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C49/1998 BOUGAINVILLE TRUCE AND PEACE MONITORING GROUPS: POSSIBLE EXPOSURE TO CHEMICALS
DATE OF ISSUE: 9 November 1998
BOUGAINVILLE TRUCE AND PEACE MONITORING GROUPS: POSSIBLE EXPOSURE TO CHEMICALS
- The former Minister for Defence Industry, Science and Personnel, Senator Bronwyn Bishop, determined that service as a member of the Truce Monitoring Group (TMG) in the area comprising Bougainville and Buka Islands and the Papua New Guinea territorial waters surrounding those islands during any period between 20 November 1997 and 30 April 1998 is non-warlike service for the purposes of the Act.
- Similarly, service as a member of the Peace Monitoring Group (PMG) in the area comprising Bougainville and Buka Islands and the Papua New Guinea territorial waters surrounding those islands during any period from 1 May 1998 is non-warlike service for the purposes of the Act.
- Members of the TMG and PMG are therefore eligible for disability pension and treatment for illness and injury related to that service.
- Numerous members of these groups have lodged claim forms for disability pension and treatment for potential illness arising from possible chemical exposure during TMG and PMG service. The forms state “Members deployed on OP BEL ISI have had the potential to be exposed to numerous chemicals”.
- Advice from the Department of Defence is that an OH&S inspection report indicated widespread leaching of chemicals into the ground and groundwater from old drums and depots on Bougainville, particularly in Arawa and the copper mine. Members were subsequently advised to submit dangerous incident reports to the Army.
- The claims to the Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA) are thought to be a form of insurance intended to support any claim for diseases that may have been caused by the exposure.
Other potential claimants
- During the period from 21 September 1994 to 11 November 1994 some 600 members of the Australian Defence Force were deployed in the areas of Bougainville and Buka islands and the Papua New Guinea territorial waters surrounding those islands as part of the multinational peacekeeping force tasked with securing the Bougainville Peace Conference in Bougainville. As members of a designated Peacekeeping Force members are eligible for disability pension and treatment for illness and injury related to that service. It is not known whether any of this contingent were exposed to chemicals at these sites, but the possibility exists.
- Disability Compensation Branch (National Office), assisted by the Department of Defence, will prepare an authoritative nominal roll for determining service. This will be made available on CCPS. However, a statement and evidence of service in the specific areas of potential contamination will be required. At this stage there is no presumption of exposure.
- National Office will forward papers on the nature and locations of the exposure as they are obtained. These will be available on CLIK.
- For each claim the State Office will raise a file and attach:
- the claim form
- the nominal roll
- copy of the appropriate Instrument(s) of Non-warlike Service
- any papers on the nature of the exposure
- any statements by the veteran including locations during posting.
Note: The Instruments of Non-warlike Service are located in the CLIK Legislation Library under Other Legislation/Ministerial Determinations/Non-warlike service s5(c)(1)/Bougainville Truce Monitoring Group (includes Peace Monitoring Group).
- If the ADF member does not have a DVA file, the prefix will be SM. The entitlement code will be BB (Bougainville Buka) for 1997-1998 and BV for 1994.
- The Department of Defence has OH&S obligations arising from submission of the inspection report and any dangerous incident reports. Disability Compensation Branch has asked Defence to inform DVA what health monitoring of the members it will undertake.
- Reports are that the claims are identical and do not refer to current medical problems. Should any claim identify a diagnosable medical condition, it would require investigation and subsequent determination. However, where reference to any medical problem is absent, no investigation is required and no incapacity can be found.
- Once the Defence response is known, Disability Compensation Branch (National Office) will provide a form of words to be used in determining these claims. This will include acknowledgment of disability pension and treatment eligibility, of the findings of the OH&S inspection report, and of the concern a member may feel about the potential consequences of exposure to chemicals. It will also detail the Defence health monitoring strategy, and reassure the member that his particular circumstances have been noted.
- The contact person for enquiries regarding this instruction is Kim Reichelt on (02) 6289 - 4846.
W R MAXWELL
BH DISABILITY COMPENSATION