7 March 2016
Labor is once again demanding the Minister for Defence Marise Payne respond to the recommendations of February’s Senate report into the RAAF Base Williamtown contamination crisis.
The Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee report described the contamination affecting the Williamtown community as a crisis – and it deserves a crisis response.
The Minister has had the Senate report for more than a month but is yet to respond or act.
The report recommended the Commonwealth voluntarily acquire property, compensate commercial fishermen, and provide funding for annual blood tests for residents who request them.
With zero leadership from the Turnbull Government, other agencies have been forced to take matters into their own hands.
According to reports today, NSW Fire and Rescue has offered to pay for blood tests for all firefighters who believe they were exposed to the firefighting foam contaminants at the centre of the Williamtown contamination.
Defence on the other hand confirmed in February that current and past personnel have not undergone any health testing following their potential exposure to the contaminants on base and that no testing was planned.
What we are seeing is a total abdication of responsibility from the Minister for Defence.
The Minister herself has called for a ‘whole of government’ response to the crisis but at the moment this looks more like a ‘none of government’ response.
The Coalition’s own dissenting report recognises the significant “fear and uncertainty regarding the spread and effects of these contaminants” within the local community.
Yet when the Senate report recommended actions that would address that fear and uncertainty, the Government has responded with silence.
Labor calls on the Minister to respond to the inquiry’s recommendations as a matter of urgency.