Nuclear Veterans Lose Legal Appeal
Courtesy of the Newcastle Herald by Joanne McCarthy, 11 December 2013
Ex-servicemen who were exposed to nuclear tests at Maralinga and other sites in the 1950’s, in this file photograph from 2008. From left, Rick Johnstone, who died of cancer last year, Bruce Baker and Merv Heath.
NUCLEAR veterans have lost their final legal appeal nearly 60 years after the British nuclear tests in Australia.
The Australian Human Rights Commission has advised the surviving 300 veterans it has no jurisdiction to hear a claim that they were used as ‘‘human guinea pigs’’ at Maralinga, Emu Field and Montebello in the 1950s and 1960s.
The advice ends a decades-long fight for compensation by veterans after legal cases in Australia and Britain were closed off because of time limitations, and challenges to claims their health was significantly affected.
Their human rights specialist lawyer Joshua Dale, of Stacks/Goudkamp, said the decision marked the end of the road for nuclear veterans.
The only option available now is a plea for an act of grace from the Australian Government to take responsibility for the treatment of nuclear veterans, Mr Dale said.
“Sir Robert Menzies proclaimed Australia’s signature on the Declaration indicated to the world that, ‘We stand for justice’,’’ Mr Dale said.
‘‘He then allowed the British to conduct nuclear tests on Australian soil.
‘‘The nuclear veterans have been denied justice, they have been denied rights to compensation, and ultimately they have been deprived of their dignity and recognition by the government that wronged them.”
More than 20 Hunter and Central Coast nuclear veterans were part of the Human Rights Commission claim.
Former RAAF officer Bruce Baker, 76, of Gosford, who was 18 when he spent 10 months at Maralinga in 1956 when four bombs were tested, said he was not surprised by the decision.
‘‘We were fighting both governments. It doesn’t surprise me because rejection was always on. It’s always been like that,’’ he said.
The only consolation was that his mate and long-time nuclear veterans campaigner Ric Johnstone, also of Gosford, was not alive to hear of the final rejection.
‘‘He fought for so long but he died of cancer at Christmas last year,’’ Mr Baker said.