“The chair of the Turnbull government’s expert health panel on toxic firefighting chemicals has told residents he was ‘dragged’ into doing the job and someone ‘better qualified’ should have steered its investigation.

The revelations come as a public hearing is held in Williamtown on Tuesday – one of the country’s worst polluted areas – as part of a senate inquiry into the federal government’s handling of the per- and poly-fluoroalkyl [PFAS] contamination.

In its submission to the inquiry, the Coalition against PFAS accused Professor Nick Buckley, from the University of Sydney, of making the remarks when he was flown to the Northern Territory to speak at a public meeting in June.

When approached by the Herald last week and asked whether he had made the comments, Professor Buckley evaded the question…

But Fairfax Media has obtained video footage of the meeting in Katherine, where Professor Buckley introduced himself to residents as a specialist in drugs and poisons.

‘Somehow I got dragged into doing this expert panel,’ he said.

‘I was asked to chair this panel and I said ‘surely you could get someone better qualified um, so, but they insisted I do this’.

‘And I come to this with a – no background in doing PFAS research, so I just want to make that clear.’

The findings of the expert panel – that there is no evidence that PFAS causes “important” health effects – were released on the same day the Turnbull government announced it would not buy out people whose property values have been decimated by contaminated run-off from military bases…

The Coalition against PFAS argued the expert panel’s report was ‘rushed and secretive’, had ‘little to no scientific value’ and contradicted health warnings from respected international agencies.

The window for public submissions was 18 days and the panel was given less than six months to review the international scientific literature, a timeframe it acknowledged was ‘challenging’.

The panel’s report was not released for two months after it was due to be handed back to the Department of Health…

Professor Buckley defended the panel’s findings, arguing they were in line with the conclusions of major international agencies…

‘It was put to me, there was a clear desire to have an independent chair without a background in PFAS research – as all the PFAS experts were perceived to have some sort of potential vested interests,’ he said.”

Read the full article by Carrie Fellner