service personnel were living.

The Aussie and British Defence personnel all died in their fifties from cancers. Australia spent over 100 $million cleaning up the English’s nuclear explosions and the smaller and more dangerous tests that occurred in the hundreds!

After a long and difficult legal battle, the indigenous families received less than $14 million aud in compensation for their losses of habital land and family deaths and ongoing radioactive damage done to their genome.

In three days time will the Australian government hold a day of mourning for those lost lives?

September 24, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, history, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Nuclear bomb tests at Emu Field remain obscured by Maralinga and the mists of time

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-08-24/nuclear-testing-at-emu-field-featured-in-new-book/101329172 ABC Radio Adelaide / By Daniel Keane, 22 Aug 22,

In hindsight, Michael Parkinson’s TV talk show hardly seems the likeliest forum for sober reflection on nuclear annihilation. 

But in 1971, the celebrity interviewer welcomed onto his celebrated stage journalist James Cameron, a man who had, 18 years earlier, witnessed the first atomic blast at Emu Field in outback South Australia.

Nuclear weapons, he told Parkinson, were “the ultimate punctuation mark” in humanity’s “progress towards perdition”.

The words echoed his front-page report for The Age on October 16, 1953 — the day after the test:

“The familiar mushroom column climbed unsteadily for 15,000 feet, leaned and dropped, and the world stumbled one more step towards the twilight.”

Codenamed Totem, the two Emu Field bomb tests have, in the view of James Cook University author Elizabeth Tynan, been regarded for too long as mere precursors to the more notorious detonations at Maralinga.

Her new book seeks to correct this by establishing Operation Totem as a portentous episode in its own right.

“The tests there pre-dated Maralinga by three years and they caused enormous difficulty and disruption and tragedy to the Aboriginal people of the Western Desert,” Dr Tynan said.

The Secret of Emu Field is the product of extensive archival excavation, including in the United Kingdom.

Amid Cold War hardships and anxieties, British officials were desperate to develop an affordable nuclear arsenal for their new fleet of jet bombers.

“They were looking to create a workable weapon; I call it the austerity bomb,” Dr Tynan said.

“They wanted to do it quickly because they had the V bombers coming, they had a number of political pressures and geopolitical pressures as well.”

Among several remarkable occurrences at Emu Field was the flight of a Royal Air Force Canberra bomber through the Totem 1 mushroom cloud barely six minutes after detonation.

“In colour it was a dark red-brown,” Wing Commander Geoffrey Dhenin, who enthusiastically piloted the plane, later wrote.

“Until just before we emerged, the forces on the elevators increased to such an extent that I thought I might lose control.”

One of the aims of that mission was to determine the threat from fallout in atmospheric testing to commercial airline traffic.

In an unforeseen irony, the atomic cloud from Totem 1 — which kept its mushroom shape “for 24 hours because of wind conditions” — was spotted by airline passengers passing over Oodnadatta.

The black mist

Today, it isn’t a cloud but a mist that remains one of the few aspects of the Totem tests to endure in the collective consciousness.

The so-called “black mist” was reported by nearby Aboriginal communities, but it wasn’t until a 1980 report by The Advertiser that it came to public attention.

The 1985 royal commission into British nuclear tests was equivocal on the health effects, but concluded that “Aboriginal people experienced radioactive fallout from Totem 1 in the form of a black mist or cloud at and near Wallatinna”.

Bruce Lennon was a young boy at the time and likened the impact to “having a really bad flu”.

“We were close to Emu Field; dad was a contractor, we did a lot of moving around,” he said.

Also in the area, at Mabel Creek station, was the family of Sister Kenise Neill.

“My father at the time of the Emu Field [tests] would have been 22. There’s a story that my grandmother used to tell about him,” she recalled.

“He was out fencing with Aboriginal people around the station and came home covered in a black, slimy, greasy stuff.”

Murray Neill was 24 when he died in 1956.

His daughter said it was now almost impossible to know whether the story told by her grandmother was an account of fallout.

“I didn’t really know about Emu Fields … and because our family had left before the [later] Maralinga testing, it didn’t make sense,” Sister Neill said.

“I presumed the black fallout with my dad wasn’t nuclear.

“It’s really only through reading Elizabeth Tynan’s book that I thought that my dad could have actually died from radiation.”

The persistence of secrets

The black mist may have dissipated, but other mists still cloud the Totem tests.

Dr Tynan said British files she inspected during her research had since been “withdrawn from public view”, and that there were unanswered questions about the second test and the plutonium fuel.

“The Operation Totem tests at Emu Field were intended as a comparative trial to test two different kinds of nuclear fuel,” Dr Tynan said.

I can’t say that I ever got to the bottom of what was happening with Totem 2. From the documents I’ve seen, [it] was a very, very secret weapon.”

By the time of the second test on October 27, James Cameron and the rest of the press pack had long since departed.

But the bomb had left its mark on Cameron’s mind.

In a piece published the day after he died, in the same year as the royal commission into British tests, Cameron reflected on the nuclear age with typical grace and resignation:

“I personally witnessed the explosion of atom bombs, and did nothing about it, and could do nothing except protest, tiresomely and uselessly.”

This article is the second in a two-part series, the first of which focused on the tests at Maralinga.

August 25, 2022 Posted by | aboriginal issues, history, reference, South Australia, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Nuclear bomb tests at Maralinga triggered Hedley Marston to study fallout over Australia

ABC Radio Adelaide / By Daniel Keane 10 Aug 22,

Hedley Marston could be charming, genial and witty but he was not above fulmination, especially where fulminations of a different kind were concerned.

In the mid-1950s, the CSIRO biochemist emerged as arguably the most significant contemporary critic of Britain’s nuclear weapons testing program, which was launched on Australia’s Montebello Islands almost 70 years ago in October 1952.

