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The Campaign Against Nuclear Energy (CANE) was established in Perthmarker, Western Australiamarker on February 14, 1976 by Friends of the Earth (FOE) this included:Peter Brotherton, FOE coordinator WA and John Carlin, Mike Thomas and Barrie Machin after a meeting at University of WA. CANE was a non-profit grass roots organisation whose aim was to stop the establishment of a nuclear power plant in Western Australiamarker (WA) and to halt Uranium Mining and it operated out of the Environment Centre in Wellington Street, Perth. The Whitlam Federal government, in 1974 had dedicated about AUD 7,000 per State, to set up Regional Environment Centres. Perth’s Environment Centre housed other groups including including the Australian Conservation Foundation, the Conservation Council of WA, Friends of the Earth, and the Campaign to Save Native Forests.

Aims of the organisation

CANE's statement of objectives said it was:

It opposed the development of Nuclear Power Stations.

It supported the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT or NNPT) and opposed the proliferation and acquisition of Weapons of Mass destruction and linked WMD with nuclear power stations.It opposed foreign policies based on nuclear deterrence. It supported attempts to establish regional nuclear free zones.It was opposed to the use of Australian ports by nuclear powered or nuclear armed vessels.

CANE was opposed to the mining and export of Australian uranium for other than biomedical purposes.

It asked for the cessation of all uranium mining and development operations.

It urged the adoption of long range alternative energy policies designed to meet the legitimate needs of future generations.It emphasised that it was coalition of groups and individuals working for the ideal of a more ethical and equitable energy future.

Campaign activities

1976 was CANE's initial year of protest. There were demonstrations at Perth Airport, and Rockingham, against US nuclear armed carriers headed by Barrie Machin:, a lecturer at the University of Western Australia (UWA). CANE, under Barrie Machin's leadership, was very active in its criticism of the Fox Report 1977. It was also the first anti-nuclear organisation to draw attention to Aboriginal Land Rights and Uranium mining. Gloria Brennan, who was the first Aboriginal student at the Department of Social Anthropology at UWA ,was invited to join CANE and lobby and inform Aboriginal communities in WA. She did this very successfully. Gloria later died of cancer, probably brought about from the fall-out from the Maralingamarker tests.

CANE decided to hold major demonstrations in 1977. It set no goals about numbers since this obviously could not be predicted. Newspapers varied in their estimates of the crowds. At the first rally in April, supporters marched from the Esplanade to Parliament House and the attendance was estimated at 600. At the second rally, on Hiroshima Day, attracted 3000 people and in November 10,000 people marched, larger than the anti-Vietnam rallies in Perth a few years earlier.

Barrie Machin, as coordinator, first drew attention to the dangers of Nuclear Power stations as target for terrorists, and the dangers of a link with the foreign policies of the US in a pamphlet titled: Accomplices to Armageddon. In 1977 Barrie Machin represented CANE on the WA steering committee for the Australian Democrats, which was stimulated by Don Chipp largely in response to the issue of Uranium mining. Also on the committee was Jack Evans who later became a Senator for the Democrats.

I have been grossly disappointed with the attitude of the government on uranium mining.
The last straw on this issue was the action of the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr.Anthony) in launching a pro-uranium book simultaneously with a statement by the Ambassador of Japan advocating the mining of Australian uranium.
The breach of our promise to continue the Australian Assistance Plan; wage indexation; the value of the currency; the Social Welfare Commission; increased research on solar energy are matters which have disturbed me greatly.

In 1978 with considerable help from Gloria Brennan Barrie Machin and other CANE members successfully lobbied the Labour Party's National conference.Their success was helped when Bob Hawke's son was manhandled by the police in Melbourne protesting against yellowcake. This was reported in all National newspapers at the time. See also Brian MartinDisruption vs organisation Published in Social Alternatives, Vol. 2, No. 4, June 1982, pp. 42-43

The Premier Sir Charles Court proposed on 15 June 1979 that Breton Bay, 90 km north of Perth, and Wilbinga, 70 km north of Perth as possible sites for a nuclear power station. On 4 July 1979 a Public Meeting was conducted jointly by CANE and FOE at the Perth Town Hall in response to the announcement. Three speakers (Peter Brotherton of FOE; Peter G. Cook of CANE and Peter F. Cook of the WA Trade and Labour Council) addressed the audience.

