THE Federal Government says it will
THE Federal Government says it will "carefully consider" whether it would implement the recommendations made by a parliamentary inquiry into the response to PFAS contamination in and around Defence bases.

Government to 'carefully consider' PFAS recommendations

THE Federal Government says it will "carefully consider" whether it would implement the recommendations made by a parliamentary inquiry into the response to PFAS contamination in and around Defence bases. 

The Inquiry into the management of PFAS contamination in and around Defence bases handed down its report and recommended a coordinator general be appointed to take over the Federal Government's response to the contamination and landowners in contaminated areas be compensated for lost real estate value and other financial losses relating to the contamination. 

Environment Minister Melissa Price and Assistant Defence Minister David Fawcett released a joint statement on the issue.

"The Government welcomed the release of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Report on its Inquiry into management of PFAS contamination in and around Defence bases," they said.

"The Government will carefully consider the committee's recommendations and provide a coordinated Whole-of-Australian-Government response, through the PFAS Taskforce in the Department of the Environment and Energy.

"We thank the committee for this report and all of those who contributed to the committee's deliberations."

 

Environment Minister Melissa Price in Question Time. Picture: Kym Smith
Environment Minister Melissa Price welcomed the Inquiry's report.

Despite the report quoting the US Environmental Protection Agency, which says "there is evidence that exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse human health effects", the two Federal Government representatives maintained "there (was) still no consistent evidence of human health impacts".

"The Government acknowledges that communities in areas where PFAS contamination has been detected are very concerned about how this may affect them," Ms Price and Mr Fawcett said. 

"Their wellbeing is our focus and we will continue to work closely with them to provide advice and assistance as quickly as possible."

Groom MP John McVeigh said the most significant recommendation in the report was around compensation that was tailored to individual circumstances.

"This is something I have lobbied for and I note alongside a reported class-action, there are numerous negotiations under way between individual landholders and the Department of Defence," Dr McVeigh said.

Dr McVeigh also said he had been advised there was "still no consistent evidence of human health impacts", despite the report quoting sources that said otherwise.

 

John McVeigh MP back at work in Toowoomba August 2018
Groom MP John McVeigh said the most significant recommendation in the report was around compensation that was tailored to individual circumstances. Bev Lacey

"This is the latest in a series of inquiries on PFAS - in this case specifically in relation to how contamination in and around defence bases has been managed," Dr McVeigh said. 

 "I note of the nine recommendations a number focus on continuing and improving the Government's efforts in monitoring, containment, remediation and access to voluntary blood testing.

"They also refer to continuing to review latest medical advice and environmental regulations.

"I also note in relation to recommendations about financial counselling, community support services have already been put in place."

PFAS, or per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, are a group of man-made chemicals, the most common of which are perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA).

The chemicals were commonly found in firefighting foams used at aviation centres and military bases, including the Oakey Army Aviation Centre, for decades.

The chemical has been linked to a number of diseases, such as cancers, internationally, but Australia's current health advice, which the inquiry found to "be not consistent or up to date", does not currently agree with that.

Dianne Priddle and Jennifer Spencer after the PFAS Inquiry: Dianne Priddle and Jennifer Spencer explain what it was like telling their stories to the PFAS inquiry in Oakey.

Ms Price and Mr Fawcett said The Government's first priority is to support affected communities, and to reduce their exposure to PFAS.

They said they were doing this by Investigating and removing exposure pathways by providing alternative drinking water supplies and providing information about other potential exposure pathways; removing the sources of contamination by stopping the use of products containing PFAS; and preventing PFAS contamination from reaching people and water supplies, where possible, by undertaking remediation activities such as filtering or treating contaminated water.

"We are investing in closing the knowledge gaps on any potential health effects of PFAS, and developing estate remediation strategies, through funding research," they said.

"This will help us provide the best possible advice and approaches to manage PFAS contamination."