Wednesday, 15 August 2018
Defence Facilities: Chemical Contamination
That the Senate:
(a) notes that:
(i) since September 2015, there have been a number of parliamentary inquiries into contamination of Defence-owned and neighbouring properties by per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances and chemicals (PFAS), and
(ii) the upcoming Christmas will be the fourth Christmas that the residents living in the so-called 'red zone' surrounding Williamtown RAAF base in New South Wales will have had to endure with no resolution from the Federal Government; and
(b) calls on the Federal Government to:
(i) immediately implement a voluntary buy-out programme for affected property owners of PFAS contamination originating from Defence-owned land,
(ii) ensure the voluntary buy-out programme is at market rates for the affected properties prior to the public announcement of the contamination, plus the average increase in property values in the region since,
(iii) provide monetary compensation for those that wish to remain living at their property, and
(iv) ban the use of PFAS substances and chemicals, which have contaminated at least 90 communities across the country as a result of their use in fire retardants for decades.
The Australian government is supporting the communities of Williamtown, Oakey and Katherine through a $55 million drinking water program and over $60 million to reduce exposure, manage environmental impacts and provide dedicated support services, voluntary blood testing and health research. The government is taking an evidence based response to this issue. Based on the information available to government at this time, a land purchase program is not being considered. The government will continue to adjust its management practices to respond to new evidence as it arises. The government is actively consulting on banning PFAS.
The opposition will not be supporting this motion. We do hold significant concerns about the issue that is raised in the substantive motion, and that is why we are participating constructively with the joint parliamentary inquiry into PFAS contamination in and around Defence bases. We believe that the inquiry that is currently underway should be allowed to follow the normal process before we vote on individual motions like this one in the Senate today.