AS the latest report on the risks and remediation options around per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) arrived on Monday, residents living with the issue every day could be forgiven a sense of deja vu.
There is certainly value in having inquiries, hearings and reports into matters of grave seriousness with the widespread ramifications of PFAS. But what has been missing and desired by residents in this case has long been action.
The parliamentary inquiry’s nine recommendations will be welcome, particularly that urging to “assist property owners and businesses in affected areas for demonstrated, quantifiable financial losses associated with PFAS contamination”.
That proposal will be endorsed heartily by residents who have lived in limbo over their health and finances for more than three years. If the recommendation is adopted, the details and dollar figures of compensation will also be crucial. But that is no fait accompli, with another roadblock looming large between residents and compensation.
A May footnote in the goverment’s $73 million task force plan stated it would not buy out landholders. While we now have a new Prime Minister, there was little indication that this position had changed beyond Liberal MP and inquiry chair Andrew Laming’s comments on Monday.
It is not the first time Liberals have called for compensation despite the federal party’s inaction on that front. A NSW submission revealed in July called on the Turnbull government to shell out. The government defended its record.
The legacy of this inquiry will hinge on whether it can deliver the one and only thing residents have asked for throughout this process: action from the government that purports to represent them.
If the government fails to understand the gravity this situation exerts on actual lives in the Hunter and beyond, it is an indictment on how poorly they have listened to residents who have refused to stay silent.
"What is most appalling is that once again, communities like Williamtown around Australia have been left with no answers,” a spokesman for the suburb’s class action steering committee said in May.
Three years in and with a parliamentary inquiry done, it is imperative the government delivers residents firm answers soon. Without them, the pain simply goes on.