Maralinga Blast Survivors Sue
Article courtesy of The Courier Mail – IAN MCPHEDRAN
March 03, 2010
MORE than 300 Australians are joining a class action against the British Government for damage from nuclear tests that could cost Australian taxpayers tens of millions of dollars.
Cherie Blair, QC – a prominent human rights lawyer and wife of former British prime minister Tony Blair – will head the British legal team for victims of nuclear bomb tests at Maralinga in South Australia and other sites during the 1950s and 1960s.
About 200 former military personnel who worked at or near the test sites and up to 100 Aboriginal residents of blast-affected land will join 800 British ex-servicemen suing for damages.
The veterans say they were used as guinea pigs to gauge the impact of radiation on humans.
Under a $20 million deal in 1993 between Britain and the Keating Labor government, compensation awarded to Australian veterans by British courts must be refunded by Canberra.
The cash was used to clean up the test site and not one cent has been paid to victims of the testing regime.
Lawyer for the Australian veterans Tom Goudkamp said he was pleased to join the British action.
“Cherie Blair is a very skilled human rights barrister,” Mr Goudkamp said.
He said the British legal action could take years to resolve.
“These people have suffered enormously from a deliberate policy to expose them to radiation.”
The Rudd Government has refused to assist veterans in their legal battle and the national president of the Nuclear Veterans Association, Ric Johnstone, has urged Canberra to issue the nuclear vets with a gold health card and their full entitlements.
“That would save taxpayers money and allow veterans to die with dignity and have a decent funeral,” he said.
The US Government has paid out billions over its nuclear testing and a successful case here could reap more than $20 million in damages.
British lawyer Anna Mazzola has listed more than 100 names of indigenous people who were keen to join the class action.
“It seems the British Government undertook those tests without finding out where people were living and without any real consideration of the consequences, and they need to be held accountable,” she said.