Subjects: PFAS, Religious Freedoms
GARY ADSHEAD: Yeah. We're going
to play off straight into it because the Attorney-General Christian Porter, the
Member for Pearce, has joined me in the studio. Good morning, Christian.
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Gary, good to be
GARY ADSHEAD: Good. I saw you
yesterday, I was out at - near RAAF Pearce where this issue about the fire foam
suppressants rages on and people without water for three years nearly, drinking
bottled water. They want mains water, they want scheme water - can you deliver?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well, I think that
that's ultimately what we would want to provide. Obviously scheme water is
something State Governments do, but in this case the Commonwealth should make a
fair contribution to that. But there's 154 properties out there, Gary, and last
night's meeting was the first time that we've had all of the results of all of
the testing in so we could see it side by side.
There are 26
properties that had measurable levels of what's known as PFAS - so that was
used in the fire-fighting foam on the Pearce Airbase; 11 of those 26 had levels
above the health base guidelines. All those properties have been supplied,
since this problem arose, with bottled water. The immediate proposed solution
is a quite sophisticated filtration system on all the bores for those affected
properties. But yeah, ultimately we'd like to get the scheme water there, but
we're talking about 154 households where it's only tested as positive on 26, so
I think there's got to be some kind of fair and balanced pro-rata contribution.
GARY ADSHEAD: How much do you
want out of the state, then?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well, I think
that's just something…
GARY ADSHEAD: ….about half and
half? Is it half and half?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: …well I don't, I
think we need to talk about that basically, but each side should pay their fair
contribution to bringing scheme water out. I mean, it's desirable that scheme
water goes out there in any event, as it is in other suburbs, like where I live
where there's no scheme water. So we want to make a fair contribution to that,
so that's certainly the argument I'll be putting in the Commonwealth
Government. But 154 households, 26 affected.
The other thing we
spoke about last night was that there's also an issue here about property
values, and clearly there's been some kind of effect out there. And as
Attorney-General, I've had a not insignificant part in putting in place what's
known as a non-litigated pathway to settlement. So, if people think that they
have lost property value or there's been other damage that should be
compensated by the Commonwealth Government they can put in a claim through a
pretty simple online process with the Defence Department and there's no need to
go to litigation.
GARY ADSHEAD: Yeah, because that
is an issue, because people sort of say well now there's a stink around my
house, no pun intended or anything like that, but just no - a stink about the
house, can I sell it? Is that going to be a problem going forward?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Yeah. Well, I mean,
I think it's a clear problem and what you've got is you've got testable levels
of this chemical on one property because the way that the ground water has
flowed there's been a contamination on one property, no contamination at or
near the surrounding properties, but obviously there's an argument that value's
So there is a
pathway there for compensation that we've put in place which is low-hurdle,
doesn't require litigation, should be fair and simple and relatively fast as
these things go. So look, we understand the problems, the Commonwealth
Government, and this is a problem. This fire-fighting foam and PFAS, it was in
polystyrene cups, it's been used on every airport, every air force base, every
fire-fighting station in Australia for decades. So, this is a part of a much
broader problem that exists at local and state and Commonwealth Government
levels and we've got to cooperate to sort it out.
GARY ADSHEAD: Just quickly, I
don't know about you but I never talk about religion at dinner parties, but you
are right in the middle of it in terms of the Religious Protection Bill that's
been put forward. How are you coping? Are you really being torn apart by your
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: No. That's a
massive over-exaggeration. The best way to avoid it is just don't go to dinner
parties, Gary. It's what I do - no sport, politics or religion. But look,
almost all of the states and territories in Australia have variations of
discrimination law, right. The Equal Opportunities Act in WA - and they protect
people from discrimination based on certain attributes - a disability, their
sex or sexual orientation, their age.
Almost all the
states and territories already add to that list religion, and the Commonwealth
hasn't taken that step yet. All we're proposing is that at the Commonwealth
level where we have a Bill, an Act of Parliament that prevents people being
discriminated against because of their age or because they have a disability or
because of their gender or sexual orientation, that you should add to that list
the fact that they are a person of faith and that they're a religious person.
And it's pretty
simple stuff, ultimately. There are some complications in drafting and we're
going through a long consultation process. But this is not an unusual thing in
Australian law and the principle is this: no one should ever be able to prevent
you from, within the bounds of reason, joining a club or entering a public
premises because of your age, or your sex or your race - why shouldn't we have
a law that says the same thing about your religion? That's simply what we're
trying to achieve here. There are some complexities in drafting but we're
working through it.
GARY ADSHEAD: Alright, well short
and sweet today, Christian, but I do appreciate you coming in and making the
time. And obviously you'll be back with Gareth in no time. So I do appreciate
it, thanks very much for that.
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Pleasure. Well,
you're doing a good job. I hope Gareth doesn't stay away too long [indistinct].
GARY ADSHEAD: You're not supposed
to say that sort of stuff. [Laughs]