A Northern Territory mayor whose community is facing the same PFAS contamination disaster as Williamtown said she still has faith in the federal government’s parliamentary inquiry into the issue, despite receiving an abusive tirade from one of its ministers.
Katherine Mayor Fay Miller said she hadn’t been deterred by Minister for Health Greg Hunt’s “misogynistic” verbal attack last December, which he apologised for on Wednesday.
“I don’t think it’s put a dampener on the inquiry at all, that was a personal matter between he and I and about what should be happening in Katherine,” Ms Miller told the Herald.
“I’m not carrying it on. I achieved what I wanted to.”
Ms Miller had been speaking with Mr Hunt in Canberra about the money for blood testing and psychologist services allocated to her town, which is close to the Tindal RAAF Base.
She suggested if 6000 residents agreed to testing, additional funding may be needed for the psychological services.
“He told me I needed to speak to Senator [Nigel] Scullion and I said that he comes to Katherine but I don’t see him,” she said.
“That’s when he turned on a switch and told me ‘You should f***ing get over it and make Senator Scullion your best friend’.
“He said ‘I’ve heard about you, you’re fiesty’.
“I had not moved or flinched, I just stared at him.
“I was not going to lower my standards... there was a lot of misogyny.”
Ms Miller wrote to Mr Hunt’s office twice as well as the Prime Minister’s office seeking an apology.
He called on Wednesday, after being contacted by media.
“I have not said I accept it, but I did say thank you,” she said.
“I’m probably not the only person he’s done this to. Hopefully I’ve done a favour to other people not able to speak out.”
Ms Miller said she had only “good interactions” with other political colleagues about the issue.
The Joint Standing Committee of Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade announced on Wednesday it would inquire into and report on the management of contamination in and around defence bases.
It will cover the response of the Commonwealth government and its co-ordination with state governments and other groups.
Ms Miller said she and her town “welcomed” the inquiry, but that it should have started earlier.
“I’m hoping it will bring peace of mind to people about health and the value of their properties,” she said.
“A lot of people feel they’re not getting the right information and things have been hidden from them… they don’t understand it all and they’re frightened.”
She said results from 200 blood tests showed high levels of an “additional carcinogenic”, particularly in children and families on bore water.