Letter to the Editor of the Newcastle Herald
1 June 2017
Dear Mr Harrison,
I am writing with reference to the article published in the Newcastle Herald on 1 June 2017 titled "Taskforce secrecy ‘absurd’" that provides misleading information to the local community.
The article incorrectly states sub-contractors who worked at RAAF Base Williamtown are being denied free blood tests, which could leave readers with the understanding former civilian workers at RAAF Base Williamtown are not eligible for these tests.
From 30 November 2016, the Australian Government commenced funding a voluntary PFAS blood test for those people who live or work, or have lived or worked, in the investigation areas of Williamtown, which includes working on the RAAF Base, and Oakey. This includes people currently living elsewhere who previously lived or worked at these places.
This was confirmed by Minister Payne during Senate Budget Estimates on 29 May 2017.
The Voluntary Blood Testing Program for PFAS is being run by the Commonwealth Department of Health and not the Department of Defence. The Australian Government is also funding a pre- and post-blood test consultation with a general practitioner, to ensure people are fully informed on what the test results mean for them.
To clarify for your readers, a PFAS Taskforce was established in December 2016 within the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. The Taskforce’s role is to coordinate a whole of Commonwealth government response to PFAS contamination at Commonwealth owned sites and to ensure affected communities are appropriately supported. Importantly, the Taskforce is working with state and territory governments to ensure a consistent approach to managing the health, environmental, agricultural and community impacts of PFAS contamination.
Defence, including at senior officials level, is working closely with the Taskforce, the Department of Health and other relevant Australian and NSW Government agencies to support the Williamtown community and ensure they are receiving the most relevant and up-to-date information regarding PFAS.
Steve Grzeskowiak Deputy Secretary Estate and Infrastructure