Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 4 Hansard (22 April) . . Page.. 1197 ..
MR SMYTH (continuing):
are detected, and errors will be made, we take appropriate action as swiftly as we can to minimise any harm and any effect that that may have. The Government has at all times the best interests of the ACT community uppermost in its considerations and has taken great efforts to consult with the community and industry to ensure that all pest and weed control activities are undertaken under this regime of best practice management.
Ms Tucker showed me her proposed motion earlier this day. Point one has been expressed clearly by Ms Tucker and I am sure that Mr Corbell will express his concerns in a few minutes. Ms Tucker has, in paragraphs (a) and (b), a request for some information and I would be delighted to provide that information. Some of it will be reports and the rest will be an update on what is happening with the Commissioner for the Environment's report. I would be delighted to give that information to the Assembly. Mr Deputy Speaker, we do take this matter seriously and will endeavour to make sure that all our employees and all those who manage assets for the ACT also take the matter seriously.
MR CORBELL (4.40): Mr Deputy Speaker, I do not know whether members should feel reassured or worried by the Minister's outline of the Government's measures in relation to the use of chemicals for weed and pest control in the ACT. Certainly, as I listened to the Minister's speech I got the impression that there was a very clear and comprehensive program in place. The question then arises: If we had this clear and comprehensive program in place, why did this event occur? Why did something go wrong? I think that, in itself, is a legitimate matter of public importance for today. Clearly, there is a need to ensure that the use of chemicals in areas such as preschools and primary schools - indeed, other areas where children play - is managed in an appropriate and tightly controlled way. There are significant questions surrounding the impact of chemicals on our environment generally and we should be adopting a precautionary approach wherever possible, particularly in relation to areas where children play.
Mr Deputy Speaker, I will not contribute enormously to this debate because I think the issues have already been well canvassed by Ms Tucker and the Minister, but I do want to put one issue on the record of the Assembly and that is to do with the training and qualifications of the staff in CityScape Services who are, I understand, responsible for the spraying operations in the area of Curtin where this incident occurred. The Minister may like to respond to my concern at a later date. I am informed that, prior to the changes a few years ago or even a year ago at CityScape Services, someone responsible for these types of spraying operations would have undertaken a 12-month course at the CIT which would have led to a qualification and enabled them to be appropriately trained to undertake this sort of activity. I am told that that has been changed, due to revenue saving measures, to a one-day familiarisation program. I am not entirely sure whether that is 100 per cent correct. If it is the case, then it is a matter for considerable concern. I would ask the Minister, if he is still listening to the debate, to clarify whether that is the case. It is a matter of concern for me if it is the case that a previous requirement for operators was a 12-month training program and that has been reduced to a one-day program of some sort. Perhaps that highlights how pressures on CityScape in terms of revenue have resulted in a compromise in safety. I hope that it is not the case. I hope that I have been misinformed. I raise it so that the Minister can respond at some later opportunity.