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Foreign aid or Australian aid?

This is an issue that carries my deepest commitment. I have written about it many times but today I am motivated by anger at news that our Government is showing more concern about the people of foreign countries than our own. The Government will disgracefully spend $53 million on legal fees to avoid and deny compensation to Williamtown residents.

Australia sends around $4,000 million of its taxpayer dollars to foreign countries. We urgently need funding in Williamtown NSW to buy existing homes and relocate residents to safe living areas.

This is one of my priority projects.

The RAAF base in Williamtown, have for years seriously contaminated soil with their toxic firefighting foam.

Around 750 homes near the RAAF base are affected by this very serious health risk that according to a recent U.S. Government report can cause immune dysfunction, hormonal interference and certain types of cancer in humans. This is an alarming situation for local residents and their families, and no doubt also for RAAF personnel. The best remediation in the immediate future is relocation of residents.

A senior Defence Official is today quoted in theherald.com.au saying that no money has been budgeted to compensate residents whose land, homes and businesses have been polluted by the toxic PFAS chemical that have leached into the upper ground soil and water table in the district.

It is alleged that the RAAF has known about the leaking of this known contaminant for years. The RAAF is a government department and therefore blame and responsibility must be accepted by the Government. However, although class actions are underway for compensation, no compensation is being offered and instead the Government has set aside $53 million to meet legal costs to dodge its responsibility.

A quick check of the property website realestate.com.au shows some million-dollar homes in Williamtown, but with the majority being for sale at $200,000 or less. If we divide as a rough guide the $53 million allocated to lawyers by $200,000 we could buy 265 HOMES. All of the 750 affected homes and businesses could likely be purchased by the Government for around $200 million. Should not the criteria adopted by the Government be to redirect money from the foreign aid budget and relocate Australians to safer places?

Surely the government department which was designed to protect us, the Department of Defence, has an obligation to protect Australians.

Listening to the individual stories of the PFAS contamination victims is difficult, but I know that what is tougher is what these innocent locals who fear for their families and pets have been through – these people have been forced to endure frustrating denials and threats of a never ending and stressful problem caused by Labor and Liberal governments who would prefer to pay lawyers to fight these families rather than compensate them.

Many of you who have been following my social media posts, know that one of my goals after becoming a Senator was to fight for compensation for PFAS victims. A class action has been launched and we discover that the government’s Defence Department has budgeted $53 million to fight these residents. A Government fighting against its own people??

Imagine your neighbour, using chemicals that leak onto your property, completely destroying it so that you cannot use it to grow a garden and due to the health threat, you and your family are forced to move out.

The Department of Defence is at fault to the people of Williamstown and to 90 other communities throughout Australia. Their response is to fight against you with $53 million of taxpayer dollars. It is disgraceful.

As a Senator for NSW I pledge my continuing support to deliver justice for the people of Williamtown. This is exactly the type of project Australians expect their M.P’s and Senators to fight for on their behalf. Clearly our current Government members have dropped the ball on this issue.

If your neighbour did this, you could take your case to a court and win, receiving compensation. However, when that neighbour is the Department of Defence, with a $53 million legal budget, going to court is a David and Goliath battle against heavily resourced opponents. No matter how many people join a class action, a community of people cannot compete against this, nor should they have to.