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Thursday, 10 May 2018
Page: 3765

Ms SWANSON (Paterson) (10:06): I stand here today to register on the parliamentary record my utter disgust with the Turnbull government's continued treatment of my constituents trapped in a toxic PFAS plume emanating from RAAF Base Williamtown. I'm here to ensure that Hansard records my reaction to the long-awaited Expert Health Panel for PFAS report that was delivered to Health Minister Hunt. I wish this House to note that I am angered at the timing of the report's release and the method of its release. And I am gravely concerned by the content of the report itself.

The government chose to release this 400-plus-page report on the eve of the federal budget—a full two months late—by sending it live to an obscure website. The minister did not stand up to take questions. It was an abomination.

The expert panel's report summary does nothing to answer the questions or allay the fears of my constituents in Williamtown, Fullerton Cove or Salt Ash. In fact, it inflames their distrust. At the top of page 1, the summary advises:

… important health effects for individuals exposed to PFAS cannot be ruled out based on the current evidence.

Later it states:

… evidence does not support any specific biochemical or disease screening, or health interventions, for highly exposed groups (except for research purposes).

Yet, this very report says:

The main concerning signal for life-threatening human disease is an association with an increased risk of two uncommon cancers (testicular and kidney).

This echoes investigative journalism by the Newcastle Heraldwhichrevealed a 50-person cancer cluster along a four-kilometre stretch of rural road at the heart of the PFAS plume. The expert panel's assessment itself acknowledged that there is a relationship between PFAS exposure and some indicators of immune response.

This demands an exhaustive study of any relationship between immune dysfunction and cancer. The generations of families who have been struck down with obscure, environmentally-induced malignant conditions demand this. Walkley-Award-winning investigative journalism demands it. The Turnbull and Berejiklian governments must exhaustively explore this evidence. The Department of Defence must be called to account for the damage it has caused. (Time expired)