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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 5 Hansard (7 May) . . Page.. 1631 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

provides that employers must provide a safe environment, employees must work in a safe manner and that manufacturers and suppliers must provide safe products and equipment.

The Committee considers that the Government has a responsibility to not only provide safe schools for children, but safe working environments for teachers. However, the Committee received evidence that chemical audits are not being taken seriously, and records are not being kept on the type and nature of furnishings used in school renovations.

The furnishings and so on are not quite relevant to this debate, but I am reading directly from the report because I want to get this section on the record. The report continues:

There are numerous resources to assist schools to undertake a chemical audit and should the Government fail to act on the following recommendation, the Committee encourages schools and school communities to take an active role in leading the push to remove or reduce toxic threats to children's health.

The Committee notes that the Government does have policies in place regarding the use of chemicals in schools, including for pest control and cleaning and those chemicals used in class such as science and art. However, this policy needs to be extended to cover ventilation, insulation, use of low-emission building materials and furnishings and food additives.

We recommended:

... that the Government, as a matter of urgency, undertake an occupational health and safety audit of all government schools which includes a chemical audit addressing all potential environmental hazards such as toxin levels and emissions from buildings and furnishings and chemicals used for cleaning and gardening.

The Committee further recommends that the Department of Youth and Family Services commit to a stronger oversight role to ensure that policies pertaining to environmental hazards, use of chemicals and safe building materials are adhered to by employed contractors and consultants.

That is getting to the issue of requiring very high standards if we are contracting out this work In particular, the committee was focusing on the need to appreciate the importance of looking at the chemical audit and understanding what substances we are putting into the school environment for the sake of both the children and the staff.

MS DUNDAS (12.21), in reply: I thank members for their support for this motion. I thank the minister for indicating her willingness to table the report and I appreciate the desire of everybody in this chamber to have clean schools, including clean toilets in our schools. I was particularly pleased to hear the minister talk about the implementation of an action plan to follow up on the recommendations of the WorkCover report. I do believe that an important part of any report is that we actually follow it through. Hopefully, that will lead to the outcome that we all want, which is a high standard of hygiene in ACT public schools.

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