Horror and betrayal: true story of atom bombs in Australia
OF ALL the crimes against Australians outlined in investigative journalist Frank Walker's exposé Maralinga, the first is the most horrific.
"Bring me the bones of Australian babies, the more the better."
This was the directive given by British nuclear scientists, making all Australians their lab rats in a cruel 21-year test of the long-term effects of multiple nuclear explosions on an unsuspecting people.
A staggering 22,000 corpses of children and young people were pilfered for bones and tested for Strontium 90 (one of the poisons that entered Australia's water and food supplies because of British nuclear tests in our country).
Families were not told, autopsy workers were bribed, results were not revealed - and all with the meek acquiescence of our government.
But the list of crimes and cover-ups goes on:
- Australian airmen ordered to fly repeatedly through the mushroom clouds of atomic bombs - with no protection.
- Australian soldiers ordered to march into ground zero minutes after explosions, even roll in radioactive dust - with no protection.
- Australian officers placed in shelters as close as 1600m from a nuclear explosion. (The goal was to show that soldiers in a nuclear war could be near a blast and still be fit for battle.)
- Clouds of radioactive material drifting across the continent to drop radioactive rain on Queensland farms, country towns and Brisbane.
- Aborigines having their traditional lands stolen from them and poisoned, and being left in the test region to be killed by the fallout.
Senior military brass said before the first tests that any claims for compensation would be long delayed and hard to pin on the bombs.
They were right.
Walker tells of many servicemen who died young of cancer, others whose children died and were deformed. Yet the UK and Australian governments have fought tooth and nail for decades against paying compensation, claiming repeatedly - against all evidence - that no one was exposed to dangerous radiation.
The principal villain revealed in the Hawke government's 1984 royal commission into the British tests was nuclear scientist Ernest Titterton, the Englishman cynically chosen to represent Australia's interests.
Walker says there was sufficient evidence to charge Titterton with criminal negligence. It never happened.
But Walker points the finger higher for the greatest blame - the "fawning and obsequious anglophile" Prime Minister Robert Menzies, who allowed the British to do whatever they liked.
This book will make you angry. And the details of the botched clean-up will make you nervous about the Abbott government's plans to follow Bob Hawke's mad plan to make Australia the world's dumping ground for nuclear waste that would be deadly for 250,000 years.
The author speaks
"The real tragedy of the legacy of Maralinga and Emu Field and Monte Bello is that it's passed down through the generations," he said. The genetic deformities can be passed down through the (veterans') children and grandchildren and great grandchildren. And still nothing is done."
Walker is adamant that this is not the end of the story, with the Federal Government still planning to make central Australia the world's dump for nuclear waste.
"The truth is it's *not* a geologically stable area," he said. "They have earthquakes in central Australia far more than the rest of Australia. It's on a (tectonic) plate that is shifting.
"If there's a massive vault to take the world's nuclear waste, all you need is an earthquake and this thing could crack wide open.
"This stuff is dangerous for a quarter of a million years. We didn't even have civilisation a quarter of a million years ago."
Maralinga: The chilling exposé of our secret nuclear shame and betrayal of our troops and country
Frank Walker, Hachette Australia