The ALP has not followed through on a key Government report which called for compensation for landowners suffering PFAS contamination.
No mention was made of compensation in the ALP's national policy on PFAS released today, on the eve of Saturday's Federal Election.
Shadow Minister for Defence Richard Marles today announced Labor's national policy framework for managing PFAS contamination around Defence bases.
Mr Marles claimed the Liberals had failed to listen or take any meaningful action to address PFAS-affected residents' concerns.
"If elected, a Shorten Labor Government would take a national approach to address the issue," he said.
"Labor will ratify the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, a global treaty adopted in 2001 to protect human health and the environment from persistent organic pollutants, including working towards banning the use of firefighting foams containing PFAS.
"We will also work to create a national PFAS inventory to identify any current stockpiles, track the use of PFAS in the phase out period, and monitor the disposal of stockpiles.
"Labor will improve the PFAS Task Force to make sure it works faster, and reports to government - and the affected communities - more often.
"Under Labor, the Task Force would publish a strategic work plan, setting out: priorities for research, including key performance indicators; assessment of the services provided to affected communities; and include timelines for activities and reporting.
"The Task Force will also prepare biannual reports for tabling in the parliament by the Minister.
"Labor will make sure the Task Force's work is informed by the very best science. We will continue the epidemiological health study underway and establish a longitudinal health study into any potential long-term health effects relating to exposure to PFAS.
"Australia's sample size for both health and remediation research is small, so Labor will also broaden our collaboration with international organisations with expertise, including the United Nations and OECD.
"Labor will make sure the priorities for research will be published as part of the PFAS Task Force's strategic plan. Only a Shorten Labor Government will adopt a national approach to PFAS which listens to communities and gets things moving."
There is already disappointment in other PFAS contaminated communities the ALP failed to follow through with key Joint Standing Committee inquiry recommendations from late last year.
The inquiry also visited Katherine to take local evidence.
The committee's deputy chair, Senator Malarndirri McCarthy was critical after their report was released the Federal Government had failed to act immediately on its recommendations.
Those recommendations included:
- The committee recommends that the Australian Government assist property owners and businesses in affected areas for demonstrated, quantifiable financial losses associated with PFAS contamination that has emanated from Defence bases. Priority for compensation, including the possibility of buy backs, should in the first instance be given to the most seriously affected residents, including:
- property owners who have suffered losses as a result of being unable to use their land for a specific purpose that it was intended for at the time of purchase;
- persons who invested in land between the time that it was known by the Australian Government to be contaminated and the time of that contamination being made public; and
- businesses and other owners of property in the most highly contaminated areas.
- The compensation scheme should be flexible enough to accommodate a variety of individual circumstances.
Acceptance of an offer for compensation in respect of their property's utility or value should not preclude the person from a future claim in relation to any human health effects that may be found, as a result of future research, to be attributable to PFAS exposure.
Lingiari MHR Warren Snowdon said: "We are aware of the current class action.
"We anticipate that if we are the government on Monday we will be model litigants.
"In the meantime we are aware there are other pathways some may access in dealing directly with Defence to get a resolution.
"I am strongly supportive of statement released today and in constant discussion with Richard Marles and our team and if we are successful there will be a lot more interaction with the Katherine community."
A Coalition Against PFAS spokesman said the Department of Defence has polluted thousands of private properties around Australia in their negligent management of toxic fire-fighting foam containing PFAS chemicals.
"Those communities cannot drink the water or eat the food off their own land," the spokesman said.
"The value of their properties has collapsed, businesses have closed and most appallingly, you can drive down roads in our communities that have over 50 documented cancer cases.
"This contamination is a disaster in slow motion. Contaminated communities were kept in the dark for decades and have worked tirelessly for over four years to bring attention to this issue.
"The solution is simple - the polluter pays.
"Not simply for cleaning up their own toxic mess, but for compensating communities to give them back their lives and economic future.
"This is what two separate Senate inquiries have instructed the Government to do, but instead $53m in public funds is being spent on funding Defence lawyers to block residents getting any redress.
"Labor's policy announced today may be well intentioned, but it is silent on the most important issue. Until there is proper and full compensation there is no proper and fair solution."
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