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Monday, 12 September 2011
Page: 5783

Senator FEENEY (VictoriaParliamentary Secretary for Defence) (20:19): As Senator Xenophon has noted, we did debate this matter a little earlier, but I will repeat some of the points that I made at around 12 noon. Firstly, the government rejects the notion that we have been blind to the sufferings of the people concerned.

Senator Xenophon: I never said that. Don't misquote me. I didn't say 'blind'.

Senator FEENEY: You certainly used some strong language there.

Senator Xenophon: Indifferent, perhaps.

Senator FEENEY: Okay. At the risk of using more courteous language than you used, I will proceed. I note that the government, in the 2010-11 budget, provided a $24 million package of compensation 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. BNT participants are also eligible to receive non-liability health care for all cancers. BNT 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 automatic grant of a Gold Card is only provided to veterans with qualifying service—that is, warlike service—over the age of 70, in recognition of the hazards of being in war and incurring danger from the hostile forces of the enemy. The automatic grant of the Gold Card to BNT participants would place them in a more beneficial position than other veterans. For that and other reasons, the government opposes the amendment.