State Refuses To Fund Maralinga Court Battle
Stacks Law Firm is representing 240 military veterans of the nuclear tests done at Maralinga in the 1950s and 60s. The case is currently before the courts in the UK.
Article courtesy of The Australian – PIA AKERMAN
July 29, 2010
THE Rann government in South Australia has refused to meet with representatives of Aboriginal people affected by British nuclear tests.
The Aborigines are seeking funding from state and federal governments for a compensation battle in the British courts over the tests, which took place in the 1950s and 1960s.
The Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement, representing people living near the test sites in outback South Australia, requested a meeting with state Attorney-General John Rau after the March election to discuss financial support for the compensation claims.
It wants the state and federal governments to grant $250,000 each but Mr Rau has ruled out state funding for the case.
“Given that the issue at hand was caused by an arrangement between the commonwealth and UK governments, this is a matter which should be managed by those governments,” Mr Rau told the ALRM in a letter last month.
ALRM chief executive Neil Gillespie said he hoped Mr Rau would reconsider given Premier Mike Rann has said veterans and Aboriginal people affected by the testing deserved compensation from the British government.
Last year he said the British government had “an absolute responsibility to do the right thing by its and our service personnel and, of course, our Aboriginal people”.
A spokesman for Mr Rau yesterday reiterated that funding for the case should come from the federal government. “Mr Rau has no current plans to become involved in this particular matter,” the spokesman said.
A spokeswoman for the federal Attorney-General’s Department said the commonwealth only provided funding for foreign litigation “in certain specific exceptional circumstances”.
” The Maralinga test cases do not fall within these guidelines,” the spokeswoman said.
About 8000 Australian service personnel worked on the British program, which tested atomic bombs at Maralinga in South Australia’s far west and at Monte Bello Island and Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean. Of those, about 2000 are still alive.
An Australian-based class action involving veteran and Aboriginal victims of Maralinga testing is on hold pending a verdict in the British Ministry of Defence’s appeal against a decision allowing British veterans to sue for compensation.
If the appeal is dismissed Australian claimants will then have 35 days to lodge their applications.
About 240 veterans and their family members are ready to sign.
The number of Aboriginal claimants is expected to be smaller.
There have been genetic abnormalities and high levels of cancer among those who witnessed the atomic tests and their offspring.