Where is the Government's response on PFAS?

18 November 2019

THE SENATEPROOF DOCUMENTS Defence Facilities: Chemical Contamination Order for the Production of Documents SPEECH

I rise to again condemn this government on its slow response to an inquiry on something that has impacted so many Australians across this country. In particular, the inquiry went to the affected places in the Northern Territory, Queensland and New South Wales. To all those families out there who are still waiting for a respectful responsewell, it's too late, isn't it, Madam Deputy President? It was actually in December 2017 when we stood in this chamber to agree to a subcommittee. We are coming up to December 2019. It is not good enough for our parliament to not respond to the hundreds of families and all of those who gave evidence. They demand respect from this parliament. People are devastated and people are hurting, and we cannot even give a response, because the government has not even considered it.

In the short time that I have, I'd like to remind senators of what we reported on, as deputy chair of the PFAS subcommittee, with the chair, Mr Andrew Laming MP. Our report contained significant recommendations, with a focus on improving the government's response to this issue, particularly in relation to the concerns of the affected communities that I have mentioned. The committee recommended that a coordinator-general be appointed with the authority and resources necessary to more effectively coordinate the whole-of-Commonwealth-government effort in respect of PFAS contamination and to ensure a clear and consistent approach to community consultations and cooperation with state, territory and local governments. The committee also made recommendations to improve the voluntary blood testing program as a source of longitudinal information on the long-term health effects of PFAS exposure and the effectiveness of measures to break PFAS exposure pathways. In many instances, property owners in the PFAS-contaminated areasand we know where they are across this country, and I certainly know where they are in the Northern Territoryhave suffered demonstrable and quantifiable financial losses, and the committee recommended compensation. It isn't difficult to respond to those recommendations. It is not good enough that, two years from when we began the subcommittee PFAS inquiry into these concerns across the country, the government still has not responded.