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Wednesday, 17 June 2009
Page: 6451


Mr NEUMANN (5:03 PM) —I want to ask the minister a question in relation to the deseal-reseal program. For decades we had RAAF personnel exposed to a range of chemicals and solvents when replacing sealants in fuel tanks in the F111s. About 700 RAAF personnel, as were a number of other civilians, were exposed to chemicals and solvents. Many of those people live in my electorate and many live in South-East Queensland. Before I was elected and since I have been elected I have attended the support group which has arisen as a result of concern that people have become ill or died or been injured as a result of exposure. People’s families—their wives, their partners, their children—have also become ill as a result. It is a very serious matter in my electorate. There has been much media and community comment in relation to it. In 2007, when the shadow minister came to Ipswich in my electorate, he announced that there would be a parliamentary inquiry should the Labor Party win government in November 2007.

I thank the minister for initiating that parliamentary inquiry. I understand that the Hon. Arch Bevis, the member for Brisbane, is chairing the inquiry. The terms of reference of course relate to the previous government’s response, particularly to the eligibility of people who received ex gratia payments. I will be honest here: the payments seem to be quite arbitrary. They relate to duration of exposure. Also, they do not seem to be in any way involved in providing genuine compensation to those personnel. I think they were given by the previous government to simply shut these people up.

I applaud the minister for making the terms of reference of the inquiry so wide that they look at not just the previous government’s response to eligibility and compensation but also whether the response was consistent with what is known as SHOAMP—the Study of Health Outcomes in Aircraft Maintenance Personnel. This is an extremely serious issue for my constituents. I would like to know where we are up to in terms of the government’s response. Where is the parliamentary inquiry up to? And when can my constituents and those people in South-East Queensland who are concerned about this issue expect a response?