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Attorney seeks urgent action on legal issues for relatives of Tsunami victims. \n



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ATTORNEY-GENERAL THE HON PHILIP RUDDOCK MP

NEWS RELEASE

Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600  Telephone (02) 6277 7300  Fax (02) 6273 4102 www.law.gov.au/ag

18 January 2005 008/2005

ATTORNEY SEEKS URGENT ACTION ON LEGAL ISSUES FOR RELATIVES OF TSUNAMI VICTIMS

Attorney-General Philip Ruddock will act immediately to investigate the scope for the Government to allow families to settle more quickly the legal affairs of Australians killed in the tsunami disaster in Asia.

Mr Ruddock will write to his State and Territory counterparts flagging the possible need for legislative amendments in each of the jurisdictions to ensure a nationally consistent approach.

The issues surrounding the presumption of death in the event of the tsunami were referred by the Attorney-General to an Emergency Taskforce meeting in Canberra today. The Taskforce agreed it was a matter requiring priority attention.

Mr Ruddock has already asked his Department to ensure the issue is listed on the agenda for discussion at the next meeting of Commonwealth and State Attorneys-General in March.

“I understand the anxiety this issue is causing the families of those Australians still missing,” Mr Ruddock said.

“The legal issues surrounding the death of a relative are essentially a State and Territory responsibility. However, the Taskforce today has agreed we should actively look at the scope for the Australian Government to assist families of missing relatives to deal with these issues.

“The Australian Government is doing all it can to fast-track the victim identification process, but in some cases this may take considerable time because of the very detailed and complex forensic work which must be observed in accordance with international protocols.

“I am very mindful of the responsibilities of Coroners and they will also need to be consulted,” he said.

Media Contact: Charlie McKillop 0419 278 715