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Thursday, 14 September 2006
Page: 11

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Mr BILLSON (Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence) (9:38 AM) — I» «move» :

That this bill «be» «now» «read» «a» «second» «time .

I am pleased to present legislation to give effect to a federal government initiative that will provide non-liability cancer treatment for Australians who participated in the British nuclear testing program in Australia from 1952 to 1963.

The Australian Participants in British Nuclear Tests (Treatment) Bill 2006 will implement an undertaking given by the government in 2003 when it announced its response to the review of veterans’ entitlements. The undertaking was to respond positively to the health needs of the participants, at the conclusion of the mortality and cancer incidence study of the group.

The study found that the rate of some cancers among the test participants was higher than in the general Australian population, even though a link with exposure to radiation was not found.

While no link to exposure to radiation was found, the government is of the view that support is appropriate for a group that has a clearly defined healthcare need, hence the healthcare package being offered under this legislation.

The bill will provide participants with non-liability treatment for all malignant cancers regardless of causation, as well as access to ongoing cancer testing.

Persons who may be eligible under the bill include those who were Australian Defence Force personnel, Australian Public Service employees and third-party civilian contractors.

This initiative is expected to benefit up to 5,500 Australian participants in the nuclear weapons tests.

The healthcare initiatives will be funded and delivered through the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. Persons eligible under the bill will have access to extensive healthcare services including GP services, hospital care and pharmaceutical benefits.

The commencement date for eligibility for treatment will be three months prior to the date of lodgement of the claim or 19 June 2006, the date of the government’s decision, whichever is the later.

Participants will also have continued access to existing statutory workers compensation schemes such as the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988, and the administrative scheme administered by the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations.

Early passage of the bill will mean that eligible persons can begin to benefit in a timely manner.

This initiative demonstrates this government’s commitment to the Australian military and civilian personnel who participated in the British nuclear tests and will assist in addressing their health needs. I commend the bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr Griffin) adjourned.