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Monday, 3 December 2018
Page: 12195


Mr SNOWDON (Lingiari) (12:49): by leave—I thank the member for Bowman—not something I often do—and Senator McCarthy for their leadership in this PFAS contamination inquiry. I thank all those who have participated. I also acknowledge the member for Canberra, who has been part of the discussion inside the Labor Party around these issues since the onset of the PFAS debate. I speak here as the member for Lingiari. Lingiari has the Katherine Air Force base in it. The Katherine community have suffered dreadfully as a result of the PFAS contamination.

I think it's important that I acknowledge here that the RAAF personnel on the ground have been extraordinarily good in working with the local communities wherever they are. I know the Tindal CO has been really fantastic in communicating and working with the community. Defence has a huge role in this, as we all know. I note that there's a bit of obfuscation about who wears what responsibility, but let's be very clear about it: Defence have primary responsibility. I want to acknowledge Steve Grzeskowiak, who the member for Bowman mentioned, for his preparedness to work with communities and to explain what he doesn't know as well as what he does know. He's been very open and honest about saying to people: 'We don't know the answer to your question. We just simply don't know.' The member for Bowman made a point about the lack of knowledge around the long-term impacts of PFAS and PFOS.

People who have identified that their property value has fallen through the floor are extremely frustrated. They've seen produce they have grown be affected by these chemicals. That has had an impact on their families. Those of us who have had the great fortune of working with these people and talking with them can identify and empathise with their concerns, but ultimately we—that is, the parliament and the government—have to come up with some solutions to their issues. I note the comments made in the report about whether there should be some process for compensation. I note also that there's further work to be done in this space.

We need to assure people that we will make sure that their water supply is clean and safe. I commend the government for the work they have done on the Katherine water supply, but, nevertheless, we have a real problem with the aquifer and people using water from the aquifer. We have learnt that we didn't know a lot. We are learning a great deal more each time they sink a well in the ground. They can understand what the impact has been. They said that north of the Katherine River this wouldn't be an issue. Well, it turns out it is an issue.

The member for Bowman spoke about blood tests. There were real issues in getting people access to blood tests in the first place. It is important that people understand the impact of this on them and, if they have queries, we try to have them addressed. Those of us who have had an interest in this know that the science is yet to be determined on a great deal of this, as the member for Bowman has said, but people's concerns need to be allayed.

I go back to this report and thank all the members of the committee for their diligence and application, particularly my friend Senator McCarthy, who co-chaired the committee with the member for Bowman. This work has been very important for this parliament. Whilst I acknowledge that other members of the government weren't involved, I do thank the member for Bowman for his participation, diligence and application in coming to a conclusion. If the government is prepared to pick up the recommendations, work with them and respond quickly to the parliament then people will feel a damn sight happier than they do today.