Parliamentary inquiry launched as PM Malcolm Turnbull faces mounting calls for buyout in Williamtown red zone

CALLING TIME: Shadow assistant Defence Minister Gai Brodtmann has called on the Turnbull government to produce its 'solution' for Williamtown. Picture: Marina Neil
CALLING TIME: Shadow assistant Defence Minister Gai Brodtmann has called on the Turnbull government to produce its 'solution' for Williamtown. Picture: Marina Neil

A PARLIAMENTARY inquiry will be held into the federal government’s handling of the firefighting contamination disaster sweeping Defence sites across the country. 

As part of the broad-brush inquiry, the Turnbull government will be asked to explain what financial compensation has been considered for people who have entered their third year stranded on worthless, toxic properties at Williamtown.  

The inquiry – ordered by Labor – will also examine the adequacy of health advice, environmental legislation, remediation measures, blood testing regimes, the extent of the contamination in and around bases and the response of government agencies. 

The news comes just days after Williamtown residents were forced to plead for an escape from the red zone, during a public meeting to release one of the final Defence reports on the per- and poly-fluoroalkyl [PFAS] chemicals. 

“We haven’t heard hide nor hair of the PFAS Taskforce since it was set up at the beginning of the year,” shadow assistant Defence Minister Gai Brodtmann said in a statement. 

“And the Turnbull government’s promised ‘solution’, announced in May, has yet to materialise. 

“Communities are uncertain about their futures, confused by mixed messages and deeply distressed.” 

The Joint Standing Committee of Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade will be required to report back by June 20, 2018. 

Multiple parties have ratcheted up pressure on the Coalition for a voluntary buyout, with One Nation senator Brian Burston using question time on Thursday to grill Defence Minister Marise Payne over the issue. 

Senator Payne defended the delay in responding to the crisis, saying the PFAS taskforce was still considering its options. 

“It is important the government is responsive to meeting the differing needs of each community but also is nationally consistent in its approach,” she said. 

“Defence, most importantly, stands ready to do what ever is asked of it by government.” 

“I might say that’s not much,” Senator Burston retorted, adding that at the least, a fund could be established providing financial relief similar to that offered to victims of natural disasters.  

Senator Payne agreed to raise Senator Burston’s suggestion with the taskforce.