Media Release - DEFENCE MINISTER MUST RESPOND URGENTLY TO WILLIAMTOWN CRISIS

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4 February 2016

Labor welcomes the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee’s first report into contamination caused by firefighting foams at RAAF Base Williamtown.

Minister Payne and the Turnbull Government must now give urgent consideration to the serious findings and recommendations in this report.

The community and business owners affected by this crisis have been in a holding pattern since they were first told about the contamination in September 2015, and they are entitled to an immediate response from the Government.

The report recommends the Commonwealth voluntarily acquire property that is no longer fit for purpose due to contamination.

It also recommends that compensation be offered to commercial fishermen as well as the purchase of relevant fishing rights of those affected. If rights are purchased, an industry transition program must be considered.

Other recommendations include providing additional mental health support services, establishing a joint Commonwealth–NSW taskforce to coordinate the response of government and funding a program of annual blood tests for residents.

Labor will carefully consider all the recommendations and continue to consult with the residents of Williamtown, Fullerton Cove and surrounds.

Labor is disappointed that Coalition Senators have rejected key recommendations related to compensation and health concerns.

We thank the committee members for their work in preparing this report, and all the organisations and individuals for their submissions and presentations to the inquiry.

Most importantly, we thank the residents of Williamtown, Fullerton Cove and surrounds for telling their own stories of hardship, uncertainty and distress caused by the contamination crisis.

Unfortunately we know that this isn’t the end of the story, as the effects of the contamination will last for years. This report is an important next step in providing much needed support for the people of Williamtown and Fullerton Cove.

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Authorised by Sharon Claydon MP, 427 Hunter Street Newcastle