Media Releases


February 27, 2020

SUBJECT: Class Action for PFAS Contamination.
ALAN JONES: I mentioned earlier this morning that the federal government has reached an in principle agreement to settle three federal court class actions relating to these chemicals, toxic chemical contamination at Williamtown in New South Wales, in Oakey of course which is my part of the woods in Queensland, and Katherine in the Northern Territory. We’ve been on about this for god knows how long.
Meryl Swanson has as well. She is the federal Labor MP for the seat of Paterson which takes in Williamtown. She is on the line. Meryl, good morning.
MERYL SWANSON MP: Good morning, Alan. Great to talk to you.
JONES: Thank you but my God, I mean these people. I’ve spoken to a couple of these people this morning and they can’t talk until the whole matter has been finalised. Is justice going to be done here?
SWANSON: Well Alan, I certainly hope so. Talking about people being to hell and back, it’s been almost five years. I’ve just been listening to you saying the poor drought stricken farmers have been waiting for months, well with all due respect to them, for my people in Williamtown this fight will be five years in September.
JONES: Well in Oakey people have contracted cancer. I mean, the value of the land is not worth two bob. It’s everywhere.
SWANSON: It’s been awful. One of the good things that has come out of this class action - look when people have got to take their own government to court, Alan, where are we going there? But look, the one thing that I kept saying to the Prime Minister and I kept saying it to Christian Porter, don’t drag these people through the courts. Settle. And I am deeply relieved that there has been an in principle agreement reached. In the late hours of last night I had a communication from Minister Reynolds’ office to tell me and I didn’t believe it until Lindsey Clout phoned me and said you know, Meryl, thank you. We won.
JONES: Are you aware of the detail of this?
SWANSON: I’m not, Alan, and to be honest I don’t want to know.
JONES: No, but you hope that these people aren’t, because there are political tactics here. It’s this or nothing. It’s this or nothing, sign here, confidentiality, it’s this or nothing. If you want to argue, we go to court or settle here. So the settlement might be far less than justice should’ve allowed.
SWANSON: Can I just add to that Alan or can I give you some context? We went through mediation once before and they couldn’t agree. There was a substantial sum difference between the class action and the defence lawyers and our people walked away. They said: you know what, we’ll go to court because that’s not good enough. So the fact that they have reached agreement...
JONES: I see.
SWANSON: … signals to me that it is a better deal and a fairer deal. Will it ever be fair? It won’t be. These people’s lives have been turned upside down. Their bodies have been contaminated. Their water, their soil - there is nothing that can ever replace that. There is no money. But if they have reached an in principle agreement then it does indicate to me that they are somewhat pleased.
JONES: Good on you, good on you.
SWANSON: Look, we’ve just been fighting this Alan.
JONES: Yes, I know I know. I’ve spoken to Erin Brockovich I don’t know how many times and all of those people in Oakey and it’s just been *interrupted*
SWANSON: And you’ve been great on it. I just want to say thank you. You’ve been outstanding on this, you know.
JONES: Thank you, Meryl.
SWANSON: We’ve got to keep it going because it’s not the end but this is a good first step.
JONES: Good on you. Look if you get any details, don’t hesitate to get in touch. Can you just go back and make sure I’ve got your email, Meryl.
SWANSON: Will do. We have communicated before and don’t forget up in Maitland we’ve got those beautiful Pender homes and architects that I know you love, Alan. We’ve talked about that in the past.
JONES: Yes, Pender. 1906 Pender - he was great wasn’t he.
SWANSON: This is a good win for our people.
JONES: Unbelievable. There’s Meryl - just go back to make sure I’ve got the right contact for you. Meryl Swanson - she is the federal Labor MP for the seat of Paterson.