The Government responded by attacking CANE. The West Australian newspaper on 25 August 1979 reported: "The Premier, Sir Charles Court, last night warned of a subtle new propaganda offensive against democracy. He said that the susceptibility of democratic governments to electoral pressure was being exploited as never before… Locally, mysteriously financed pressure groups were trying to force governments into irrational decisions through high powered arousal of emotions based on false evidence. Sir Charles said: “When you consider that governments make thousands of decisions a year on the basis of close-contact experience of what they are doing backed by outside top-level advice on critical matters, it is clearly against the public interest to exchange this process for one of street-march campaigns and loaded opinion polls.”

Senator Ruth Coleman (Australian Labor Party) established another anti-nuclear group Women Against Uranium Mining and started collecting anti-nuclear information about nuclear accidents from every media source. She then presented this list of accidents for public distribution, with the relevant sources, so that West Australians could see the whole story of nuclear safety.

‘Desperate Measures’ was a group of street theatre activist actors based in Fremantlemarker who wrote their own material. They provided social comment at numerous anti-nuclear events that brought home the messages better than a speech. They presented a show for the finale of CANE's Wilbinga bike ride again the proposed nuclear power station and it including burying a papier mache nuclear reactor on the site.

Fundraising events included the CANE 'Concert-in-the-Sun' on 19 December 1981. The Concert was organised by Peter Kaldor and featured local rock acts Dave Warner, Matt Taylor-Phil Manning Band, the Essentials and the Eurogliders. The audience of around 3,500 people raised $8,000, enough to fund a substantial number of CANE activities throughout the following year.

CANE was a member of the Coalition for a Nuclear Free Australia, (CNFA)- a coalition from across Australia of 79 organisations, unions, anti-nuclear groups, environment centres and Friends of the Earth.


CANE was set up under the aegis of FOE after a meeting at University of Western Australia in late 1975.John Carlin, Barrie Machin, Michael Thomas and Peter Brotherton were present. Ken Strahan was an important part of the group and member of FOE. Barrie Machin was the first enrolled member of CANE and still has the founding membership card. Mike Thomas was the first Chairman. R. M. Hart's signature is on this card as a witness. Barrie Machin was Chairman of the movement from 1977-1978. This can be verified by checking the West Australian Newspapers for the period. There are many letters to the editor from the Chairman. Other Perth media archives, like the ABC, Channel Seven and Nine and Radio Stations carry records of interviews and appearances. Important eyewitnesses of the early days of CANE would include Bill Hare, Andrew Masterson, the novelist and John Hallam (who joined CANE from the Australia Party, John is still very active on nuclear issues with FOE , Kim Doohan, Peter Garrett, Professor Ian Clark , Robyn Juniper, ex-Minister of Aboriginal Affairs- Judyth Watson, Kingley Palmer ex-head of Institute of Aboriginal Studies in Canberra. Under Dr. Machin's guidance the first Hiroshima Day was held this coincided with his Hiroshima Exhibition at the University of WA.Bill Hare, who later became active in ACF and Greenpeace, was also part of the team headed by Barrie Machin. John Hallam was also a key member in this period, Andrew Masterson was a very valuable and young contributor. Peter Brotherton of FOE played a key role in all activities and advice. Barrie Machin and Kim Doohan with one other person broadcast Alternative News on FM 6NR for six months at Western Australian Instutute of Technology now Curtin University.It is unfortunate that some of these facts of history have been ignored in a recent account of CANE called 'Stepping Out' the authors of which have admitted they did not check the archives and based their book on limited interviewing, which excluded many key personnel, activists and witnesses. They argue that theirs is a postmodernist interpretation. They did not interview Barrie Machin, who was relegated to the status of a volunteer, nor does it seem to be the case that they interviewed other key founders and later chairperson-Peter Kaldor. Paul Keating was at the Labour Party conference and could have been interviewed as well. Many of the facts of CANE in this book and in the previous Wikipedia content for CANE were unverifiable.There are now some verifiable sources in this entry.Later CANE Chairpersons included Zoe Sofoulis and Peter Kaldor followed by Annabelle Newbury, David Worth and Louise Duxbury. An early but minor member at the time included Jo Vallentine who was later elected to parliament in 1984 as a Nuclear Disarmament Party candidate.

End of campaigning

The West Australian reported on 7 April 1983 that the new Australian Labor Party State Government abandoned plans for a nuclear power station. The Cabinet decided to stop all State Energy Commission inquires that could lead to a nuclear power station. The Premier, Mr Brian Burke, said that the Cabinet had reaffirmed that in no circumstances would a nuclear power station be built in WA.

After this announcement, many of the CANE activists joined People for Nuclear Disarmament (WA) to campaign against the efforts of the USAmarker and USSRmarker to place short range nuclear missiles into Europe, and CANE ceased to exist in the late 1980s.

See also


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