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Tuesday, 23 October 1984
Page: 2204

Senator SCOTT —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Resources and Energy. The Minister may be aware that the Australian Nuclear Veterans Association has been granted legal aid by the Government to assist in legal costs for the Association's appearance before the Royal Commission into British Nuclear Tests in Australia, currently being conducted. Additional special applications have been made to the Government by the association for further urgent funds. An earlier application in July for $20,000 was refused, but subsequently, I am advised, Senator Walsh verbally agreed to provide the extra funds. As the hearings are currently in progress, and the money is urgently needed by the association, most of the members of which are pensioners, some in poor health, can the Minister undertake to pursue the matter urgently so that the association knows what funds it has available to appear at these hearings?

Senator GRIMES —The Government has had requests for funds from four nuclear veterans organisations, including the Australian Nuclear Veterans Association in Queensland, South Australia and New South Wales. The Government has already decided on the provision of legal aid to these organisations. It was necessary to decide the legal aid issue and the scope of the funding under these arrangements before considering requests for further assistance to the organisations themselves.

It has also been necessary to consider similar requests for assistance on behalf of Aboriginal groups. The matter is made yet more difficult because of the fractured organisations representing nuclear veterans. This raises the issue of whether the Government should responsibly fund four separate organisations.

The Government anticipates finalising its decision on this matter and on the funding of the Aboriginal groups for research shortly. I hope that when Senator Walsh returns next week he will be in a position to announce the final decisions in this area; but, as I said, it is not an easy problem to solve with the number of organisations which are claiming to be represented and which are asking for assistance in the preparation of their cases.