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Defence silent on calls

WILLIAMTOWN residents are angry –and the Department of Defence is silent –after Defence lawyers approached at least two businesses in the water contamination red zone and allegedly asked one business owner if she was planning to sue the department.
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Residents rallied behind the businesswoman, who did not want to be identified because her business hasbeen seriously affected by the Williamtown RAAF Base contamination scandal, after she was phoned without warning by Defence two weeks ago and asked for a meeting several days later.

The woman, who hadonly just returned to work after months tackling a severe and debilitating conditionand was still heavily medicated, said she was mystified why Defence contacted her “out of the blue” because she had not taken part in any community action after the contamination scandal became public in September.

Object: Williamtown residents (from left) Brian and Julie Curry, Mel Marshall, Julie Bailey and Rhianna and Cain Gorfine are angry with Defence. Picture: Jonathan Carroll.

She was concerned after two of the three Defence personnel identified themselves as Defence lawyers and notes were taken of the meeting. She wasconfused about why she would have been asked “So you’re not going to sue us?”, after Defence earlier advised her no fire fighting foam contaminants were found in bores and dams on her property.

The woman said she did not have a lawyer with her, despite Defence telling her in the initial phone call thatshe could have a lawyer.

“I had no reason to think I needed legal representation, but now l’m thinking, what the hell is going on?” the businesswoman said.

The businesswoman raised a serious noise complaint with Defence about four or five years ago after an incident involving jet noise.

A second businesswoman in the red zone confirmed she had also received an unexpected phone call from Defence, and met with Defence lawyers two weeks ago who asked questions about her business.

Williamtown and Surrounds Residents’ Action Group,which is considering a class action against the Department of Defence over the impact of the contamination scandal, responded angrily to the Defence move.

“Defence should not be approaching people out of the blue and arriving with lawyers,” spokeswoman Rhianna Gorfine said.

Defence has not responded to questions sent one week ago, or acknowledged questions sent by text message to one of the Defence lawyers involved.