Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . .

Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 7 Hansard (2 July) . . Page.. 2173 ..

MR CORBELL (continuing):

been reduced by 39. That is a very concerning figure and highlights the usefulness of the estimates process in scrutinising, to a proper level of effectiveness, the Government when it makes those sorts of off-the-cuff claims about making savings.

There are a couple of other issues I want to address in relation to the Chief Minister's area. The first is recommendation 21 of the Estimates Committee report, relating to the Totalcare incinerator at Mitchell. The committee recommended that the Government act to put in place the additional equipment required to eliminate dioxin emissions at the Totalcare incinerator. It also recommended that the Commissioner for the Environment report on the standard for monitoring emissions from the incinerator. The Government agreed in principle with that recommendation and said in its response:

It should also be noted that Totalcare have committed $0.3m for a baghouse to eliminate the emissions of dioxins.

A bag house, I understand, is some part of the machinery of the incinerator which is meant to capture dioxins and other emissions coming from the incinerator prior to being vented up the stack. The incinerator employs between 20 and 30 people, so it is not an insignificant part of Totalcare's operations. The Government is saying that the $300,000 is all that is required to eliminate dioxin emissions from the Totalcare incinerator.

I am informed that the Totalcare board is currently looking at proposals that require $600,000 on top of the $300,000 currently committed to properly eliminate and to capture dioxins emission from the incinerator. The Government has made a commitment of $300,000, but I am informed that unless a complete commitment totalling $900,000 is made the incinerator will not meet the standards required to prevent dioxin emissions and it will probably have to close.

That would have a number of very significant impacts. The first is that all of the medical waste from the Canberra Hospital, the private hospitals and other private health facilities that is currently disposed of at the incinerator will have to go interstate, probably to Sydney, for destruction. That would be a very concerning development if it came about. It would mean the transport of hazardous biological waste to Sydney for destruction. It would also mean the loss of jobs at the Totalcare incinerator.

The Government should be coming clean to the Assembly on the real issues surrounding the Totalcare incinerator and they should be making an up-front commitment not only to keep the incinerator open but also to make sure it meets the full safety standards required of it for its safe operation. That, I understand, requires an expenditure of $900,000. I would be interested to hear the Government's response on this issue during this debate, because it is a very important issue that affects those people who work at the incinerator.

It is also a potentially very important environmental issue if the ACT is unable to dispose of its own medical waste. Instead of paying to shift the waste to Sydney or wherever else for destruction, some unscrupulous operators may choose simply to dump it in some other way. Obviously that would be illegal. Obviously that would not be in the best interests of the environment of the Territory, but the pressure will be there if it

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . .