Government responds to sailor?s allegations

THE Howard Government has responded to claims made by former sailor Peter Robertson that it was only paying lip service to Australian Defence Force personnel exposed to the toxic metal beryllium.

The Iluka resident has disputed the government's commitment to paying out victims after he was told by a Sydney hospital that the equipment needed to conduct blood tests to check for chronic beryllium disease (CBD) was not available in Australia.

That revelation led Mr Robertson to question the arrangements put in place by the government to compensate victims.

A spokesman for Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA) Minister, De-Anne Kelly, could not comment on details of Mr Robertson's case for privacy reasons, but insisted the government had procedures in place to deal with beryllium exposure cases.

"For a claim to be accepted it is necessary for a condition to exist that causes an impairment or incapacity," he said.

"In the case of a claim related to beryllium exposure, the DVA will seek a diagnosis of the condition if one is not provided."

He said the DVA was processing a number of claims related to beryllium poisoning and had taken steps to inform the public about beryllium through services like an information hotline and an investigation into its use on navy ships.

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