Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen labels Williamtown senate motion a political 'stunt' during visit to Maitland

Chris Bowen in Maitland on Thursday. Picture: Lachlan Leeming
Chris Bowen in Maitland on Thursday. Picture: Lachlan Leeming

SHADOW TREASURER Chris Bowen has scoffed at a failed senate motion calling for property buy-backs in Williamtown’s contamination red zone, describing the exercise as a “headline-seeking stunt” by his political rivals. 

But the Labor heavyweight would not clarify his party’s position on compensation or buy-backs for affected residents during a visit to the Hunter on Thursday, saying only that it was looking closely at the issue. 

“Look, as I said I’m not here to make a policy announcement today, we don't have access to the resources of government and the advice, other than to say I think this is a very, very real issue, people have legitimate concerns,” Mr Bowen said. 

Mr Bowen said the opposition was prepared to wait to see the Coalition’s plan for dealing with the crisis and would then “respond accordingly”. 

“If the result isn’t satisfactory then of course we’ll consider the matter further, but I very much understand the issue … all our relevant shadows, the defence portfolio, the economic portfolios are completely across the issues involved,” he said. 

In September, there was outcry after Labor voted against a senate motion which called on the Turnbull government to initiate the process of a voluntary buy-out for properties that have been rendered worthless by the contamination. 

The motion was put by Greens senator Lee Rhiannon and found support among One Nation senators and independent Nick Xenophon. 

But Mr Bowen argued that supporting the motion would have achieved nothing for residents. He also praised the advocacy of Williamtown’s local member, Paterson MP Meryl Swanson. 

“This community can be very pleased that a member of the calibre and substance of Meryl Swanson is dealing with the issue and not engaging in headline-seeking stunts that would be so easy on this matter,” he said. 

“She has been in my office, in the office of my senior colleagues, very much strongly bringing this to our attention and making the case for action.”