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Monday, 12 September 2011
Page: 5672

Senator FEENEY (VictoriaParliamentary Secretary for Defence) (11:56): I am happy to pursue that approach and set out the reasons that the government is opposed to the amendment. If that is the will of the chamber, I am happy to proceed on that basis. On that basis I seek leave to make a short statement.

Leave granted.

Senator FEENEY: I thank the Senate. In setting out the reasons for the government's opposition to Senator Xenophon's proposed amendment, first let me point out that in the 2010-11 budget the government provided a $24 million com­pensation package to British nuclear test participants under the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986. This package ensured that Australian Defence Force participants were provided appropriate compensation and health coverage for any condition related to their service in the testing program. British nuclear test participants are also eligible to receive non-liability health care for all cancers. British nuclear test participants are able to access a gold card. It is provided where the veteran is at or above 100 per cent of the general rate of disability pension.

The gold card is only automatically granted to veterans with qualifying service, and that of course means warlike service, and over the age of 70 in recognition of the hazards of being in war and incurring danger from hostile forces of the enemy. The automatic granting of a gold card to the group proposed by Senator Xenophon would thus place British nuclear test participants in a more beneficial position than other veterans. Any automatic extension of the gold card to this group would result in significant additional costs that have not been considered by the government. That is the basis upon which the amendment is opposed and that is the basis upon which the government makes the contention that it has ensured that British nuclear test participants receive adequate and proper compensation and assistance.