Despite the imminent anniversary Marston remains an obscure figure, but his biographer Roger Cross believes that should change.

“He appears to be totally unknown to the Australian public and, of course, to South Australians — he was a South Australian after all,” Dr Cross said.

Marston’s reservations about the nuclear program were far from spontaneous; indeed, his strongest concerns weren’t voiced until several years after the first test, when he recorded a radioactive plume passing over Adelaide.

The source of that plume was Operation Buffalo, a series of four nuclear blasts in 1956, and Marston was especially outraged by the fact that the general population was not warned.

“Sooner or later the public will demand a commission of enquiry on the ‘fall out’ in Australia,” he wrote to nuclear physicist and weapons advocate Sir Mark Oliphant.

“When this happens some of the boys will qualify for the hangman’s noose.”

What made Marston’s fury difficult to dismiss, especially for those inclined to deride opposition to nuclear testing as the exclusive preserve of ‘commies’ and ‘conchies’, was the fact that he was no peacenik.

Detractors might have damned him as an arriviste, but never as an activist: his cordial relations with Oliphant and other scientific grandees demonstrate that Marston was, in many respects, an establishment man.

Dr Cross has described Marston’s elegant prose as “Churchillian”, and the adjective is apposite in other ways.

While the roguish Marston might not have gone as far as the British wartime leader’s assertion that, during conflict, truth is so precious “that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies”, he had, in a 1947 letter to the editor, publicly defended scientific secrecy:

Under present conditions of fear and mistrust among nations it is obvious that military technology must be kept secret; and to achieve this end it should be conducted in special military laboratories where strictest security measures may be observed.”

But by late 1956, Marston’s alarm at radioactive fallout across parts of Australia was such that he was privately demanding greater disclosures to the general public.

Much of his ire was aimed at the Atomic Weapons Tests Safety Committee — a body established before the Maralinga tests, but after blasts had already occurred at Emu Fields* and the Montebello Islands.

“He was the only senior Australian scientist to express concerns and, because of his character, the concerns that he expressed were very forthright,” said Dr Cross, whose biography of Marston, aptly entitled Fallout, inspired the documentary Silent Storm.

“When the safety committee after each explosion said there was absolutely no effect on Australians, he believed that they were lying.”

‘If the wind changes, we need to go’

The experiments that led Marston, whose reputation largely rested on his expertise in sheep nutrition, to reach this conclusion were two-fold.

In the more protracted one, he analysed the presence of radioactive iodine-131 — a common component of nuclear fallout — in the thyroids of sheep.

“One group he kept penned up under cover eating dried hay, which had been cut some time before. The other group, he put outside eating the grass,” Dr Cross said.

“He tested the thyroids in each group – the ones on the hay only had background amounts of iodine-131.

“But the ones in the fields had a tremendously high concentration of this radioactive isotope, both north and south of the city.”

A fallout map from the 1985 royal commission, which stated that while fallout at Maralinga Village from the October 11, 1956,  test was “considered to be ‘negligible from a biological point of view’ it does suggest difficulties with the forecast prior to the test”.(Royal Commission into British Nuclear Tests in Australia)

For the other experiment, Marston conducted air monitoring in Adelaide.

He was especially alarmed by what he found for the period following the Maralinga test of October 11, 1956.

“There was a wind shear and at least part, maybe the major part, of that cloud, blew in a south-easterly direction and that took it towards Adelaide and the country towns in between,” Dr Cross said.

“The safety committee — who must have known of the wind shear — had done nothing about warning Adelaide people perhaps to stay indoors.”……………………………………………………

Despite Marston’s reservations, the nuclear program carried on regardless.

Less than a year after the Operation Buffalo tests, Maralinga was hosting Operation Antler.

In September 1957, newspapers around Australia reported on an upcoming “second test” that would, weather permitting, proceed as part of a “spring series”.

If it hadn’t been for the presence of the words “atomic” and “radioactive”, a reader might easily have inferred that what was being described was as commonplace as a game of cricket.

 https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-08-10/hedley-marston-maralinga-nuclear-bomb-tests-and-fallout/101310032

August 11, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, history, media, politics, reference, secrets and lies, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Book. Fact or Fission? The truth about Australia’s nuclear ambitions. 

Scribe Publications has published a second, updated edition of former Australian Ambassador Prof. Richard Broinowski’s 2003 book Fact or Fission? The truth about Australia’s nuclear ambitions

The book has just been published with two new chapters addressing the implications of the AUKUS announcement that Australia would purchase nuclear-powered submarines fuelled on highly-enriched uranium — see https://scribepublications.com.au/books-authors/books/fact-or-fission-9781922585745

Richard is planning to launch the updated Fact or Fission? at bookshops in Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne. The Sydney launch will be at Gleebooks, Glebe Point Rd, on Tuesday 14 June at 6 pm for 6:30 pm — see https://www.gleebooks.com.au/event/richard-broinowski-fact-or-fission/. The other launches are still to be finalised. The launches offer the opportunity for discussion about Australia’s potential role in nuclear proliferation and Australia’s capture by the US military and the US armaments industry.


Richard Broinowski – Fact or Fission – Gleebooks.com.au
This book examines Australia’s chequered nuclear history – from assisting the United States develop the first atomic bomb in the 1940s, wanting its own nuclear weapons in the 1960s, and then, in sudden reversal, being at the active forefront of international non-proliferation activities in the 1970s and 1980s.www.gleebooks.com.au

June 2, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, history, media | Leave a comment

This black smoke rolling through the mulga’: almost 70 years on, it’s time to remember the atomic tests at Emu Field

 https://theconversation.com/this-black-smoke-rolling-through-the-mulga-almost-70-years-on-its-time-to-remember-the-atomic-tests-at-emu-field-181061

The Convesation, Liz Tynan, Associate professor and co-ordinator of professional development GRS, James Cook University: May 4, 2022 

The name Emu Field does not have the same resonance as Maralinga in Australian history. It is usually a footnote to the much larger atomic test site in South Australia. However, the weapons testing that took place in October 1953 at Emu Field, part of SA’s Woomera Prohibited Area, was at least as damaging as what came three years later at Maralinga.

