Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 10 Hansard (25 August) . . Page.. 4206..
MS GALLAGHER (continuing):
and lessors to obtain special purpose property inspection reports. These reports cannot be conducted by all building inspectors. Asbestos surveying requires specialised skill and experience. A properly conducted survey is costly and many building inspectors are unable to get the insurance they need to carry out these inspections.
Asbestos can be unsettled through the conduct of a thorough survey, potentially rendering it dangerous, as opposed to the relative safety when left undisturbed. In some cases conducting a full and conclusive inspection for the presence of asbestos might require a building to be damaged or partially demolished, particularly if the asbestos is in wall cavities or under floorboards. Often samples are extracted and sent to a laboratory for testing. The wording of the bill before us requires a report of the exact location of the asbestos. Identification of the kind of asbestos and the location thereof will require comprehensive inspections and testing to be carried out in order to comply.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that 200 to 250 residential property contracts are exchanged each week in the ACT. This equates to 10,000 to 12,500 properties a year. In the ACT there are approximately 33,100 rental properties. As it stands, this bill would require that all 33,100 of these properties be inspected and certified. This would impose an enormous burden on the community and, in the case of disclosure as part of rental agreements, there are very substantial doubts about what would be achieved.
The government agrees that point-of-sale reports have some merit in generally making buyers aware of the full condition of properties they are purchasing. For this reason the government will be supporting a requirement for asbestos reports to be prepared. Unfortunately, the work behind the bill has not investigated the financial impacts of the proposed measures, or the capacity of the inspection industry to meet the immediate demands that would be created. These are serious issues that need to be worked through to make sure we put in place the best possible control regime. For this reason, the government proposes to delay commencement of those elements of its package relating to reports for a period of up to, but no later than, 16 January 2006.
The government does not oppose measures that are effective in helping the Canberra community deal with asbestos. It is crucial that the creation of any new laws adequately addresses the very real issues posed by asbestos in the ACT. Mrs Cross is rightly concerned with the dangers to ordinary people renovating or making repairs to their homes. The bill presented to the Assembly targets only residential property covered by the Civil Law (Sale of Residential Property) Regulations 2004 and the Residential Tenancies Act 1997. The bill does not cover university student accommodation, boarding houses or caravan parks.
I understand that Mrs Cross will move to amend her bill to account for home owners who are not selling their houses but instead are renovating or refurbishing through the engagement of a construction professional. The bill remains silent on non-residential building stock-commercial, industrial, and public-which must also be comprehended in any effective and meaningful approach to dealing with asbestos.
The amendments that will be moved by the government will have the effect of implementing a comprehensive framework for addressing the risks arising from exposure to asbestos in the built environment. The government's approach shifts the focus from transactions of ownership and tenancy to risks, activities and safety. It categorically