A new parliamentary inquiry has been launched to examine the government’s management of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination in and around Defence bases.
The inquiry will be conducted by the PFAS sub-committee of Parliament’s joint standing committee on foreign affairs, defence and trade, which is chaired by Andrew Laming.
Laming said the inquiry will examine the progress of the Commonwealth government’s response to and management of PFAS contamination and will build on previous parliamentary inquiries into this issue in light of recent developments, including the establishment of the whole-of-government PFAS Taskforce and report by the Expert Health Panel for PFAS.
"The committee shares the concerns of affected communities about the impact of PFAS contamination in and around Defence bases," Laming said.
"We recognise this is a complex issue requiring responses from Commonwealth, state and territory and local governments. This inquiry will examine how the Commonwealth is managing and co-ordinating these responses to ensure the best outcomes for those communities affected by PFAS contamination."
The announcement of the hearing comes as Defence officials confirmed to Senate estimates that the federal government is facing 35 compensation claims from families affected by contamination from air force bases.
The officials confirmed 33 cases are being negotiated out of court, while the other two are lawsuits.
The government allocated $55 million in this year's budget to a drinking water program for property owners surrounding Defence bases at Williamotwn in NSW, Tindal in the Northern Territory, Pearce in Western Australia and Oakey in Queensland. The money, which is yet to be divided up among the four locations, will go towards installing water tanks, connections to town water supplies and water use fees for several years.
The PFAS sub-committee invites submissions from anyone with an interest in the issues raised by the terms of reference, which are available on the committee’s website. Submissions addressing the terms of reference should be lodged by 6 July 2018.