The Emu Field tests, known as Operation Totem, were an uncontrolled experiment on human populations unleashing a particularly mysterious and dangerous phenomenon – known as “black mist” – which is still being debated.

Operation Totem involved two “mushroom cloud” tests, held 12 days apart, which sought to compare the differences in performance between varying proportions of isotopes of plutonium. The tests were not safe, despite assurances given at the time.

Between 1952 and 1957, Britain used three Australian sites to test 12 “mushroom cloud” bombs: the uninhabited Monte Bello Islands off the Western Australian coast and the two South Australian sites. (An associated program of tests of various weapons components and safety measures continued at Maralinga until 1963.)

The British government, with loyal but uncomprehending support from Australia under Liberal prime minister Robert Menzies, proceeded despite incomplete knowledge of atomic weapons effects or the sites’ meteorological and geographical conditions.

The British government, with loyal but uncomprehending support from Australia under Liberal prime minister Robert Menzies, proceeded despite incomplete knowledge of atomic weapons effects or the sites’ meteorological and geographical conditions.

The first British atomic test, Operation Hurricane, held in 1952, was a maritime test of a 25 kiloton atomic device detonated below the waterline in a ship anchored off part of the Monte Bello Islands.

Operation Totem was designed to test two much smaller devices – 9.1 and 7.1 kilotons respectively – by detonating them on steel towers in the desert.

At the time, Britain was in the process of commissioning a new reactor at Calder Hall in Cumbria (designed to make plutonium for both military and civilian uses) that would produce nuclear fuel containing more plutonium-240 than a previous reactor.

Totem was intended to test “austerity” weapons made from nuclear fuel eked out of this reactor. (Plutonium-240 can potentially make nuclear weapons unstable, in contrast to the fuel of choice for fission weapons, plutonium-239, which is more controllable.)

Totem was a “comparative” test. Its innermost technicalities are still kept secret by the British government.

A greasy black mist

The two tests at Emu Field were fired at 7am, on 15 October and 27 October.

The first test, Totem I, produced a mysterious, greasy “black mist” that rolled over Aboriginal communities around Wallatinna and Mintabie, 170 kilometres to the northeast of Emu Field. The black mist directly harmed Aṉangu people. Because no data was collected at the time, it is impossible to quantify precisely, however, the anecdotal evidence suggests death and sickness occured.

The British meteorologist, Ray Acaster, gave an account of the phenomenon, and its possible causes, in 2002:

The Black Mist was a process of mist or fog formation at or near the ground at various distances from the explosion point … Radioactive particles from the unusually high concentration in the explosion cloud falling into the mist or fog contributed to the condensation process … The radioactive particles in the mist or fog became moist and deposited as a black, sticky, and radioactive dust, particularly dangerous if taken into the body by ingestion or breathing.

The black mist was an horrific experience for all in its path. Survivors gathered at Wallatinna and Marla Bore in 1985 testified to the Royal Commission into the British Atomic Tests in Australia on its effect on individuals and communities.

Among those who testified was Lallie Lennon, who lived at Mintabie with her husband and children in 1953. After breakfast on 15 October they heard a deep rumble, followed by weird smoke that smelt of gunpowder and stuck to the trees. Lallie, her children and the others with her all got sick with diarrhoea, flu-like symptoms, rashes and sore eyes. Lallie’s skin problems were so severe, it looked like she had rolled in fire.

Another witness, the later tireless advocate for the survivors of the British atomic tests, Yami Lester, was a child at the time of Totem and lost his vision after the tests.

He recalled his experiences in testimony to the royal commission, and elsewhere. Interviewed by two London Observer journalists in a story republished in the Bulletin under the title “Forgotten victims of the ‘rolling black mist’”, he said:

I looked up south and saw this black smoke rolling through the mulga. It just came at us through the trees like a big, black mist. The old people started shouting ‘It’s a mamu’ (an evil spirit) … they dug holes in the sand dune and said ‘Get in here, you kids’. We got in and it rolled over and around us and went away.

Contaminated planes
The second test, Totem II, took place on October 27 in completely different meteorological conditions and did not produce a black mist. Its cloud rose quickly into the atmosphere and broke up soon after. However, radioactivity from both Totem I and Totem II travelled east across the continent, crossing the coast near Townsville.
Air force crews from both Britain and Australia flew into the atomic clouds. A British Canberra aircraft with three crew aboard entered the Totem I cloud just six minutes after detonation, far earlier than any of the other cloud sampling aircraft.

For a brief period the radioactivity to which they were exposed was off the scale. The aircraft was flown back to the UK, where it was found to carry extensive residual radioactive dust despite having been cleaned in Australia.

While air crew were exposed to contamination in flight, RAAF ground crew were worse affected, since they were largely unprotected and worked for hours on the contaminated planes. The risk to both air and ground crew was extensively examined by the Royal Commission.

One account by Group Captain David Colquhoun, head of RAAF operations at Emu Field, mentioned a gathering of crew in a hangar at Woomera, where a doctor ran a Geiger counter over those present.

As it reached the hip of one man, “the Geiger gave a very strong number of counts”. The young man then said he had a rag in his hip pocket he had used to wipe grease “off the union between the wing and the fuselage”. This rag was heavily contaminated.

