Human Rights Commission knocks back Maralinga veterans case

they’ve been treated like second-class citizens.
 ”This really is disgusting. How is it that these people, subject to the fury of a nuclear blast, aren’t even entitled to a gold card for their medical treatment as other veterans are?” 

AUDIO Aussie nuclear veterans ‘disgusted’ by bid failure  Australian veterans of British nuclear tests say they’re disgusted by the latest setback to their campaign for compensation. (Transcript from World News Australia Radio) Australia’s Human Rights Commission has decided it can’t consider the case of the 300 veterans because the matter is out of its jurisdiction.
The decision has left the veterans’ lawyers saying it’s the end of their campaign.
Murray Silby spoke to some of the veterans, including Avon Hudson “They’ll act with extreme disgust at the government and the Human Rights Commission. I mean we shouldn’t wait on the Human Rights Commission. This should have been addressed by governments of the past, but given the Human Rights heard this I have no time for the Human Rights (Commission) now.”

Avon Hudson says he and his fellow veterans have lost faith in a system that should have protected their rights.”I don’t know anybody that was there when I served there that hasn’t had either cancer or some other illness induced by radiation. Radiation induced illnesses, such as the effects that the two nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki among the surviv ors. We’ve had the same problems and we’re all old. We’re all on the pension. What is the government on about? All we want is a (medical discount) gold card. It’s not going to cost very much. Very little, because there’s not many of us left.”

The veterans say they were exposed to contamination while working on British nuclear tests at Maralinga, Emu Field and Monte Bello Islands in the 1950s and 60s. A spokesman for the Australian Ex-Services Atomic Survivors Asssociation, John Hutton, has told the ABC of a flippant approach by authorities to safety of the workers during the tests.
“The four atomic bombs in 1956, we worked in shorts and boots. That’s all. And cooked our food out there amongst the four atomic bombs.”

But the pleas didn’t sway the Human Rights Commission, which said the matter was out of its jurisdiction and it couldn’t consider the case, whether under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or any international human rights instrument recognised by the Australian Human Rights Commission Act.

The Commission says its decision is open to appeal to the Administrative Decisions Tribunal under the Judicial Review Act.

But Joshua Dale, from Stacks/Goudkamp, the law firm that’s represented the veterans, says he believes the claimants have exhausted all possibilities. He says the complaint to the Commission was the veterans’ last avenue in Australia and their legal campaign is doomed.

“Yes it is. The veterans are now left with the opportunity to basically ask the government for an act of grace I suppose is the only way to put it. The government has been sent a very clear message from this decision I think in not only the state of human rights law in Australia, but also the fact that the legislation that exists and the things that are in place to provide compensation and protection to the nuclear veterans has simply failed them. The legislation needs to be looked at. It needs to be changed and the government needs to do something about it.”

Independent Senator Nick Xenophon has supported the veterans’ campaign, including for them to access greater free medical services. He’s told the ABC they’ve been treated like second-class citizens.
“This really is disgusting. How is it that these people, subject to the fury of a nuclear blast, aren’t even entitled to a gold card for their medical treatment as other veterans are?”

Avon Hudson says he and his fellow veterans don’t get the full veterans’ pension and he wants Prime Minister Tony Abbott to show the same compassion to the nuclear veterans as he has for victims of the Bali bombings.


Soon after being elected to government Mr Abbott announced victims of the Bali bombings would be eligible for up to $75,000 in compensation.

Mr Hudson says his colleagues just want to be treated fairly. ”Now, I’m not against that. Fair enough, but we’ve been waiting 55 years and he hasn’t offered us one cent. Where’s the justice here? Where’s the bloody decency from a government. I mean those people went to Bali enjoying themselves doing what they can’t do here in Australia often. We were volunteer armed services. We were doing as we were told and obeyed the orders and obeyed to the letter of the law, while they were enjoying themselves. Why should they get $75,000 and we get nothing?”

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