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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 11 Hansard (24 October) . . Page.. 4165 ..


Questions without notice

Schools—asbestos

MR COE: I have a question for the Minister for Education and Early Childhood Development. Minister, on what day were you notified about the potential for asbestos at Harrison School?

MS BERRY: It was the same day that the Liberal Party called a media conference.

MR COE: Minister, why did you say in your press conference, immediately following our press conference, on 30 August that there was only one garden bed contaminated with asbestos?

MS BERRY: Because at the time that was the advice that I had and the matter was being investigated. Had the Canberra Liberal Party just waited for a moment instead of rushing off to get a moment in the spotlight I could have absolutely given them all the information that they had required, which was what I had intended to do.

Opposition members interjecting—

MS BERRY: Thank you for all the interruptions; it is great. It is not very helpful. If you want an answer to a question you have to allow me to actually answer the question. You should not have to raise your voice in this place to actually respond to a question from the opposition, Madam Speaker.

MADAM SPEAKER: Members, the minister is replying to your question.

MS BERRY: Thank you, Madam Speaker. As I said at the time, there was an investigation occurring on where the asbestos was in the school. At the first point of the advice that I received, it was that it was only in one place. Further investigations occurred, as would be the normal practice.

Of course the presumption was that there was no asbestos in this school. There should never have been any presumption that there was. Harrison is a relatively new school. There should not have been a presumption that there was asbestos but, as a matter of caution, investigations were conducted following the email from a parent that raised the concern, and the school took appropriate action; a perfect response, according to the Work Safety Commissioner.

MS LEE: Minister, who booked the asbestos testing: a centralised area of the directorate or the school, and why was the booking request made?

MS BERRY: I just do not have the information available for the Assembly on where it actually came from, understandably: this was something that occurred well over 10 years ago. The investigations were like looking for a needle in a haystack on who was actually responsible for depositing this product at this school. Those investigations are continuing by WorkSafe.


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