Abrogating responsibility

After America’s McMahon Act of 1946 made it illegal for the US to work with other countries on atomic weaponry, a secret British Cabinet committee made the decision to conduct tests of a British bomb – but not on its own territory.

Britain explicitly abrogated all responsibility for those who lived near the Emu Fields site. Britain maintained through to the royal commission – and in years beyond – that it was not responsible for Aboriginal welfare in the face of atomic weapons tests.

The extent of the huge British atomic weapons testing program here is still largely unknown by Australians. The Australian government forced the British government to contribute to the cost of remediation of Maralinga in the mid-1990s, although Monte Bello and Emu Field were largely left untouched.

The story of Emu Field has been forgotten for nearly 70 years. Bringing it back into our national consciousness reminds us the costs of harmful political decisions are often not borne by the decision-makers but by the most powerless.

The author would like to thank Maralinga Tjarutja Council for allowing access to the Maralinga lands, including Emu Field.

The Secret of Emu Field: Britain’s forgotten atomic tests in Australia, by Elizabeth Tynan, has just been published by NewSouth

May 5, 2022 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, history, reference, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Morrison’s decision on AUKUS and nuclear submarines was made with no debate in Parliament

Our PM, Scott Morrison, struts the world stage, vilifies China (some of it deserved), but in the process is locking in Australia’s subservience to US foreign policy while guaranteeing increased US troop access and US spy stations on Australian territory for the future. Add to this the crippling cost of procurement of nuclear powered subs and the possible return of Donald Trump to ‘guide’ our nation into the future.

This sabre rattling at an external enemy will allow Morrison some catch up in the polls while the ALP is wedged. The huge crime here is to make a decision without debate in the Federal Parliament.

Times change, but some things regarding the nuclear industry and international political posturing remain the same.

Local anti-nuclear activists who chose to make a difference…https://www.echo.net.au/2021/10/local-anti-nuclear-activists-who-chose-to-make-a-difference/ By Ian Cohen October 7, 2021    Following the Nuclear Disarmament Party’s close loss with front man Peter Garrett in 1984, nuclear issues were at the forefront of people’s minds. We extended our influence far beyond our Shire. The pending arrival of nuclear armed warships sent the local region into overdrive. Benny Zable from Nimbin rolled out his ‘radioactive’ barrels for street theatre. Dean Jefferys based in Brunswick Heads came with his ultralight, Hoss (Ian Hoskens) of Main Arm with his megaphone voice and me with my surfboard.

September 1986 heralded the arrival of the largest assembly of international ships in Sydney Harbour’s history. Many were nuclear armed.

Our north coast contingent was vital to the success of the protest actions. Driven by a reckless, but heartfelt, desire to impact on the nuclear arms race and send a direct message to US President Ronald Reagan and USSR’s Yuri Andropov.

The mad concept of surfing the nose of a nuclear armed warship was mine, but Sydney Morning Herald photographer, Robert Pearce, from a media barge directly in front of myself and the warship, captured the image of a vulnerable surfer hanging onto the nose of a nuclear armed destroyer that went global.

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October 9, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, history, opposition to nuclear, reference | Leave a comment

Maralinga – ushered in Australia’s nuclear age

A picture in time: Maralinga, the blinding flash that ushered in Australia’s atomic age.  https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/sep/27/a-picture-in-time-maralinga-when-the-atomic-age-reached-australia

Nuclear tests conducted in South Australia from 1956 resulted in swaths of countryside obliterated and decades of highly contaminated land.

The atomic age reached Maralinga with a blinding flash. At 5pm on 27 September 1956, a 15-kilotonne atomic device was detonated at the site in the western plains of South Australia.

The ensuing blast had as much explosive strength as the weapon which fell on Hiroshima 11 years earlier.

More than a decade after that horror struck Japan, Australia had become tangled up in the UK’s nuclear testing program, which saw swaths of countryside obliterated to further the nuclear arms race.

The atomic test at Maralinga was carried out by the British government as part of Operation Buffalo, run by the UK’s Atomic Weapons Research establishment.

In the moments after the detonation, RAAF personnel flew through the mushroom cloud to carry out tests with little instruction or protective equipment to shield them from the radiation.

For the next seven years, major and minor nuclear tests were carried out at Maralinga. The minor tests led to contamination of the area with plutonium-239, which has a radioactive half-life of 24,000 years.

Prior to the test, very little effort was put into finding and notifying the Anangu Pitjantjatjara people who lived on the land. In addition to the obvious immediate dangers of nuclear fallout in the area, the Indigenous community would endure the long term hazards of poisoned land and water for more than thirty years.

Maralinga was not the first nuclear weapons test conducted on Australian soil. Three years earlier, on 3 October 1952, Britain detonated a nuclear weapon on the Montebello Islands off the coast of Western Australia.

A further two detonations were carried out at Emu Field. Britain moved the testing site to Maralinga after previous locations were deemed to be too remote for nuclear weapons tests.

When Maralinga was eventually closed as a testing site in 1967, the British government began the process of cleaning the 3,200 sq km of contaminated land.

By 1968, the Australian and British governments agreed that Britain has successfully decontaminated the area by covering contaminated debris in concrete and ploughing the plutonium-laden soil into the ground.

In 1984, as the land was slated to be returned to the Tjarutja people, scientists found the land was still highly contaminated.

Nine years later, in 1993, following a royal commission, and after mounting pressure, the British government agreed to pay a portion of the estimated $101m cleanup cost.

It wasn’t until 1994, 38 years after the initial blast, that the Australian government paid $13.5m to the Indigenous people of Maralinga as compensation for what had been done to the land.

