A 1952 file photo of a radioactive warning sign in Maralinga village in South Australia. (AAP Image/National Archives of Australia)
THE UK Government have ruled out paying “act of grace” compensation to veterans and Aborigines exposed to nuclear bomb testing at Maralinga in South Australia 61 years ago.
Australian servicemen and Aboriginal Australians living in the area were exposed to radioactive material at Maralinga when the site in South Australia’s outback was used by the British government for nuclear tests between 1953 and 1963.
A court case last year between the British government and victims of the nuclear testing program ended with the British Supreme Court ruling there was not enough evidence linking the nuclear tests and veterans’ illnesses.
Greens Senator Scott Ludlam wrote to Foreign Secretary William Hague in January seeking “act or grace” payments on the veterans’ behalf. Payments need a “reasonable standard of probability” to be met in order to provide compensation.
”Of the British and Australian veterans who were involved in the testing, and the Aboriginal people in the area at the time of the blasts, only 29 Aboriginal people have ever received compensation from the Australian government and veterans continue to struggle to obtain the medical support they need,” Senator Ludlam said.
An Australian government report commissioned in 2006 showed Australians at the Maralinga and Emu Field sites were 23 per cent more likely than the general population to develop cancer, and 18 per cent more likely to die from cancer. However it also found it was impossible to conclude whether that was due to radiation.
UK Defence Personnel Minister Mark Francois has ruled out payments being made, saying in light of the court decision, “the Ministry of Defence’s position with respect to paying compensation is unchanged.”
“I am sorry to have to send a disappointing reply, but I hope I have explained the reasons for doing so.”