THE Department of Defence has been accused of failing to properly consider compensation claims from Williamtown residents during a Senate hearing in Canberra on Thursday.
The hearing, the fourth since the inquiry into contamination on air force bases was established, heard evidence that legal representatives from the Department of Defence have held discussions with more than 30 residents or business owners in Williamtown and Oakey.
Asked whether Defence had received any formal requests for compensation, Michael Lysewycz, Defence’s special counsel, said the discussions had not progressed to that stage, but that correspondence with residents included “emotional comments about buying property”.
“As recently as last night someone said buy my property from me please, and that’s about what I get,” he said.
That prompted a rebuke from the inquiry chair, Senator Alex Gallacher, who said they were “not emotional comments”.
“We’ve heard the evidence [people have said] I wouldn’t have bought here if I knew it was contaminated,” he said.
Senator Gallacher asked Mr Lysewyvz to clarify whether no one had asked for compensation, or whether there had been no formal legal claim.
“I’m very carefully saying I don’t have a formal legal claim,” Mr Lysewyvz said.
During the first session of evidence the hearing also heard from Dr Mariann Lloyd-Smith, the senior adviser to the National Toxics Network.
Dr Lloyd-Smith has previously argued that claims made by Defence and other health agencies that there are no links between chemicals like perfluorooctane sulfonate and perfluorooctanic acid and health impacts are wrong.
She said government agencies may have been “trying to downplay seriousness” in an attempt to “downplay their liability”.
“Once you accept that there’s a problem they are going to have to resolve that problem with the residents living there,” she said.
“You cant continue to live on contaminated land or eat contaminated product.”
The inquiry also heard that Defence had “this week” began trialing remediation methods to stop the spread of the contamination from Williamtown and Oakey.