Labor calls for an extension of Williamtown assistance

Federal Labor welcomes the Government’s financial assistance package for individuals and businesses that have been impacted by the closure of fishing in Fullerton Cove and Tilligerry Creek near Williamtown in Newcastle - as an initial measure.

The fisheries are closed until at least 30 June next year as a health precaution, following contamination of soil and water from legacy fire-fighting foams used at RAAF Base Williamtown.

The Government’s assistance package gives commercial fishers access to Business Assistance Payments up to $25,000 and income support of $523 per fortnight.

The financial assistance has been welcomed as a first step by local fishers in Williamtown, but many in the community feel the package does not go far enough.

“A lot of people will go under by the end of the eight month ban if this is all they can offer.”

Local fisherman, Jason Hewitt, 5 November 2015

While yesterday’s announcement of a financial assistance package is welcome – it is clear more needs to be done.

Labor calls on the Government to extend the assistance available to all affected businesses and families and to formulate a fairer compensation package to adequately address the needs of those who have not had the capacity to earn an income through no fault of their own.

The obvious health concerns of residents and workers, property valuations and the environmental impacts of the contamination must also be considered.

This is a very complex financial, health and environmental issue that will be ongoing.

Labor first raised the matter of financial assistance with the Minister for Defence in September when the news of the contamination broke and has since raised specific cases of need with the Minister on a number of occasions.

We will continue to advocate for the Williamtown and surrounding community.

Labor is also seeking an assurance from the Minister for Defence that the Government will provide regular updates on the progress of the environmental investigation into the full extent of the contamination and any remediation works.

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