Payments to support victims of overseas terrorism

Parliament house flag post

Payments to support victims of overseas terrorism

Posted 14/10/2013 by Michael Klapdor

Prime Minister Tony Abbott recently announced that victims of past overseas terrorist attacks would be entitled to an Australian Victim of Terrorism Overseas Payment (AVTOP), worth up to $75,000. The AVTOP was created in 2012 under the Gillard Government. Many of those affected by previous attacks have received some form of assistance from the Australian Government including coverage of medical costs and counselling/rehabilitation—the AVTOP provides a new formal mechanism for delivering monetary assistance. While there is strong community support for the scheme, a number of issues have been raised in regards to its design.

How the payment works  
The AVTOP is a one-off, lump-sum payment intended to provide financial assistance to those affected by a ‘declared overseas terrorist act’. The following events have been declared as overseas terrorist acts under the Social Security Act 1991:
  • 2001 September 11 attacks in the United States
  • 2002 bombings in Bali, Indonesia
  • 2005 bombings in Bali, Indonesia
  • 2005 bombings in London, United Kingdom 
  • 2006 bombings in Dahab, Egypt
  • 2008 attacks in Mumbai, India
  • 2009 hotel bombings in Jakarta, Indonesia and
  • 2013 armed assault on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya.
Under the Social Security Act, to qualify for an AVTOP, an individual must have been in the place where the terrorist attack occurred and have been harmed as a direct result (a primary victim), or be a close family member of a person who died as a result of the terrorist act within two years of the attack occurring (a secondary victim). Close relatives of those involved in the commission of the attack cannot qualify for the payment. To qualify, an individual must be a permanent Australian resident on the day the attack occurred. The Attorney-General can make a determination so that certain non-residents may qualify—for example, expatriate Australian citizens resident at the site of the attack.
While the maximum amount of the payment is $75,000 (based on the amount available under state and territory victims of crime schemes), lesser amounts may be paid. Amounts are determined according to factors such as the extent of injuries, the impact of the attack on primary and secondary victims’ lives and the circumstances in which injuries or death occurred (such as whether victims ignored travel advice from the Australian Government on the high risk of a terrorist attack in the place the attack occurred). A person may receive multiple AVTOPs where they are considered a primary and secondary victim (i.e. where they were harmed by the attack as well as losing a close family member).
Although the Prime Minister referred to the AVTOP as compensation, the Social Security Act explicitly states that it is not to be treated as being a payment of compensation or damages.
Previous assistance
The Australian Government previously provided some form of assistance to victims of all the overseas terrorist attacks covered by the Prime Minister’s determination. This assistance was primarily provided through ex gratia payments—these are payments determined by the Prime Minister and/or Cabinet on a case-by-case basis with no pre-set criteria or upper limit. In 2006, the Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment (the AGDRP) was introduced, primarily to replace the use of ex gratia payments to victims of natural disasters in Australia. The AGDRP provides a one-off payment of $1000 per adult and $400 per child and was used to support victims of the Mumbai attacks in 2008 (on top of assistance for out-of-pocket medical costs and funeral/memorial costs).
The Senate committee inquiry into the legislation which created the AVTOP heard a range of concerns in regards to the design of the new payment. Among the issues raised was the focus of the new payment on victims of terrorism, as opposed to other serious crimes, as well as the lack of any criteria for an event to be declared an ‘overseas terrorist act’. The concern is that victims of smaller incidents or incidents where Australians/Westerners are not the explicit target will miss out on the assistance offered by the AVTOP. The Attorney-General’s Department’s submission to the inquiry emphasised that the lack of criteria allows for greater discretion in determining relevant incidents and the AVTOP is not intended to be a compensation scheme for all kinds of criminal injuries suffered abroad. Concerns were also expressed at the amount of AVTOP that is payable, with some believing it should be a much higher amount, and whether victims who had received other forms of assistance from the Commonwealth would receive a lower payment.
The assistance provided by the AVTOP will be welcomed by all those who were harmed or lost loved ones in terrorist attacks but it remains to be seen whether this mechanism is the best way of offering financial assistance to victims. The capped amount and the discretion to pay lesser amounts may cause difficulties in the future—particularly if an appeal is made against the amount assigned to a particular victim, where a reduced amount is paid because government travel advisories applied to the location of the attack, or when the amount appears paltry relative to the needs of those harmed. The question of what particular incidents will be declared as terrorist acts and the scope of the payment will also be a potential source of future controversy.

