LABOR and the Greens have moved to force the Morrison government to hand over its response to the parliamentary inquiry into toxic firefighting foam contamination.
It has been eight months since Queensland MP Andrew Laming, who chaired the inquiry, broke Liberal ranks making an emotional speech in parliament calling on the Coalition government to compensate residents.
Greens Senator Maureen Faruqi teamed with Labor senators Tony Sheldon, Malarndirri McCarthy and Kimberley Kitching on Thursday giving notice that they will move a motion when parliament resumes on September 9 to order the production of the government's PFAS response.
Williamtown: The complete Newcastle Herald investigation
They are confident of getting the numbers in the Senate to order that "there be laid on the table by the Minister for Defence" by 12pm on September 10, the government's response to the recommendations of the PFAS inquiry.
Senator Faruqi said PFAS-impacted communities, including Williamtown, had waited too long.
"I have put the government on notice: release the report over the next few weeks or the Senate will force it's release on the first sitting day back in September," she said.
"The community worked so hard to have this committee established and gave their valuable time to front up to inquiries and hearings to present evidence.
"We have heard nothing from the government about what they intend to do with the recommendations of the committee. This is just not good enough."
The joint parliamentary inquiry called on the government to compensate people whose property values have been devastated by the contamination, ban the toxins and appoint a Coordinator-General to take over the handling of the unfolding environmental crisis.
The per- and poly-fluoralkyl chemicals [PFAS] have been linked to a slew of health effects, including immune suppression and cancer, and have contaminated land around dozens of military bases across the country.
"Maybe the government thinks that the community will forget about this issue," Senator Faruqi said.
"But we know that people are living with the consequences of PFAS contamination every day.
"We must take action to support them."
The Newcastle Herald revealed this week that Mr Laming, a medical doctor, was removed from his position on the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade that held the inquiry and he is no longer chair of its PFAS sub-committee. He was replaced as chairman by fellow Liberal MP John McVeigh, whose Groom electorate covers Oakey, a major PFAS contamination site.
The parliamentary inquiry recommended the Morrison government:
- Provide compensation, including "the possibility of buybacks" to property owners and businesses that can prove quantifiable financial losses, giving priority to the "most seriously affected residents".
- Review its advice on the health effects of PFAS, and "acknowledge the potential links to certain medical conditions".
- Join the 171 other countries that have banned the most toxic chemical in the PFAS family, known as perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS). Ban firefighting foams containing PFAS chemicals.
- Install a Coordinator-Gerneral to oversee the national response to the issue, providing leadership and working with multiple tiers of government to help resolve the crisis.
- Upscale investment in the remediation of contamination plumes, improve the national voluntary blood testing program and offer free financial counselling to affected families.
- Initiate an independent review of environmental regulation of Commonwealth land.
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