Thalidomide survivor Lisa McManus has labelled the federal health minister "without heart, conscience or morality" after receiving word the government's official response to a 2019 Senate inquiry could be delayed beyond October.
Ms McManus was on Friday informed during a phone meeting with a Health Department representative that Greg Hunt had not yet scheduled a date to respond to the Senate committee report issued in March 2019.
The inquiry, which heard evidence of thalidomide leaving some people with malformed limbs, progressively worsening health outcomes and severe pain, concluded the Australian government had a responsibility to support survivors.
But Ms McManus and other survivors "still have nothing" more than a year on, with the health department indicating a response could be pushed beyond the October budget.
"We are gutted and extremely disappointed," Ms McManus told AAP on Friday.
"(Mr Hunt's) behaviour is cruel ... without heart, conscience or morality.
"Despite recent reassurances from the health department that regardless of the COVID-19 pandemic the government was still working towards a response, we still have nothing."
The 57-year-old Bendigo local said others among the 125 Australian thalidomide survivors told her their daily struggles had increased during the coronavirus pandemic.
"This pandemic is an added weight on their already heavy shoulders," Ms McManus said.
"We have survivors or victims of thalidomide who are suicidal because this has been going on for so long and they don't believe there is any light on the horizon or hope for them."
But the mother-of-two said she was grateful to have a "loving and supportive" husband, Andrew, who could buy groceries for her during the pandemic.
When thalidomide was linked to birth defects in 1961, neither state governments nor the federal government took swift action to ban its importation or sale.
Unlike other countries, no efforts were made to recall and destroy the product, marketed in the late 1950s for anxiety, insomnia and morning sickness.
The 2019 Senate inquiry found about 20 per cent of Australia's thalidomide survivors may not have been affected had the government acted more quickly.
Greens Senator Jordon Steele-John said any apology or recognition from the government had to be made material in the form of compensation and ongoing support.
"These folks have waited 60 years for justice," he told AAP.
"Many of their parents, who lived with tremendous guilt, feeling that they accidentally condemned their children to lives of pain and suffering, have now passed on.
"And the one hope survivors have left is that before they themselves pass on, their government will recognise the wrong it did and compensate them, so they may live the rest of their time on this earth with some sense of justice and comfort."
Mr Steele-John also said rather than being cause for delay, the coronavirus should see the government expedite its response.
"Thalidomide survivors are some of our community's most vulnerable when it comes to COVID-19."
A spokesperson for Minister Hunt said justice for thalidomide victims was a "personal passion" for him and a priority for the government.
She said the government acknowledged the plight of Australia's thalidomide survivors and their families and understood they have "suffered from circumstances outside of their control".
"Minister Hunt has already indicated well before the Senate Committee report into thalidomide that the government would do what no government has done for the last 50 years and offer a national apology, establish a national memorial and look to provide justice for Australia's thalidomide victims.
"In that context, the Government is currently considering the recommendations made by the Senate Community Affairs References Committee in relation to support for Australia's thalidomide survivors."
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Australian Associated Press