THE Liberal Party's embarrassing about-face on an invitation to attend an election forum in Williamtown's red zone has been seen as major snub by the embattled community.
Despite being allowed to pick the date and verbally confirming attendance, the Liberal candidate for Paterson Sachin Joshi was a very public no-show at the federtal election candidates' forum on Monday night.
Fullerton Cove Residents' Action Group president Lindsay Clout accused the Liberals of "gagging" their own candidate in a bid to avoid making any committment about the toxic firefighting foam chemical contamination.
Residents slammed the last-minute backdown, branding it as another in a string of indications that the Liberals simply do not care.
Mr Clout said the issue was compounded by the party's failure to provide an adequate explanation for not attending.
"I think people have given up on expecting any kind of outcome from the Liberals," he said.
"We have been let down by them too many times. Our focus has to be on what Labor is going to do because the Liberals are doing nothing."
Following phone calls to discuss two possible dates for the forum, all Paterson candidates were emailed official invitations for themselves and their party leader on Friday, May 3.
Organisers told the Herald that it was Mr Joshi that selected Monday as the date for the forum because he was busy on Wednesday, the other possible date.
Labor's Paterson MP Meryl Swanson, Greens candidate Jan Davis, Graham Burston of Clive Palmer's United Australia and Neil Turner from Pauline Hanson's One Nation were all available on both dates.
The residents were notified of Mr Joshi's change of heart by email on Monday morning at 10.24 am, less than eight hours before the forum started.
"Due to previous campaign commitments I am unable to attend; please accept my apologies for today's candidate forum," he wrote.
When contacted by the Herald on Tuesday, Mr Joshi said he was unable to discuss the matter because he had people with him and requested questions in writing.
He later issued a statement that did not address his absence at the forum, but detailed the Morrison government's spending on PFAS including $30 million for research and $120 million to support affected communities.
"In April, the Morrison government committed an additional $4.7 million to fund research projects to develop remediation technologies and approaches to address the impacts of PFAS contamination," he wrote.
The Herald reported in March that the Coalition had gagged some of its NSW election candidates from talking to the media over fear of another Jaymes Diaz moment.
Departing parliamentary secretary for the Hunter Scot MacDonald confirmed some candidates in the Hunter were not cleared to talk to the media.
"They've got their constraints about what they can and can't say in terms of talking to the media," he said.