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Tuesday, 24 June 2003
Page: 17374


Ms HALL (9:00 PM) —On 29 May last year I brought to the parliament's attention the sad story of Mr Albert Martin, a constituent who was stationed at Maralinga at the time of the atomic testing by the UK government in the 1950s and 1960s. He worked in the RAAF transport division as a mechanical transport driver, driving jeeps, trucks, cranes and all forms of earthmoving transport—without airconditioning. He was at Maralinga at the time of Vixen B tests in 1957. Unfortunately, Mr Martin—along with most of the men that he worked with at Maralinga at that time—has developed acute myeloid leukaemia. A person who worked alongside him at the time has died subsequently.

Mr Martin has been undergoing quite a battle to obtain compensation. He has been informed by the Military Compensation and Rehabilitation Service that they cannot find the records of his service. They have acknowledged that he was at Maralinga at the time of the testing and that he served there between 9 January 1963 and 20 May 1963, but the records have disappeared. The sad part of it is that according to the department he is not entitled to compensation because they cannot find these records, even though they can establish that he was there at that time.

I have made a number of representations on behalf of Mr Martin. It is very important for the House to understand that he is a man who does not enjoy good health: he is constantly having treatment for his illness, making him feel quite weak, and all the pressures that surround him cause him great stress and do not help. I have been in touch with the Department of Veterans' Affairs on many occasions and, unfortunately, as I have already said, they are refusing to look at any form of compensation for him. I have tried all along to do things in a manner that would create the least conflict, I have written to the current Minister for Veterans' Affairs and I also wrote to the previous Minister for Veterans' Affairs, but I have not been able to help Mr Martin because both ministers have walked away from him and his predicament.

He has now been forced to take the matter to the legal system. He has a solicitor who is very happy to represent him and who is looking at the issues of exposure to the atomic bomb during this time and the failure to provide adequately for Mr Martin's safety and wellbeing by equipping him with the knowledge he needed about adequate protection and what he was actually exposed to. His solicitor has been going through the various processes to bring the case to court, but it has not yet reached that stage. Mr Martin has been denied legal aid.

The Department of Veterans' Affairs recently sent him to be examined by a leading cancer expert, Professor Martin Tattersail. As Mr Martin was leaving, the professor shook him by the hand, looked him in the eye and said, `Don't worry, Mr Martin, you will be receiving some compensation.' The sad part about it is that the Department of Veterans' Affairs is now refusing to provide that information or to use that doctor in Mr Martin's case. This is medical information that supports Mr Martin and the government is going to cover it up. I call on the Minister for Veterans' Affairs to ensure that her department uses the medical information that Professor Tattersail has and to ensure that Mr Martin receives justice.