I rise today to speak on behalf of my constituents in Williamtown, Salt Ash and Fullerton Cove, whose lives have been devastated by the ongoing PFAS crisis through absolutely no fault of their own.
In December last year, Labor and the Greens successfully put forward a Senate motion calling on the Turnbull Government to stop contamination from leaving RAAF Base Williamtown.
We demanded that the Government explain what consideration had been given to understanding and addressing any financial impacts on affected businesses and individuals.
Yesterday, the deadline came and went. My constituents scoured the public domain, searching in vain for the long-promised solution to their suffering.
It wasn’t there.
The saddest thing is: despite all they have been through – the years of inaction, the promised but not delivered rescue plans, the cover-ups and conflicts, the stress of navigating various levels of Government – many of my people were actually still expecting something from Senator James McGrath and his PFAS taskforce.
They were hoping against hope that Senator Marise Payne and the Department of Defence might do the right thing, accept accountability, and clean up their mess.
Instead, the people of Williamtown and surrounds received an insult. A piece of spin tabled after the deadline where the Government rattled through a list of things it has spent almost $100million on across the country.
But it conveniently neglected to address the fact that there are hundreds of people trapped on contaminated land with no way out.
These people have grave fears for their financial futures.
They have grave fears for their health due to the much publicised connections that have been made between PFAS, the human immume system, and rates of cancer.
Mental health is under siege.
In short, my community is on the edge.
As one dear resident put to me during a meeting in my office late last month: “It’s not living; it’s just existing”.
Families are frightened.
Of their land.
Of their produce.
Of the very puddles that appear on the ground.
I call upon the Prime Minister to intervene immediately.
Remove the Department of Defence from any future investigations.
Accept that these are human beings whose lives, hopes and futures have been decimated. The Federal Government must act now to create choices for those who are caught in this diabolical mess.