Defence Minister Marise Payne heard stories from Williamtown so harrowing you would think you were in a “third world country”.
That was according to Lindsay Clout, one of around 20 residents selected to meet with her on Wednesday.
“This is Australia and look at what we’re doing, we’re betraying people,” he said. “The question was put to them, how many more babies have to be born with high levels in their blood before someone takes some action?”
He didn’t accept Senator McGrath’s comments about the health effects of the chemicals, saying there was “ample” evidence from overseas they caused problems.
That view was shared by Paterson MP Meryl Swanson, who helped host the meeting. She described it as a win for residents but said it had to be followed by meaningful action.
Ms Swanson said above all else, residents wanted to be given choice over whether they stayed in Williamtown.
“It must happen,” she said. “If they let us down, all bets are off.”
But Kim Smith from the Salt Ash Residents Action Group said that 20 months since the scandal was made public, the lack of action by the government spoke louder than any words.
“While the affected community welcomes the visit by Minister Payne and Senator McGrath, we do hope it helps them understand the extent of the damage the Defence Department has caused,” she said.
“We want to send a clear message that Defence has caused this mess, and Defence now has to start taking real responsibility for clearing it up.”