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Williamtown contamination recommendations - pressure on Turnbull Government for quick action

Media Release
Lee Rhiannon 4 Feb 2016

Greens NSW Senator Lee Rhiannon, who initiated the Williamtown contamination inquiry, has called on the Turnbull government to quickly act on all the recommendations including compensation, buy outs and health testing.

"Now the spotlight is on Defence Department's failure to quickly and responsibly deal with the contamination in and around Williamtown RAAF Base Defence Minister Marise Payne should move to immediately implement all recommendations," Senator Rhiannon said.

"The federal government needs to do the right thing by Williamtown residents. There should be no more delays and buck passing.

"The key recommendations include -
· The federal government voluntarily acquire contaminated property and land.
· Compensation for commercial fishers and where necessary an industry transition program.
· New water infrastructure as required to ensure all residents have access to uncontaminated water.
· Mental health and counselling services for all those affected.
· Establish a joint taskforce to coordinate the response of all government agencies.
· Defence to fund annual blood tests for residents in the investigation area.

"The Greens recommendations have also been included in the report. They include -
· Voluntarily acquire properties that have been significantly devalued due to perception of reduced real estate value linked to the contamination issue.
· Compensation to be offered to those who have suffered loss of income, business damage, property devaluation, medical and health costs, and any other associated costs.
· All development at the Williamtown RAAF Base to be suspended until the contamination is removed.
· Defence to immediately take steps to contain contamination in Lake Cochrane and report on broader remediation strategies within six months.

"One of the shocking aspects of this scandal is that the Defence Department had been aware of the dangers of the firefighting chemicals for many years, but residents were not informed until September 2015.

"Many base workers, residents and businesses are still in the dark about the impact the contamination is having. Now the government has a clear set of recommendations to rectify its past mistakes it should act immediately.

"I will take up the Defence Department's planned response at next week's Senate Estimate hearings when senior staff can be questioned," Senator Rhiannon said.

Deputy Lord Mayor of Newcastle, Greens Councillor Michael Osborne said: "The stress of the uncertainty and lack of assistance from the Defence Department has taken a significant toll on residents surrounding the base.

"The tenacity and courage so many residents have shown in documenting the contamination on their lives when the Defence Department failed to act has provided invaluable information to the inquiry.

"Senator Rhiannon and I extend the strongest thanks to the many residents impacted by the contamination who have organised and spoken out.

"This inquiry report is the start of a solution, but we now need immediate compensation to provide relief to residents struggling from loss of income, business and medical costs," Councillor Osborne said.

Freya Newman for Lee Rhiannon- 0411669022
Michael Osborne- 0439442984


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