September 27, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, history, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Review of book: Long Half-life – The Nuclear Industry in Australia 

Lowe highlights that there is a neglected dimension of uranium mining — its inefficiency. Lowe notes that at Ranger it would take 400 tonnes of ore to extract one tonne of uranium yellowcake. At 125,000 tonnes of production, that’s a lot of detritus, which highlights what a giant job is the “remediation” project currently underway at Ranger.

The replacement went ahead, called an Australia’s Open Pool Australian Lightwater (OPAL) reactor, built by an Argentinian company. Work began in 2002 and it was commissioned in 2006. A condition for its approval was that the waste problem would be solved. Of course, it wasn’t. Which makes the approval and construction of the OPAL reactor unconscionable.

IA Book Club: Long Half-life – The Nuclear Industry in Australia  https://independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/ia-book-club-long-half-life–the-nuclear-industry-in-australia,15520#.YUbL77Fpoi8.twitter By Evan Jones | 19 September 2021 In his far-reaching review, Dr Evan Jones explores a book by Ian Lowe, which looks deep into Australia’s involvement with the nuclear industry.

Lowe has written a telling obituary for the nuclear industry in Australia, but the waste problem refuses to die.   Long Half-life: The Nuclear Industry in Australia’ is available from Booktopia for $28.35 (paperback) RRP.

PHYSICIST Ian Lowe has just published another book, Long Half-life: The Nuclear Industry in Australia. Current generations might say — what nuclear industry? They would probably know about the British nuclear bomb tests on Australian soil (buzz words Woomera and Maralinga); perhaps fragments regarding the export of uranium yellowcake.

Australia has been integrally involved with nuclear since the atom bomb — indeed, before the bomb, as Adelaide-born Marcus Oliphant was a key figure in fostering and furthering the bomb’s development.

Lowe’s book conveniently ties all the threads together. Lowe has been intimately involved in the issue for over 50 years. The book usefully outlines in simple terms for outsiders (of which myself) the technical mysteries of splitting the atom and related discoveries. The book is soberly written, with occasional displays of outrage (John Howard “crass” and Alexander Downer “bumbling and sycophantic” in playing the U.S.’ deputy sheriff) and not a little wry humour.

The immediate consequence of the bomb in Australia was the creation of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) in March 1949, due to concerns of “reds under the beds”. The Cold War was on in earnest.

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September 20, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, history, reference | Leave a comment

Maralinga nuclear bomb tests – British and Australian governments’ callous cruelty to First Nations people.

Australia’s Chernobyl: The British carried out nuclear tests on Indigenous land. It will never heal.   https://www.mamamia.com.au/maralinga-nuclear-testing/ CHELSEA MCLAUGHLIN, JULY 5, 2021  For tens of thousands of years, the Aṉangu people lived on the warm, red earth of their country.

The land provided them with food, water and shelter as they travelled around an area we now know as outback Far North South Australia.

But after colonisation, they were moved off their land: forcibly removed, sent into missions across the region and displaced by train lines linking Australia’s east and west that impacted their water supply. 

Much of the information around the tests was highly classified, and some information remains so.

For tens of thousands of years, the Aṉangu people lived on the warm, red earth of their country.

The land provided them with food, water and shelter as they travelled around an area we now know as outback Far North South Australia.

But after colonisation, they were moved off their land: forcibly removed, sent into missions across the region and displaced by train lines linking Australia’s east and west that impacted their water supply. 

Much of the information around the tests was highly classified, and some information remains so.

Thirty per cent of the British and Australian servicemen who were exposed during these tests died of cancer, though a Royal Commission in 1984 was not able to reach a conclusion linking their health issues directly to the blasts. 

Similarly, many locals died prematurely, went blind and suffered from illness that may have been linked to radiation.

British nuclear scientists, wanting to determine the long-term effects of the tests on Australia and its citizens, ordered the testing of dead Australian infants and children for radiation contamination.

Between 1957 and 1978 in hospitals around Australia, bones were secretly removed from 21,830 bodies. They were reduced to ash and sent away to be analysed for the presence of Strontium 90, a radioactive isotope produced by nuclear fission.

Unsurprisingly, none of the First Nations people of the region were told about the tests and many of the bones were taken without permission.

Associate professor Liz Tynan, the author of Atomic Thunder: The Maralinga Story, told Mamamia‘s The Quicky First Nations people were still in the area during the periods of testing, and this led to disastrous consequences.

Tynan said the Milpuddie family – Charlie, Edie, two kids and their dogs – were found by British service personnel in 1957, camped on the crater left by the bomb Marcoo soon after it had been detonated. 

They were rounded up and most of the family, not Edie, but most of them, were given showers. Edie didn’t wish to have a shower,” Tynan explained.

“They were tested for radioactivity and the geiger counters did detect radioactivity, particularly on the young boy Henry. Anyway, there were rather insensitively treated I suppose, given showers, had clothes put on them and then take off down south to a mission.”

Their dogs were shot in front of them. Edie was pregnant at the time, and she later lost her child.

“It was a tragic story and indicative of the callous approach to Indigenous people that was displayed by both the British government and their officials that were conducting the tests, and by the Australian government as well,” Tynan said.

Following the testing, many Aṉangu people returned to the area, but the lands that had previously sustained and protected them were now poison.

We still don’t know the truth impact of the bombs at Maralinga, as well as nearby Emu Fields and the Montebello Islands off the coast of Western Australia.

“The South Australian Department of Health commissioned a fairly extensive study, [but] that study was hampered by the fact there was no base-line data from which to understand the general health of the population before the tests,” Tynan said.

The study did show an increase in various cancers, but most of the findings were inconclusive due to a lack of information. Indigenous Australians were not counted in the census at the time and there was very little known about the health of the populations.

In 1964, a limited cleanup of the Maralinga site, named ‘Operation Hercules’, took place. 

