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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 10 Hansard (12 October) . . Page.. 2925 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

Ministers try to avoid taking responsibility, whether it is through outsourcing or privatisation or just misleading press statements, the buck ultimately stops with the Ministers.

In this motion, I am calling for the Government to conduct an immediate and urgent review of practices at the tip and come back to this Assembly with a report showing us how they are going to improve their performance. I thank members for their support, in anticipation.

MR SMYTH (Minister for Urban Services) (10.46): Mr Speaker, in 1996 arrangements were made with Metalcorp Pty Ltd, a publicly listed metal recycling company operating out of Sydney, to collect car bodies, whitegoods and similar goods from Canberra for recycling through its Sydney plant. It is a facility we just do not have in Canberra. In return, it was agreed that the waste product from this process could be disposed of at the Belconnen landfill. It is important that Canberrans take responsibility for the waste that they generate. Members might be aware that when we calculated our greenhouse gas emissions, for instance, we did not take into account just the emissions that were generated in the ACT; we actually took into account the emissions for which we were responsible from the power that is generated for us in Victoria so that the work that we have done in calculating those targets and those levels of output is true and accurate. It is the same with the waste that we generate.

Over the last four weeks the issue of contaminated waste has been an emerging one; it has evolved as we have gained more knowledge about the potential, then the actual, and then the scope of the problem. At every step the Government has acted promptly. Ms Tucker has stated that the Government failed to take immediate action to stop this dumping; if it had, there would not be 2,000 tonnes of contaminated waste that needed removal. She also implied that the Government was slow in reacting to the health and safety concerns raised by the union. Let us look at the facts in this regard, Mr Speaker. Let us take a quick look at the chronology of events.

Mr Speaker, on 31 August this year there was an OH&S meeting, attended by unions, management, staff and plant operators, and it was agreed at that meeting that samples of this material would be sent for testing. The union representative, who is also the OH&S officer on site, gathered the samples and sent it off for the initial testing. Mr Speaker, I have a copy of the minutes of the meeting. These meetings are minuted and what is recorded here, whilst it is brief, will confirm what I say.

Staff of the department had noticed that there had been a change in the content of the material that was being delivered to the site, with an increase in dust and steel wire cable. It was actually the steel wire cable that was of most concern initially because it is dangerous in regard to the use of plant. It can be caught up in the moving parts of machinery, it can cause cables which belong to it to be pulled, and it might catch somebody if the cables flip up. Also, there was the issue of the dust.

The CFMEU notified WorkCover and the Environment Management Authority of their concerns with the material and it was agreed by all parties that the testing would occur and they would await the initial results. Mr Speaker, it was also agreed on site subsequently that the material would not be handled and that all further deliveries would be isolated until the testing results were known. Why? It was because we did not know

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