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Thursday, 10 May 1984
Page: 1940

Senator ELSTOB —My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Resources and Energy, refers to the atomic testing at Maralinga. Can the Minister say what the implications would be if the British Government did breach the test treaty in operation at the time of atomic testing? Was an agreement made by the British Government and the then Menzies Government that any Australian personnel affected by the testing would be the responsibility of the Australian Government? Has the Minister considered the possibility of private citizens also claiming compensation from the Federal Government for social negligence?

Senator GRIMES —I believe that part of that question would involve me giving a legal opinion. As I have said before in this place, I am the very last person who would be willing to do so. I will certainly seek to obtain from my colleague , Senator Walsh, the nature of the legal agreement, if one existed, as referred to by Senator Elstob. One of the problems referred to by Senator Walsh in the information he provided to me to answer a question asked earlier today is that we need to find out the facts of exactly what happened at the time. We need to gather all the information available both here and overseas. First, we need to get the data, and, second, the exact details so that we can make a proper judgment of what has happened both as a government and as a parliament. It is my understanding that people have already made common law claims against the Commonwealth Government concerning illnesses that they have suffered for which they seek compensation. Whether the Australian Government or the British Government would be responsible in all those circumstances I am not sure; so the best thing I can do is seek exact details from my colleague for Senator Elstob.