A year after a 1966 survey into the level of contamination at the site, a second clean-up titled ‘Operation Brumby’ filled 21 pits with contaminated equipment and covered them with 650 tonnes of concrete.

Tynan said it was later found the survey data was drastically wrong, and the contamination was 10 times worse than thought.

It wasn’t until decades later, with the help whistleblowers and scientists, that the government began to realise the true, horrifying extent of the damage done to the land at Maralinga.

Under an agreement between the governments of the United Kingdom and Australia in 1995, another clean-up took place. And while this was more thorough than the previous, it still came with issues.

Whistleblower Alan Parkinson, who wrote the 2007 book Maralinga: Australia’s Nuclear Waste Cover-up, exposed the unsatisfactory methods.

The plan had been to treat several thousand tonnes of debris contaminated with plutonium by a process called situ vitrification. Against the advice of Parkinson, the government extended the contract of the project manager, even though that company had no knowledge of the complex process of vitrification.

Parkinson was let go from the project.

The government and the project manager then embarked on a hybrid scheme in which some pits would be exhumed and others treated by vitrification. After successfully treating 12 pits, the 13th exploded and severely damaged the equipment. The government then cancelled the vitrification and simply exhumed the remaining pits, placed the debris in a shallow pit and covered it with clean soil.

Parkinson told The Quicky another, complete clean-up of Maralinga could take place, but it was unlikely because of the cost and the courage it would take to admit the previous attempts were insufficient.

Around the same time as the 90s clean up was the Australian government push for a nuclear waste dump to be located nearby. 

Fearing even further poisoning of their country, First Nations woman Eileen Wani Wingfield co-founded the Coober Pedy Women’s Council to campaign against the proposal.

The plan was eventually abandoned, but has popped up again in many forms over the decades. Currently, the Coalition is amending a bill that could see a site set up near Kimba.

Glen Wingfield, Eileen’s son, has spent his life working and learning from his parents’ tireless campaign for protection of their country.

The theme of NAIDOC Week 2021 is Heal Country! but as Wingfield told The Quicky, much of the Aṉangu lands in and around Maralinga are beyond healing.

“A lot of the Aboriginal communities that live in and around that area, they just will not and do not go back near that country. I think that’s a word, healing, that we can’t use in the same sentence with that area.”

Tynan agreed, saying there are parts of the area that will be uninhabitable for a quarter of a million years.

“There are parts of the site that you can’t go to, that are still very dangerous,” she said.

“The real problem at Maralinga was the plutonium which was detonated in a series of trials… The particular type of plutonium they used, plutonium 239, has a half-life of 21,400 years which takes hundreds of thousands of years for that radioactivity to diminish.”

Wingfield said the broken connection between these people and their lands is “just downright disgraceful and horrible”.

“No amount of conversation will ever cover what’s been done for people in and around. The lasting effects of health issues on people have been passed through people who were there to generational abnormalities… I think when you talk compensation and stuff, I don’t think we’ll ever get close.”

July 5, 2021 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, environment, health, history, personal stories, reference, secrets and lies, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Bob Hawke – his allegiance to USA was geater than to the union movement

Secret embassy cables cast the Bob Hawke legend in a different light, Guardian,Jeff Sparrow 4 July 21,
Papers show Hawke as a unionist said one thing to his members, and something quite different to his US embassy friends….

The documents uncovered by Coventry date from 1973 to 1979, a period of bitter industrial and political conflict during which Hawke, as leading trade unionist, often featured in the press as a stalwart militant……..

In public, he backed an “independent non-aligned Australia” (a popular stance in the aftermath of the Vietnam war); in private, he told US officials he wanted the Anzus co-defence pact extended beyond a “purely military alliance”.

Coventry says the Americans valued their relationship with Hawke because he “helped protect [US] defence installations, provided information about union disputes and warned officials that installations could be targeted”…….

In 1973, the American Labour Attaché (a figure quite probably connected to the CIA) contacted Hawke about a potential union dispute at the joint American-Australian facility at North West Cape. The cables record that Hawke “volunteered to intervene informally”, saying he felt “concern and surprise at the militancy” of the workers.

The Americans particularly appreciated Hawke’s willingness to deradicalise the labour movement. As Coventry puts it: “Hawke proved useful in pre-empting and pacifying union disputes.”…………

 the context in which it has emerged makes the material particularly significant. The high court recently upheld the constitutional legitimacy of Australia’s new foreign interference laws.

One challenge came from John Shi Sheng Zhang, a political adviser to NSW Labor MP Shaoquett Moselmane. The second challenge, however, came from a rightwing US group called LibertyWorks, which objected to the new legally requirement to register a conference featuring Tony Abbott and Nigel Farage.

That’s because, on paper at least, the new laws criminalise the kind of meddling in which the Americans have gleefully engaged for decades………

Had today’s foreign interference laws been in place in the 1970s, Hawke’s conduct would certainly have invited legal investigation……. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/jul/03/secret-embassy-cables-cast-the-bob-hawke-legend-in-a-different-light

July 5, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, history, politics international | Leave a comment

Australia’s incompetent leadership – continued subservience to American militarism

Australia is in denial over one-way relationship with U.S. https://independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/australia-is-in-denial-over-one-way-relationship-with-us,15171#.YMBaWGL2H14.twitter By Bruce Haigh | 9 June 2021,  Tensions with China resulting in economic sanctions are the result of Australia’s blind allegiance to the USA that began decades ago, writes Bruce Haigh.

AFTER THE AMERICAN defeat by the Japanese in the Philippines, it needed a base from which to regroup, resupply and take the fight back through the Pacific. Australia was a bread bowl, training camp and aircraft carrier. Its north was intersected with airfields used by American bombers and fighters in attacks against Japanese bases and  shipping on and around Papua New Guinea, the Solomons and other nearby Islands.

