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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 10 Hansard (12 October) . . Page.. 2941 ..

MR MOORE (continuing):

Ms Tucker, I have to ask you this: With the wisdom of hindsight, having identified lead, which you believed was widespread, I gather, by the way you reacted, would you have gone onto that site without protective clothing and without adopting the appropriate process? It is an interesting question.

MR STANHOPE (Leader of the Opposition) (11.40): Mr Speaker, this is an important and very serious issue. I am intrigued at the attempts which the Minister and Mr Moore have gone to to downplay the seriousness and significance of lead contamination, and the attempts by both Mr Moore and Mr Kaine to shoot the messengers in relation to this. Mr Moore attacked Ms Tucker for daring to draw attention to the fact that we have a serious public health issue at Belconnen. Mr Kaine condemns the CFMEU for showing concern about the health of its workers. They were quite intriguing approaches to this very serious issue by both Mr Moore and Mr Kaine, it seems to me - to attack those who seek to protect the health of the community and the ACT's environment.

This issue needs to be looked at at two levels. In the first instance, we need to look at the policy that this Government has adopted in relation to the acceptance into the ACT of waste, and the processes that it used in this particular case. As the Minister said, it was three or four years ago that the ACT Government entered into this arrangement with this company to import into the ACT bulk loads of a certain type of waste.

The Minister told us in his release that the waste stockpiled at Belconnen - he conceded at that time that there were 2,000 tonnes there - was previously tested before there was agreement to accept it. It appears, from what we have heard this morning, that the testing of this waste before the ACT entered into its agreement with Metalcorp Recyclers was undertaken by that company. The situation is that we have been accepting thousands and thousands of tonnes of waste over the last three to four years on the basis of tests which, we understand, were conducted by the company importing it into the ACT.

Mr Berry: One test.

MR STANHOPE: One test at the time the agreement was entered into. That is what we are led to believe here this morning. We are led to believe that at no stage since the Government entered into this arrangement in 1996 has it bothered to test this waste. I find this quite incredible. It appears from the numbers that are being quoted here that since 1996 we have literally accepted into the ACT tens of thousands of tonnes of waste seriously contaminated with lead, and at no stage since 1996 have we had a process in place for the objective testing of that waste by the ACT or any authority engaged by the ACT for the purposes of testing waste. We have been accepting into our landfill areas in the ACT, in Belconnen, tens of thousands of tonnes of waste without once testing it.

Of itself, that is a matter of significant alarm. This is the basis on which we in the ACT, this Government, have been accepting waste for years without once inquiring of its content and of the dangers inherent in it. We now discover this three years later, after goodness knows how many tens of thousands of tonnes of this stuff have come into the ACT since 1996. We do not know how much has come here since 1996. We know that at one point in September there were 2,000 tonnes stockpiled.

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