McClelland Royal Commission

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The McClelland Royal Commission or Royal Commission into British nuclear tests in Australia was an inquiry by the Australian government in 1984-1985 to investigate the conduct of the British in its use, with the then Australian government's permission, of Australian territory and soldiers for testing nuclear weapons. It was chaired by Jim McClelland.

The Royal Commission into nuclear tests was told that 30 badly leaking drums of radio-active waste were dumped off the West Australian coast. The Commission was also told that acting Prime Minister Arthur Fadden had sent a message to the British PM asking "What the bloody hell is going on, the cloud is drifting over the mainland?".[1] A CSIRO scientist is making use of the thin blanket of radioactive caesium-137 laid over Australia from atmospheric nuclear tests to measure soil erosion.[2]

The McClelland Royal Commission was told that one hundred Aborigines walked barefoot over nuclear-contaminated ground because boots they had been given didn't fit.[3] The 1953 British nuclear test that allegedly caused 'black mist' phenomenon in South Australia should not have been fired and the fallout was about three times more than forecast, according to a scientist who was involved in the tests.[4][5]

A house built less than 200 metres from an area mined for mineral sands 25 years ago is still contaminated from mineral-sands tailings which are dangerously radioactive.[6] According to a special report on an investigation of residual radio-active contamination, about 100,000 dangerous metal fragments contaminated with Plutonium still litter the Maralinga atomic test range - 25 years after the atomic tests which caused them.[7]

A mechanical engineer has told the McClelland Royal Commission on British nuclear weapons tests in Australia, that geiger counter readings of the fallout levels near Marble Bar were "off-the-scale".[8][9]

The report's approach and conclusions apparently differed from the British Government's official history, based on official British records, by Lorna Arnold.[10] This report emphasised the partnership between the two nations, and noted that the approach taken towards safety was to international standards of the time and had contrasted with the historic disregard of Australian authorities toward the welfare of Indigenous people. Some observers have noted that both reports were framed in the politics of the time: Britain wished to minimise its responsibility, while the Australian government of Bob Hawke wished to implicate their political opponents alongside the British, and have suggested that the timeline of the enquiry was chosen so as not to implicate earlier Labor governments.[11]

Reference in Film[edit]

The Royal Commission formed part of the plot of the film Ground Zero (1987), starring Colin Friels and Jack Thompson.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Age, The West Australian 5/1/85 The Sunday Times 6/1/85
  2. ^ The West Australian, The Age 7 January 1985
  3. ^ Daily News 5/2/85, The West Australian, The Age 6/2/85
  4. ^ The Age, 13/2/1985
  5. ^ The West Australian, 13/2/1985
  6. ^ The West Australian, 8/4/1985
  7. ^ The West Australian, 26/4/1985
  8. ^ The West Australian, 6/8/1985
  9. ^ The Age, 6/8/1985
  10. ^ Arnold, Lorna (1987). A Very Special Relationship: British Atomic Weapons Trials in Australia. London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office. ISBN 0-11-772412-2.
  11. ^ Michel, Dieter. "Villains, Victims and Heroes: Contested Memory and the British Nuclear Tests in Australia". API Network.