THE HON. BILL SHORTEN MP
LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR INDIGENOUS AFFAIRS & ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDERS
MEMBER FOR MARIBYRNONG
CATHERINE KING MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND MEDICARE
MEMBER FOR BALLARAT
LABOR TO DELIVER A NATIONAL APOLOGY TO THALIDOMIDE SURVIVORS
A Shorten Labor Government will deliver a national apology in the Australian Parliament to the survivors of the thalidomide tragedy.
A formal apology is the first recommendation of a Senate inquiry into thalidomide, initiated by Labor in consultation with survivors last year.
Thalidomide was a drug used in the early 1960s to treat morning sickness that caused birth defects in thousands of children worldwide – including dozens here in Australia who were left with life-long disabilities.
Over the past eight months, this inquiry has provided an opportunity for Australian survivors and their families to finally have their voices heard. They shared their stories about the profound impact their injuries have had – and are still having – on their lives.
The inquiry found that Australian authorities did not do all they could to get this drug off the shelves and prevent this tragedy.
“If the Australian Government had acted more swiftly it has been estimated that approximately 20 per cent of Australia’s thalidomide survivors may not be disabled,” the report finds.
The report concludes that Australia has a “moral obligation” to do more to help our survivors.
A national apology would demonstrate that the parliament recognises the pain that has been caused, and that survivors and their families require more support in the years to come so that they can live independently and with dignity.
We have written to Scott Morrison to ask him to make the same commitment.
We have also invited Mr Morrison to work with us on the possible establishment of a compensation scheme to give survivors the support the need as they grow older.
The inquiry found that the compensation and payouts provided by the pharmaceutical companies responsible for the tragedy are not sufficient to support Australian survivors as they age and their health needs grow more complex.
A number of other governments around the world – including Canada, Germany, Japan and the UK – have established statutory support schemes for their thalidomide survivors but Australia has never done so.
Indeed, throughout the course of the inquiry the governments of Canada and Belgium both announced new commitments to survivors.
Labor will consider the report’s other recommendations but we believe a national apology is a critical first step.
FRIDAY, 22 MARCH 2019