30 Oct 2012

Nation owes debt to terror victims: Abbott

5:43 am on 30 October 2012

Australian Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says the nation owes a debt to Australian victims of overseas terrorism and they should be compensated retrospectively.

Earlier this year, there was bipartisan support for changes to existing laws to compensate victims of overseas terrorism attacks.

AAP reports Mr Abbott has moved a private members bill to have the compensation made retrospective and available to Australians caught up in terrorist attacks in Bali, Jakarta, Mumbai, London and New York.

"I say to the government and I say this free of any partisan rancour, do the right thing by those 300 Australians who have suffered as a result of overseas terrorism," he told parliament on Monday.

"If this is right for people who might suffer in the future, it is surely right for the people who have already suffered."

If all 300 victims were compensated with $A80,000 each, the total cost to the government would be $A30 million.

The amount was very modest in the scheme of a federal government, he said.

Mr Abbott, who was in Bali after the 2005 bombings and helped at Sanglah Hospital, said the matter was personal, not political for him after staying in contact with many of the victims.

"I'm moving this way because I believe it's right but because of the personal experience and the personal contact I've had with some of the victims in terrorism," he said.

"Many of them have suffered financially, all of them have suffered physically and psychologically."

The victims had been targeted because they were Australian.

"They were targeted because they were citizens of a country where people are free to choose their own way of life and choose which God we wish to worship," Mr Abbott said.

AAP reports the proposed scheme would be comparable to the assistance ordinarily available to victims of domestic crime under state and territory laws.

Labor acted earlier this year to pass legislation that set up a compensation scheme for future Australian victims of terrorism overseas.

Labor MP Shayne Neumann pointed out that victims of previous terrorism acts, back to the September 11, 2001 attack in the United States, had already been compensated, on a case-by-case, ex gratia basis.

This included family support, funeral and bereavement costs, travel costs, and recognition of foregone wages.