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Senate inquiry into a possible Bellarine cancer cluster gets underway

With the first public hearing of a Senate inquiry into a possible Bellarine cancer cluster to be held this Friday (1 May 2020), the Victorian Government’s assessment that there is no evidence of any cluster will come under the microscope.

After reviewing the state’s methodology, I remain concerned that there has been no independent assessment of the epidemiological evidence solely for the Barwon Heads township.

The Victorian Government did not find that there was any higher rate of breast or liver cancer, leukaemia, multiple myeloma, brain cancers or non-Hodgkin lymphoma in Ocean Grove and Barwon Heads.

However, by grouping the Barwon Heads and Ocean Grove populations together, the Victorian Government has not assessed the historical incidence of cancer in Barwon Heads alone – which has a much smaller population – where any spikes in cancer rates would be more evident.

The state government’s analysis combines the population of Barwon Heads and Ocean Grove which had a population of more than 18,000 people at the 2016 Census.

Many of these long standing cancer cases date back to the 1980s when Barwon Heads had a population of less than 2,000 people.

From the mid-1980s to around 2010, chemicals were sprayed by the City of Greater Geelong predominantly in Barwon Heads as part of a mosquito eradication program, just metres from some local homes.

The City of Greater Geelong claimed it had stopped using a product called Abate, which contains the active ingredient temephos, in 1987.

However, a freedom of information request I submitted to the council revealed it continued to use this chemical for another 10 years.

The full truth must be told.

I am very proud we are proceeding with this Senate inquiry which delivers on a key election promise made by the Morrison Liberal Government following my strong representations to the federal Health Minister.


30 April 2020.

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