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Thursday, 27 November 1986
Page: 2859


Senator GARETH EVANS (Minister for Resources and Energy)(12.24) —Rather than responding orally it might shorten proceedings and be more appropriate if I incorporated the three pages of questions and answers in Hansard so that they are on the record.

Leave granted.

The document read as follows-

ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS RAISED BY SENATOR KILGARIFF FROM ESTIMATES COMMITTEE E HEARINGS

The Senator asked 12 questions against the preface ``In relation to the $500 million proposed to be paid to the Aboriginal communities around the Maralinga area''

The amount in question was $500,000 not $500 million and is to be paid by way of relocation compensation to be provided to communities with a traditional interest in land within the former Maralinga prohibited area.

1. What amount or amounts, if any, have yet been paid, and to whom?

Nil.

2. For what purposes have the individual payments been made?

No payments have yet been made. In response to Recommendation 7 of the Royal Commission the amount is provided for the provision of roads, a permanent water supply and basic communications among other facilities. The details of the programs are being worked out with the Maralinga Peoples.

3. Have any of the payments been made in respect of specific and identifiable damages sustained by the recipients as a result of the tests, and if so what are the details?

The amount of $500,000 was not provided in respect of specific and identifiable damages-injuries-arising as a result of the tests. The Government in response to Recommendation 1 of the Royal Commission has extended the benefits of the Compensation (Commonwealth Government Employees) Act 1971 to include Aborigines and other civilians such as graziers who may have been exposed to the Black Mist.

4. What process is being used to determine to whom payments are to be made?

The extension of the compensation benefits will be managed under administrative arrangements. The Commissioner for Employees Compensation will address claims made by Aboriginal people claiming to have been injured by the tests.

5. Are further payments anticipated, and if so what would be the estimated total value of compensation payments?

No claims for compensation for injury have yet been made and it is therefore impracticable to estimate the extent of such payments which may be made in the future.

6. Regarding future payments, what will they be paid to compensate for?

Future payments to Aboriginal peoples for relocation compensation will be considered by Government in the light of budgetary considerations.

7, 8, 9. Are these payments quite separate and unconnected with any further payments which the Federal Government might deem to be necessary as a result of the findings of the Technical Assessment Group, or will they be deducted from any such compensation which might be deemed appropriate?

Will the Federal Government be reviewing the entitlement of the communities involved to compensation, in the light of the analysis of the Maralinga area, once it is completed by the Technical Assessment Group.

Why was it decided to pay the compensation, prior to the completion of the TAG's review of the impact of the tests, particularly in view of the paucity of scientific evidence relating to the effects of the tests on the inhabitants of the area.

The Technical Assessment Group is to identify options for the clean-up of the test sites. This issue is being treated separately from the issues of relocation compensation and compensation for injury.

10, 11 Are there any claims from Aboriginal people presently before the Government for compensation in relation to the Maralinga tests. If so, who are the claimants, and in respect of what damage are they claiming?

No. One Aborigine, however, lodged a writ for damages for injury as a result of the tests in the South Australian Supreme Court in 1983.

12. What is the procedure proposed for dealing with these claims (have they been lodged through formal legal proceedings or some other mechanism)?

As indicated above claims should be lodged with the Commissioner for Employees Compensation.