Chair's Foreword

Over the 46th Parliament, the PFAS Sub-Committee of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade (JSCFADT) undertook to monitor progress under the Department of Defence’s National PFAS Investigation and Management Program. This followed the JSCFADT’s inquiry last Parliament on Defence’s management of PFAS contamination in and around Defence bases, which reported in 2018.
This report is the final in a series of three reports issued by the Committee since December 2019:
The first report for the inquiry was tabled in December 2019 provided an overview of evidence from the Department of Defence and the ANU PFAS Health Study.
The second report was tabled in August 2020 and evaluated the Government‘s response to the JSCFADT’s 2018 recommendations. The Committee issued a further 9 recommendations in its second report.
This third, and final, report discusses evidence and updates received since August 2020 from Government Departments and PFAS researchers.
Through receiving updates from government agencies, the aim of inquiry was to provide an opportunity for the public, and PFAS-affected communities, to hear what is being done by Government to manage and remediate PFAS. Through this public scrutiny, it also provided an opportunity for Committee members to raise issues affecting constituents and to improve government accountability.
The Committee heard during this inquiry that residents in affected communities continue to exert great effort in seeking and understanding the latest information available on PFAS investigation and remediation efforts in their local communities. This report hopes to provide some assistance in clarifying the individual roles and responsibilities, as per evidence received from each federal government agency.
In addition to the Department of Defence, there are a range of government agencies involved in the Government’s response to PFAS contamination. Airservices Australia and DITRDC provided perspectives on PFAS remediation approaches away from Defence bases. The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment described work including the management of the website, the PFAS National Environmental Management Plan, and progress on chemical regulation. The Department of Health and Food Standards Australia New Zealand also provided an update to the Committee.
The interface between federal, state, and territory government agencies continues to be critical, and the Committee heard reflections on the collaboration between different jurisdictions.
The report also describes evidence received on the evolving research to understand the impacts of PFAS on humans, communities and the environment. The Committee also heard from those developing and operating technologies to remediate PFAS contamination. These researchers and companies described the positive progress made in these areas.
Ultimately, the Committee heard that issues affecting residents in PFAS-affected communities are far from being resolved. The Committee thanks those who have written to the inquiry, and particularly thanks the community members who have been tirelessly speaking up on this issue for over six years.
Senator Dr Sam McMahon
PFAS Sub-Committee

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