Tribute for former Timboon man credited with saving the world from nuclear holocaust

FORMER Timboon man Des Ball, who is credited with helping save the world from nuclear annihilation, has died.

Professor Ball attended Timboon High School in the late 1950s and early ’60s while his father was station master at the Timboon railway station and later when his parents ran a shoe store in the town. 

He went on to become a leading expert on Australian security and published more than 50 works in his long academic career.

Professor Ball progressed from a prize-winning economics student who was arrested for climbing a statue of King George V during an anti-Vietnam War rally, to blowing the lid on the secret military facility at Pine Gap during a Senate hearing on treaties in 1999. 

Despite his outspoken criticism of US government policy, he was personally invited by President Jimmy Carter to critique the USA’s nuclear defence plans during the Cold War — his analysis persuading the US that its plan to destroy selected Soviet targets would not work.

Professor Ball was based at Canberra’s Australian National University for many years and was awarded the university’s highest honour – the Peter Baume Award – in 2012 to recognise a career of global significance and an association with ANU that lasted almost five decades. 

With trademark understatement, he said he supposed he had been in the running after “a pretty prolific career”, but felt honoured to win.

During his career, Professor Ball has worked on Australia’s signal intelligence, exposed the nation’s secret history of cracking diplomatic cables and examined firsthand south-east Asia’s “shadow wars”. 

Later in his career, Professor Ball focused on security issues in south-east Asia, particularly the Thai/Burma border. 

Professor Ball was diagnosed with terminal cancer but continued working until his death.

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