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Monday, 12 September 2011
Page: 5784


Senator XENOPHON (South Australia) (20:21): What an extraordinary response from the government. These veterans are not eligible for a gold card because their service does not qualify as warlike; it was not in a hostile environment. The fact is that they were subject to radiation from nuclear weapons. They were subject without a duty of care being given by the Australian government at the time. They were subject to levels of radiation that have led to many of them developing cancers and dying, levels of radiation that have left many of them with very serious health problems and levels of radiation that have left their children and grandchildren with genetic abnormalities, with deformities, with serious health problems. So to make some artificial distinction that these individuals were not subject to warlike service does not make sense to me. If being subject radiation, to fallout from a nuclear bomb going off, is not warlike in the hazards it exposes our veterans to then what else would be? It just seems extraordinary that this is an exemption. I would urge the backbenchers of the coalition and the government to raise this issue in their party rooms to ensure that this matter is dealt with in a way that gives justice to these veterans.

I acknowledge the long-term advocacy of the Australian Greens, Senator Wright's contribution to this debate and Senator Ludlam's long-time advocacy of this along with Senator Bob Brown. But it seems to me that the issue here is that the government is making excuses as to why it cannot act, and Senator Wright quite rightly expressed surprise at a figure of $100 million. As that is the figure that was given by the minister's office, can the government provide a breakdown of that $100 million? On that calculation, if there are 2,000 individuals who are still alive from the British nuclear tests and all of them put in a claim for medical expenses—I am sure Senator Feeney will correct me if my arithmetic is wrong—you are looking at a figure in the region of $50,000 each. Is that right, Senator Feeney? I am not sure. Tell me. Your arithmetic is probably better than mine.