Australian Veterans Affected By Nuclear Testing Lose Final Bid For Case To Be Heard
Courtesy of ABC News by Sally Block, 10 December 2013.
Australian veterans of British nuclear testing in the 1950s and 1960s have lost their bid to have their case investigated.
About 300 surviving members of the Australian Defence Force applied to the Australian Human Rights Commission to have their case heard.
The veterans were involved in the nuclear tests by the British at Maralinga, Emu Field and Monte Bello islands.
Their lawyers argued the Menzies government at the time exposed them to the harmful effects of radiation in full knowledge of the damage to their health and that is a breach of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The Commission knocked them back, saying it is out of their jurisdiction to inquire into the acts or practises by the Commonwealth that are alleged.
Lawyers say it has been a long fight for justice and compensation for their clients and the commission was the last possible legal avenue that could be pursued in Australia.
Lawyer Joshua Dale says victims can claim only a limited amount of compensation under current legislation.
“It sends a very clear message to the current Government that they really need to take a long hard look at the legislation and make some changes,” he said.
He says victims have no other course of action now other than to lobby their local MPs.
Speaking to the ABC in October, one of the veterans, Michael Rowe, tells of witnessing the first atom bomb test in Australia.
“We were told to face east, which we did, and then we were told we could turn around and face west and we saw the first British atom bomb go off,” he said.