House debates

Monday, 2 December 2019

Statements by Members

Defence Facilities: Chemical Contamination

4:11 pm

Photo of Richard MarlesRichard Marles (Corio, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Defence) Share this | | Hansard source

I recently visited the electorate of Paterson, where the member for Paterson and I met with community members about the impact of PFAS contamination in the vicinity of RAAF Base Williamtown. PFAS contamination in Williamtown, Salt Ash and Fullerton Cove, and the declaration by the New South Wales EPA in 2015 of a red zone, has seen land values impacted and residents become deeply concerned about possible health effects. The residents in the Williamtown area have launched a class action lawsuit against the Department of Defence. Indeed, the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade is holding another hearing this afternoon into the remediation of PFAS. The committee is doing important work, but it should not be left to a parliamentary committee to lead the way on a response. PFAS contamination is not just a Defence issue; it is likely that PFAS is present at many non-Defence sites around the country.

There's been next to no engagement from members of the Morrison government with the Williamtown community on this serious issue. The government cannot continue to ignore the residents of Williamtown. The Prime Minister should face the community in Williamtown and hear firsthand about the impact that PFAS contamination is having on their lives. I first visited Williamtown in 2016, and since then I have met a number of passionate, courageous people who are working tirelessly to make sure the community is not forgotten. I would like to acknowledge Lindsay and Ann Clout, Rhianna and Cain Gorfine, Kim and Gavin Smith, and Jenny and Terry Robinson for their advocacy on behalf of their community. I thank the member for Paterson for hosting me in her community. It's now been four years and five Christmases since the declaration of a red zone. The Morrison government owes it to the people of Williamtown to provide a resolution to this issue.