Australia was fearful of attack by the Japanese after their rapid advance through south Asia and the Pacific. The Americans arrived as the Japanese were advancing over PNG toward Port Moresby. The Australian Army had been conducting a successful fighting retreat in order to shorten their supply line, extend that of the Japanese and organise a major offensive. Douglas MacArthur, the arrogant American general in command, sacked a number of Australian generals and ordered the retreat to stop.

Instead of being angry with MacArthur, the average Australian thought he was a hero. The myth was born that America had saved Australia, whereas America came to Australia purely for self-interest.  Australians were impressed with American largesse and technology. Many bought into the American “dream”. This was the point at which America could do no wrong. The ANZUS Treaty came into being at the time of the Cold War and hostilities in Korea. America was seen by Australians as the protector against Russian and Chinese expansionism.

Australia was also seduced by American consumerism, Hollywood, Nashville and Detroit. A common language facilitated the absorption of American culture. Military, academic and business exchanges grew. However, it was largely a one-way street, although that went mostly unnoticed in Australia given the sycophantic nature of the relationship. Australians were in awe of American power and wealth.

They undertook no foreign policy initiatives without first checking with the Americans. The exception being the recognition of China by the Whitlam Government in 1972, which many junior diplomats welcomed with pride and pleasure.   Australia bought into the American line on the civil war in Viet Nam, much to its subsequent but unacknowledged regret. That did not stop the “provincial” Prime Minister, John Howard, from buying into the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as a favour to the equally limited George Bush.

Australia bought military hardware from the Americans, under pressure, to increase U.S. force structure in the region. We bought the F-111 which took forever to iron out the cracks (pun intended), the single screw FFGs, the next to useless Abrams tanks, the F35 flying lemon and to boost the alliance, Australia has ordered 12 submarines from the French which it does not need.

America has a highly sophisticated spy base, Pine Gap, in the Northern Territory, but from which Australia is excluded from sharing sensitive information. They have access to Tindal Airbase from which B52s, in theory, could bomb submarine pens in Sanya and they have established a military base in Darwin for 10,000 American marines.

None of this offers any advantage for Australia, although the Americans have convinced the conservative governing establishment that it does. They believe that no matter what, Australian interests are best served by remaining in lockstep with American interests. The Australian Government lacks emotional intelligence and courage. They are “provincial” politicians who know and understand very little of the wider world. To illustrate the point, the Government does not believe in climate change, at least insofar as believing in the efficacy of fossil fuels.

As products of the Howard-era Prime Ministers, Tony AbbottMalcolm Turnbull and, most recently, Scott Morrison have all demonstrated blind faith in the American alliance. They have placed a great deal of trust in the word of Americans. Morrison has possibly been the most naive and gullible. He took Trump at his word — a big mistake. Trump fired up Morrison over China and convinced him that not only did the COVID-19 virus originate in Wuhan, but he should unilaterally make a demand that an international investigation take place. Morrison took Australia way out in front with an unsustainable and undiplomatic demand — the U.S. and Trump stood in the background and grinned.

Australia refused to back down and apologise, so China imposed sanctions on a range of Australian imports in order to obtain a change of attitude on the part of Australia. The loss of income has not been felt because of unprecedented levels of borrowing by Australia to meet the economic challenges of COVID-19. And Australia has allowed itself to be lulled into a false sense of security by words of reassurance from U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who guaranteed that America had Australia’s back.

It does not and it never did. America acts purely in self-interest. Australia, because of its long love affair with the U.S. and its inferiority complex, is in denial. Australia seems blind to the fact that the U.S. has stepped in to supply China with many of the goods denied through trade sanctions.

China does not seem to understand the extent of the incompetence and naivety of the Australian leadership. Thinking people and intellectuals in Australia are appalled at Morrison and his Government. However, tough Chinese sanctions and harsh words have only given Morrison the domestic ammunition he needs to bolster his claims that China is aggressively expansionist and seeks to dominate the region. Bruce Haigh is a political commentator and retired diplomat.

June 10, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, history, politics international | Leave a comment

Australia’s part in continuing nuclear havoc in Pacific islands – legacy of atomic bomb tests

75 years after nuclear testing in the Pacific began, the fallout continues to wreak havoc    https://theconversation.com/75-years-after-nuclear-testing-in-the-pacific-began-the-fallout-continues-to-wreak-havoc-158208?fbclid=IwAR3q9QJvy507ds2kD0ibOvkD6ZzxFqgGjfHsGrwqJUVMNpujOu8sAeLVPtY
April 6, 2021 
 Patricia A. O’Brien Patricia A. O’Brien is a Friend of The Conversation.Historian, Visiting Fellow in the School of History, Australian National University and Adjunct Professor in the Asian Studies Program, Georgetown University,    This year marks 75 years since the United States launched its immense atomic testing program in the Pacific. The historical fallout from tests carried out over 12 years in the Marshall Islands, then a UN Trust Territory governed by the US, have framed seven decades of US relations with the Pacific nation.Due to the dramatic effects of climate change, the legacies of this history are shaping the present in myriad ways.

This history has Australian dimensions too, though decades of diplomatic distance between Australia and the Marshall Islands have hidden an entangled atomic past.

In 1946, the Marshall Islands seemed very close for many Australians. They feared the imminent launch of the US’s atomic testing program on Bikini Atoll might split the earth in two, catastrophically change the earth’s climate, or produce earthquakes and deadly tidal waves.

A map accompanying one report noted Sydney was only 3,100 miles from ground zero. Residents as far away as Perth were warned if their houses shook on July 1, “it may be the atom bomb test”.

