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Friday, 5 May 1989
Page: 1922


Senator BUTTON —On 3 May Senator Newman asked me, as Leader of the Government in the Senate, a question relating to the Commonwealth appeal to the High Court of Australia regarding the claim to compensation by HMAS Voyager survivor, Bernard Verwagen. I undertook to obtain an answer. It is not true that in 1985 the Government admitted liability to all survivors and agreed to waive the statute of limitations in all applications for compensation. When the Attorney-General decided that the current claim of HMAS Voyager's survivors should be opposed, he set out detailed reasons for this decision. I have provided Senator Newman with a copy of the Attorney-General's statement. The only cases currently active are cases wherein the Commonwealth amended its defence to include a defence based on the statute of limitations.

One issue in these cases arises from the fact that the defences were amended and the decision on that issue will apply to only four cases. The remaining issues in the current litigation, of whether the claims are justiciable having regard to the fact that they arose out of an incident during training for war, is of general application although it will be of no practical significance where a claim is barred by the statute of limitations. Present further progress in these cases awaits hearing by the High Court.

Sitting suspended from 1.04 to 2 p.m.