Thank you for your comment. If it does not require moderation, it will appear shortly.
Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Add | Email Print


Flagpost is a blog on current issues of interest to members of the Australian Parliament

Parliamentary Library Logo showing Information Analysis & Advice




refugees asylum immigration Australian foreign policy Parliament climate change elections women social security Indigenous Australians Australian Bureau of Statistics Employment Sport illicit drugs people trafficking taxation Medicare welfare reform Australian Defence Force higher education welfare policy United Nations Asia income management Middle East criminal law disability Australian Sports Anti-Doping Agency World Anti-Doping Agency United States federal budget health financing gambling school education forced labour aid statistics Australian Electoral Commission WADA emissions trading Australia in the Asian Century steroids detention Private health insurance OECD ASADA labour force transport Law Enforcement Australian Federal Police Industrial Relations people smuggling dental health National Disability Insurance Scheme Australian Crime Commission slavery Senate election results Papua New Guinea Australian Public Service International Women's Day corruption Afghanistan Fair Work Act child protection debt federal election 2013 parliamentary procedure poker machines ALP New Zealand Newstart Parenting Payment 43rd Parliament political parties Census constitution High Court skilled migration voting Federal Court terrorist groups Higher Education Loan Program HECS youth paid parental leave Aviation environment foreign debt gross debt net debt defence capability customs doping health crime health risks multiculturalism aged care Gonski Review of Funding for Schooling sex slavery sea farers Special Rapporteur leadership United Kingdom UK Parliament Electoral reform politics banking firearms public policy violence against women domestic violence mental health China ADRV terrorism social media pensions welfare ASIO intelligence community Australian Security Intelligence Organisation governance public service reform Carbon Pricing Mechanism carbon tax mining military history employer employee fishing by-election European Union same sex relationships international relations coal seam gas family assistance planning United Nations Security Council Australian economy food vocational education and training Drugs Indonesia children codes of conduct terrorist financing money laundering Productivity asylum seekers early childhood education Canada Population Financial sector national security fuel disability employment Tasmania integrity science research and development Australian Secret Intelligence Service sexual abuse federal state relations World Trade Organization Australia accountability housing affordability bulk billing water renewable energy children's health health policy Governor-General US economy export liquefied natural gas foreign bribery question time speaker superannuation expertise Senators and Members climate Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry food labelling Pacific Islands reserved seats new psychoactive substances synthetic drugs UNODC carbon markets health reform Indigenous constitutional recognition of local government local government consumer laws PISA royal commission US politics language education baby bonus Leaders of the Opposition Parliamentary remuneration health system Australia Greens servitude Trafficking Protocol energy forced marriage rural and regional Northern Territory Emergency Response ministries social citizenship human rights citizenship Defence High Court; Indigenous; Indigenous Australians; Native Title ACT Indigenous education Norfolk Island External Territories emissions reduction fund; climate change child care funding refugees immigration asylum procurement Indigenous health e-voting internet voting nsw state elections 44th Parliament 2015 ABS Age Pension Death penalty capital punishment execution Bali nine Bali bombings Trade EU China soft power education Fiji India Disability Support Pension Antarctica Diplomacy by-elections state and territories workers Bills anti-corruption fraud bribery transparency corporate ownership whistleblower G20 economic reform innovation standards NATO Members of Parliament Scottish referendum Middle East; national security; terrorism social services Criminal Code Amendment (Misrepresentation of Age to a Minor) Bill 2013 online grooming sexual assault of minors ACT Assembly public health smoking plain packaging tobacco cigarettes Asia; Japan; international relations Work Health and Safety Migration; asylum seekers; regional processing China; United States; international relations fiscal policy Racial Discrimination Act; social policy; human rights; indigenous Australians Foreign policy Southeast Asia Israel Palestine regional unemployment asylum refugees immigration political finance donations foreign aid Economics efficiency human rights; Racial Discrimination Act employment law bullying Animal law; food copyright Australian Law Reform Commission industry peace keeping contracts workplace policies trade unions same-sex marriage disorderly conduct retirement Parliament House standing orders public housing prime ministers election timetable sitting days First speech defence budget submarines Somalia GDP forestry world heritage political engagement leave loading Trade; tariffs; safeguards; Anti-dumping public interest disclosure whistleblowing Productivity Commission regulation limitation period universities Ireland cancer gene patents genetic testing suspension of standing and sessional orders animal health live exports welfare systems infant mortality middle class welfare honorary citizen railways disciplinary tribunals standard of proof World Health Organisation arts international students skilled graduate visas temporary employment visas apologies roads Italy national heritage NHMRC nutrition anti-dumping Constitutional reform referendum Rent Assistance competition policy pharmaceutical benefits scheme obesity evidence law sacrament of confession US presidential election international days DFAT UN General Assembly deregulation Regulation Impact Statements administrative law small business Breaker Morant homelessness regional engagement social determinants of health abortion Youth Allowance Members suspension citizen engagement policymaking federal election 2010 workplace health and safety Trafficking in Persons Report marine reserves hearing TAFE Victoria astronomy resources sector YMCA youth parliament alcohol Korea rebate Australian Greens presidential nomination Racial Discrimination Act entitlements political parties preselection solar hot water Financial Action Taskforce Horn of Africa peacekeeping piracy Great Barrier Reef Stronger futures political financing Hung Parliament political education social inclusion Social Inclusion Board maritime early childhood National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care Murray-Darling Basin Iran sanctions Norway hospitals

Show all
Show less
Back to top