UNITED FRONT: Resident Rhiannon Gorfine, pictured with husband Cain, urged Williamtown to continue holding Defence to account despite changes at the top.WILLIAMTOWN residents have slammed the federal government for creating further uncertaintyafter yet another shake-up to the Defence portfolio.
The government was on Tuesday afternoon still unsure who would have responsibility for Defence property after Assistant Minister for Defence Michael McCormack was moved to the small business portfolio without a replacement.
Outgoing industry and innovation minister Christopher Pyne will take on the new role of Minister for Defence Industry, while Dan Tehan becomes Minister for Defence Personnel. Senator Marise Payne remains Defence Minister.
The new line-uphas raised serious questions about who has political responsibility for managing the contamination crisis at Williamtown.
A spokesman for Senator Payne was unable to confirm which minister was in charge of Defence estate, which includes RAAF Base Williamtown, despite being sworn in on Tuesday. He said a clearer picturewould emerge later in the week.
Williamtown and Surrounds Resident’s Action Group criticised the delayfor creating “unnecessary confusion” in the community.
“It’s a forever revolving door with Defence and the community needs to stand together and hold them accountable for our future,” residentRhiannon Gorfine said.
“We were always told the assistant defence minister looked after the estates.”
Port Stephens Labor MP Kate Washington accusedthe government of ducking responsibility.
MOVING ON: Michael McCormack was shuffled from Assistant Defence Minister to Small Business Minister in Malcolm Turnbull’s new ministry.
“Since the community was told about [the contamination]there has been three assistant defence ministers and now there is none,” she said.
“There is confusion everywhere at a time we can least afford it. There should be so much focus on Defence estates right across the country.”
Ms Washington took a parting swipe at Mr McCormack,who during his time as Assistant Defence Ministerpreemptively said there were “no links” between the contamination and health risks despite new evidence emerging from the United States and an ongoing health study.
Mr McCormack declined tocomment.