The Australian Greens have called for hundreds of Australian soldiers who were exposed to radiation from British nuclear bomb testing in the 1950s and ‘60s to automatically receive Veterans' Gold Card health care.
"Between 1952 and 1963, more than 16,000 Australian civilians and serviceman were exposed to nuclear fallout when British nuclear weapons were tested at the Montebello Islands in Western Australia, Maralinga and Emu fields in South Australia, and over the Christmas and Malden Islands," spokesperson Assisting on Defence, Senator Scott Ludlam said.
"Some servicemen were clad only in shorts and t-shirts when they were sent into contaminated areas while British scientists in charge looked on wearing full body protective suits.
"In the decades following, many of these men, their wives and families have reported a range of radiation-related disorders ranging from multiple miscarriages to leukaemia, cancers, and respiratory conditions.
"While many radioactive illnesses take decades to manifest after the initial exposure it is widely acknowledged that these men were dangerously exposed.
"The Greens are calling for our nuclear veterans to receive the same healthcare benefits as other war veterans over 70 years of age who experienced combat - that is, automatic eligibility for the Gold Card.
"Without a Gold Card, our nuclear veterans are condemned to a life time of bureaucratic hoop-jumping in terms of filing receipts and proving their injury because they must apply for medical assistance each time.
"Our nuclear veterans already endure an exhausting round of medical appointments; they should not need to continually prove their illness is radiation-related; instead they should only need prove that they were exposed to high levels of radiation once and thereafter receive the Gold Card, meaning that all their medical treatment will thereafter be paid for by the Department of Veterans' Affairs.
"Under our plan, Australia's remaining 1,892 nuclear veterans would receive the Gold Card for a total cost of $85 million over four years.
"The Greens care about the men and women who suffered as a result of past Australian government decisions and we will stand up for their right to better care today," Senator Ludlam concluded.
The Greens Justice for Nuclear Veterans Initiative can be found at this link: http://www.greens.org.au/nuclear-veterans