Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 10 Hansard (12 October) . . Page.. 2953 ..
MR BERRY (continuing):
If you take a look at the Occupational Health and Safety Act it will become very clear to you, Minister, that there is a possibility of a very serious breach of the relevant parts of the legislation, in particular that of the duty of care provisions. We have debated those issues before in relation to the hospital implosion, but there is also a responsibility for duties of persons in control at workplaces. I will just go through that. The Act says:
A person who has, to any extent, control of -
(a) a workplace:
(b) a means of access to, or egress from, a workplace; or
(c) plant or a substance at a workplace;
shall take all reasonably practicable steps to ensure that it is safe and without risk to health.
The Minister knew it was necessary to test this stuff and he has not touched it for four years. Mr Speaker, there is a range of provisions in the Occupational Health and Safety Act that seem to have been ignored in relation to this matter. You could not possibly say, on reflecting on the Occupational Health and Safety Act and on reflecting on the Minister's performance and his words, that he has not misled the community. Saying that there are strict procedures in place for handling and accepting waste is patently untrue and misleading.
The Health Minister is responsible for public health in the Territory and for maintaining the future health of our community. For him to stand up and try to justify the actions of the Minister for Urban Services in relation to toxic contamination of a workplace or a place where third parties go is, I think, quite disgraceful. Mr Speaker, I understand that Mr Moore has to defend his Cabinet colleagues, but there are some times when he would be better off staying out of it. He should leave it to Mr Humphries to spin his little web about it, which I am sure he will do later on. But Mr Humphries, even if he chooses to, even in his best web-spinning mood, will not be able to argue that Mr Smyth's claim that there are strict procedures for handling and accepting waste was true. Mr Humphries will have to accept that that was misleading.
Mr Speaker, the community has been misled in relation to this matter. There is no doubt about that. The workers who have gone to work, day in, day out, have been misled into the belief that they were working in a safe place. It has been now proven that there are strong doubts about that and that the exposures that they have been faced with could possibly have been harmful to their health. We may not know to what extent for a long time because of the nature of some of these exposures.
Mr Speaker, this Minister deserves censure. If it were not for this attempt to mislead the community, it would be for having such terrible form on the question of misleading comments, both inside this place and outside. He should not be allowed to get away with his honeyed and misleading words any more. He should be censured.
MR STEFANIAK (Minister for Education) (12.29): Mr Speaker, I will be brief. I think it is the Opposition more than anyone else who is misleading. It seems to me that since this problem has become apparent this Minister has acted quite properly in terms of doing all he reasonably could be expected to do to address the situation. All we are seeing is a fair amount of petty point-scoring.