THE Morrison government is ducking for cover as it continues to avoid responding to a PFAS parliamentary inquiry that recommended compensation for property owners impacted by the environmental scandal.
After nine months of silence, the Senate voted on Monday in favour of a motion by Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi demanding the government produce its response to the inquiry by midday on Tuesday.
But when the time came, the baulking continued as the government informed the Senate that it did not have a response.
Senator Faruqi, an environmental engineer before entering parliament, said the government was cruelly leaving communities, including Williamtown, in limbo.
"Nine months on from the release of the recommendations, it's a disgrace the government has nothing to say to those impacted by PFAS contamination," she said.
"Ultimately, PFAS contamination is the government's responsibility.
"It's time they acted like it."
Last December, the Newcastle Herald described the compensation call as a "shock departure" from government policy, given the report was delivered by a Queensland Liberal MP Andrew Laming, who described some of the impacts of the contamination as "graphic" and "horrifying".
In an emotional speech in parliament, Mr Laming said no family should be trapped on contaminated land.
"These communities are hurt, they're angered," he said.
"The delays and inadequacies in finding justice have done enormous damage to those living there and their families."
But the delays are set to continue as the government refused to bow to pressure from the Senate and respond to the inquiry conducted by eight Labor, three Liberal and one Greens MP.
While the recommendations had the bipartisan support of all MPs sitting on the inquiry, it remains unclear whether they will be supported by the Morrison government.
A spokesperson for the Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction and Environmental Management Trevor Evans said on Tuesday afternoon that PFAS contamination was a "complex issue".
"It requires an effective, evidence-based, nationally consistent response," he said.
"The Government is carefully considering the recommendations of the parliamentary inquiry into the management of PFAS contamination in and around Defence bases, and will respond as soon as possible."
The Newcastle Herald revealed in July that Mr Laming was removed from his position as head of the government's PFAS sub-committee after controversially reporting findings in support of residents, at odds with the government.
The inquiry's recommendations stopped short of calling for compensation for health effects from PFAS exposure, but called on authorities to "acknowledge the potential links to certain medical conditions".
It recommended the government compensate people whose property values have been devastated by firefighting foam contamination, to ban the toxins and to appoint a coordinator-general to take over the handling of the controversy.
Coalition Against PFAS president Lindsay Clout, who lives on one of the affected properties in Williamtown's red zone, said community members had heard conflicting advice about the government's response to the inquiry findings.
"We were advised that a response has been prepared by the PFAS taskforce, but it is not ready for release," he said.
"There has been no hint at all as to why they haven't acted on the recommendations."
News of the government's continued stalling comes as Williamtown residents were given a court date for their class action lawsuit against the Department of Defence for the contamination.
Mediation for the matter has been scheduled for December before a Federal Court of Australia hearing begins on April 1 next year.
Senator Faruqi said she would continue to pressure the government to respond.
"PFAS contamination is an extremely serious issue affecting thousands across the country," she said.
"This contamination has caused significant mental, emotional and financial stress and anxiety for people and it is simply not fair.
"The government must stop stringing affected communities along and show them the respect they deserve. The government has a month to get their act together."
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