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Local News

Defence PFAS compensation claims don’t add up

The Coalition Against PFAS (CAP) has said the Department of Defence has continued its, “deny, deflect and distract” strategy in regards to PFAS contamination, this time refusing to give a straight answer on potential compensation for those in affected areas.

The Department of Defence's Steve Grzeskowiak this month told a Senate estimates hearing “no amount” of money had been set aside to compensate communities whose land, homes and businesses have been polluted by toxic firefighting foams leaking off Defence sites.

Pushed about contingencies for one of the largest ever class actions taken against the Federal Government by residents in Williamtown, Oakey and Katherine, Mr Grzeskowiak claimed it was an, “unquantifiable contingent liability.”

“I'm not aware of a figure that may have been allocated,” he told the Senate committee.

CAP said that given the class action is about to be heard in the Federal Court of Australia in August, it almost defies belief that the Department of Defence would not be able to provide a figure set aside for compensation let alone claim that they haven’t budgeted for any whatsoever.

After much delay, Defence has spent the past few months filing their evidence in the class actions to quantify the very thing that Mr Grzeskowiak now says is “unquantifiable”.

All that the public has learnt in the last three months is that Defence has:

  • budgeted up to $50 million in legal fees to drag this matter all the way through a long and expensive trial.
  • is paying an average $120,000 salary per person for over 40 consultants to look at a problem they denied even existed five years ago but stares residents in the face daily.
  • is facing over 1000 separate claimants in the class actions but has only managed to settle one claim in four years outside of those class actions by using a separate confidential “scheme” administered by the, “the whole of government through the Attorney-General's Department”. .

For four years Defence has paid little more than lip-service to polluted communities. Now it’s choosing to do so to the rest of Australia refusing to give a clear answer on when those communities affected will receive compensation for the mess that Defence has caused according to CAP.

The Department of Defence has been contacted for comment.

By Michelle Price