Turnbull government fails to respond to Senate motion calling for answers on Williamtown compensation

Greens senator Lee Rhiannon was behind the motion, to begin the process of buybacks for residents in the 'red zone'.
Greens senator Lee Rhiannon was behind the motion, to begin the process of buybacks for residents in the 'red zone'.

It appears the Turnbull government has failed to respond to a Senate motion on the Williamtown contamination crisis, crushing the hopes of residents desperate for an answer on compensation and property buy-backs. 

At the time the Newcastle Herald went to print on Monday night, none of the Coalition’s senators had addressed the matter in the chamber, despite being given a February 5 deadline to respond.  

Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon – who pushed the motion through with the support of Labor last year – was infuriated by the silence, labelling it “deeply insulting” to Williamtown residents. 

“This is a ruthless, uncaring response from an out-of-touch government,” said Senator Rhiannon.

“Considering how long this has dragged on for and even longer that Defence knew about the dangers ... I think it’s got to the point that the Coalition is not worthy of government.”

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The Member for Paterson, Meryl Swanson, said the missed deadline made it “patently clear” that the federal government was not willing to do anything to hold Defence to account for the contamination. 

“It’s a sign of utter disdain for the people of Williamtown who have suffered so much through no fault of their own,” she said. 

“This silence is not just arrogant. It’s hurtful.” 

The motion demanded that the government explain “what consideration has been given to understanding and addressing any financial impacts on affected businesses and individuals”.

It also called for urgent action to stop the continued contamination around the RAAF base and to improve both blood and environmental testing regimes. 

It’s understood a written response could also be tabled by the Coalition, but sources said none had been received late on Monday. 

Residents were left reeling by the developments on Monday night. 

“It’s disgusting,” said Lindsay Clout of the Fullerton Cove Residents Action Group. “It’s a kick in the guts when morale is so low.”

Last May, the head of the federal government’s taskforce on the contamination, Senator James McGrath, visited Williamtown with Defence Minister Marise Payne. 

At the time, he promised that he was working on a “solution” to the crisis.

Rhianna Gorfine from the Williamtown and Surrounds Residents Action Group expressed disbelief that eight months later, the plan had yet to materialise. 

“Their lack of action has destroyed any hope we had left,” she said. 

“The leadership shown here by the Prime Minister wouldn’t make the cut for an under fives soccer team,” added Nick Marshall, the president of Salt Ash Community First. 

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