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Tuesday, 15 June 2010
Page: 3232

Senator LUDWIG (Special Minister of State and Cabinet Secretary) (3:02 PM) —I wish to table and incorporate a further response to a question from Senator Ludlam re the Veterans of British nuclear test (BNT) to Senator Faulkner.

Leave granted.

The answer read as follows—


The Budget measure provides access to the compensation provisions of the Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986 (VEA) for ex-defence force participants of the British Nuclear Tests (BNT) in the 1950s and 1960s. This was the action sought by relevant veterans groups and recommended by the Clarke Review of Veterans’ Entitlements. This means access to disability pensions, war widow/ers pensions for their widow/ers and associated health care where they meet the requirements of the VEA. There is no automatic access to the Gold Card for BNT participants. However, if they become eligible for a disability pension of a rate equal to or greater than 100% of the General Rate they will receive a Gold Card. Widow/ers of BNT participants who become eligible for a war widow/er’s pension will receive a Gold Card.

The ex-defence force and former Commonwealth government employees who participated in the nuclear tests have always had access to the compensation provisions of the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 (SRCA) and its predecessor legislation. The Government has accepted the Clarke Report recommendation to provide access to the VEA compensation for ex-defence force BNT participants under the more generous “reasonable hypothesis” standard of proof. The VEA does not have provisions for lump-sum payments.

The Australian Government is not a party to current private legal proceedings in the United Kingdom on BNT compensation.

A Cancer Incidence and Mortality Study and a Dosimetry Study were released in 2006. The studies found no association between radiation exposure and the increased rates of cancer for this group. Given this finding and other international research, the expert advice available to the Government is that there is no linkage between any radiation exposure associated with BNT participants and health problems suffered by their children or grandchildren.

Five indigenous participants were paid a total of $0.2m in compensation in 1989 under an administrative scheme providing compensation based on the provisions of the Safety Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 (SRCA). This SRCA-like administered scheme remains open to civilians, including indigenous people and pastoralists, and claims are handled by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations. A total of $238,000 has been paid to six claimants under the SRCA-like scheme.

In 1991, the Australian Government settled a further 18 claims for trespass and injury of indigenous persons living in northern South Australia (SA) at the time of the nuclear tests conducted at Maralinga and Emu Field, SA. These claims were settled in full. The total amount of these claims was $618,000. The claimants were identified during the Royal Commission into British Nuclear Tests in Australia (1984-1985) by a team of lawyers, scientists and historians advising indigenous groups during the Royal Commission.