Australia was “included in the tests” as a site for recording blast effects and monitoring for atom bombs detonated anywhere in the world by hostile nations. This Australian site served to keep enemies in check and achieve one of the Pacific testing program’s objectives: to deter future war. The other justification was the advancement of science.

The earth did not split in two after the initial test (unless you were Marshallese) so they continued; 66 others followed over the next 12 years. But the insidious and multiple harms to people and place, regularly covered up or denied publicly, became increasingly hard to hide.

Radiation poisoning, birth defects, leukaemia, thyroid and other cancers became prevalent in exposed Marshallese, at least four islands were “partially or completely vapourised”, the exposed Marshallese “became subjects of a medical research program” and atomic refugees. (Bikinians were allowed to return to their atoll for a decade before the US government removed them again when it was realised a careless error falsely claimed radiation levels were safe in 1968.)

In late 1947, the US moved its operations to Eniwetok Atoll, a decision, it was argued, to ensure additional safety. Eniwetok was more isolated and winds were less likely to carry radioactive particles to populated areas.

Australian reports noted this site was only 3,200 miles from Sydney. Troubling reports of radioactive clouds as far away as the French Alps and the known shocking health effects appeared.

Dissenting voices were initially muted due to the steep escalation of the Cold War and Soviet atomic weapon tests beginning in 1949.

Opinion in Australia split along political lines. Conservative Cold War warriors, chief among them Robert Menzies who became prime minister again in 1949, kept Australia in lockstep with the US, and downplayed the ill-effects of testing. Left-wing elements in Australia continued to draw attention to the “horrors” it unleashed.

The atomic question came home in 1952, when the first of 12 British atomic tests began on the Montebello Islands, off Western Australia.   Australia’s involvement in atomic testing expanded again in 1954, when it began supplying South Australian-mined uranium to the US and UK’s joint defence purchasing authority, the Combined Development Agency.

Australia’s economic stake in the atomic age from 1954 collided with the galvanisation of global public opinion against US testing in Eniwetok. The massive “Castle Bravo” hydrogen bomb test in March exposed Marshall Islanders and a Japanese fishing crew on The Lucky Dragon to catastrophic radiation levels “equal to that received by Japanese people less than two miles from ground zero” in the 1945 Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic blasts. Graphic details of the fishermen’s suffering and deaths and a Marshallese petition to the United Nations followed.

When a UN resolution to halt US testing was voted on in July, Australia voted for its continuation. But the tide of public opinion was turning against testing. The events of 1954 dispelled the notion atomic waste was safe and could be contained. The problem of radioactive fish travelling into Australian waters highlighted these new dangers, which spurred increasing world wide protests until the US finally ceased testing in the Marshalls in 1958.

In the 1970s, US atomic waste was concentrated under the Runit Island dome, part of Enewetak Atoll (about 3,200 miles from Sydney). Recent alarming descriptions of how precarious and dangerous this structure is due to age, sea water inundation and storm damage exacerbated by climate change were contested in a 2020 Trump-era report.

The Biden administration’s current renegotiation of the Compact of Free Association with the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and its prioritisation of action on climate change, will put Runit Island high on the agenda. There is an opportunity for historical redress for the US that is even more urgent given the upsurge in discrimination against US-based Pacific Islander communities devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some are peoples displaced by the tests.

Australia is also embarking on a new level of engagement with the Marshall Islands: it is due to open its first embassy in the capital Majuro in 2021.It should be remembered this bilateral relationship has an atomic history too. Australia supported the US testing program, assisted with data collection and voted in the UN for its continuation when Marshallese pleaded for it to be stopped. It is also likely Australian-sourced atomic waste lies within Runit Island, cementing Australia in this history.

April 8, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, history, reference, secrets and lies, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Australia dodged a bullet in not getting nuclear power – Ian Lowe.

An obvious conclusion flows from the Fox Report’s 1976 comment about a lack of objectivity. We are not objective observers of the world: we all see reality through the lenses of our values and our experience. We all have a tendency to see what we would like to see…….

The probability that any person will be favourably disposed to the idea of nuclear power can be predicted from their values and from their view of the sort of future they would like to see. Fellows of the Academy of Technology and Engineering tend to favour a high-tech future, while conservationists are much more likely to favour small-­scale local supply systems.

This is a reminder that the future is not somewhere we are going, but something we are creating. From my perspective, nuclear power now looks like an intractable problem we were just lucky to avoid. Most developed nations have nuclear power stations with mountains of accumulated waste, for which there is no effective permanent solution. The urgent task of moving to clean energy supply, mostly from solar and wind, is made more difficult when resources have been sunk into the nuclear power industry. I believe we dodged a bullet.

A long half-­life,  Nuclear energy in Australia,   https://www.griffithreview.com/articles/a-long-half-life/
Griffith Review,by Ian Lowe, March 21, ON MY DESK there sits a well-­thumbed copy of the 1976 Fox Report, the first report of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry. I grew up in New South Wales, where most electricity came from coal-­fired power stations, but miners were often killed or injured and the air pollution from burning coal was obvious. So as a young scientist I was attracted to the idea of replacing our dirty and dangerous coal-­fired electricity with nuclear power.
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That report changed my thinking. And the sight of it is a reminder that while Australia has a very long history of involvement in nuclear issues, it’s one of the few advanced countries that does not have nuclear power stations. It would now be very difficult to make a rational case for taking that step, but a small group of pro-­nuclear enthusiasts continues to urge greater Australian involvement in the so-­called nuclear fuel cycle.
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I want to summarise the history of this enthusiasm and use it to explore the continuing interest in that deeper involvement – because nuclear issues have always been intensely political. In practice, debates about nuclear energy are essentially arguments about what sort of future we want.

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March 4, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, history, reference | Leave a comment