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Bellarine Peninsula cancer cluster inquiry established

I am delighted to have today moved a motion in the Senate to establish a Senate inquiry into a possible cancer cluster on the Bellarine Peninsula.

The inquiry, to be conducted by the Community Affairs References Committee, will investigate a possible cancer cluster on the Bellarine Peninsula with particular reference to the health concerns of residents and the incidence of cancer cases in the area, and any possible environmental or other contributing factors.

The Committee, which I will join for the inquiry, will also examine the Victorian Chief Health Officer’s investigation of cancer rates.  The Victorian Government has stated there is no evidence to support the existence of a cancer cluster in Barwon Heads and Ocean Grove.

Some local residents in Barwon Heads and Ocean Grove hold deep concerns about the high rates of cancer in their town and whether the City of Greater Geelong’s mosquito spraying program is in any way connected.

I am proud to be standing up and taking action for the Bellarine on this important issue.

The inquiry is the result of an election commitment I made to establish a parliamentary inquiry into a possible cancer cluster on 16 May 2019.

I have lodged an FOI application with the City of Greater Geelong about the chemicals used in its mosquito spraying program including seeking a list of chemical purchases and suppliers.  I am concerned that not all of these documents have been provided which prompted me to lodge a complaint with council on 8 August 2019. I have not yet received a response from council to my complaint.

I also take issue with disingenuous attempts by the current Member for Corangamite Libby Coker to claim credit for this inquiry. She made an election commitment to a Senate inquiry after I announced my election commitment.

The original motion to establish the inquiry, backed by Health Minister Greg Hunt, was in my name and that of Liberal Senator Wendy Askew.  In the spirit of tri-partisanship, we today agreed to include both a Labor and Green Senator on the motion.

What’s particularly disappointing is that Ms Coker never had any interest or care in participating in the inquiry.  She made a commitment to a Senate inquiry only, knowing that if she was elected to the House of Representatives she would not be able to participate.

17 October 2019

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