Page 569 - Week 02 - Thursday, 17 February 2005

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

education campaign, which has support across the board. I was a bit troubled by the costs involved—some $200,000—but it appears to have good support from the task force members and is therefore something that we will be pleased to go along with. It is something that was previously supported in this Assembly by Mr Stefaniak when he spoke on the matter.

I would also like to thank the minister and his office for providing a comprehensive briefing on this legislation and we look forward to further briefings as the need for more amendments emerges.

DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (12.01): The Dangerous Substances (Asbestos) Amendment Bill 2005 arises, I think, because the process of putting the original asbestos bill together in August last year was less than perfect. The original regime proposed by Independent member Helen Cross was inadequate and fairly ill considered, although it did address a range of concerns very dear to the hearts of those suffering from the consequences of asbestos exposure, and the activists who care about them. It is also fair to say that, if the Labor Party had been the majority government at the time, nothing much by way of legislation would have happened then or soon after.

As it was, in responding to pressure from the other parties—particularly, I understand, from my Greens predecessor, Kerrie Tucker—government officers put together a scheme, via the dangerous substances amendment bills of 2004, which promised to deliver wide-ranging awareness and protection of people across the community. The scheme created, in effect, a safety duty for owners and occupiers in order to safeguard buyers, tenants and tradespeople from the possibly catastrophic health impacts of asbestos fibres. But it was put together in a very tight time frame in which it was understood that some later amendments might be necessary.

So now we are dealing with this bill, to amend the resulting act, just two days after this bill was introduced into the Assembly, a situation that I find most unsatisfactory. The limitation of time in this case is that the Dangerous Substances (Asbestos) Amendment act will commence on 1 March, unless this bill is passed, and the government is arguing that it simply is not ready to begin the public awareness and safety duty promotion campaign that the commencement of the act requires. I am prepared to accept that advice and so this bill postpones the commencement of the act for about a month.

In terms of the operation of the scheme, the bill also takes out the term “ought reasonably to know” as it applies to the immediate duty of care that owners and occupiers of premises have to have to inform relevant people of what they know about asbestos in their premises. It was never intended that this initial responsibility to disclose known information to tenants, workers and purchasers would require owners or occupiers to discover the material. However, the existing language does seem to suggest such a requirement. This would impose both a financial cost on owners or occupiers and arguably shift some of the responsibility for any health impacts away from others who perhaps more rightly deserve it, such as the manufacturers of the building materials. This legislation also makes it clear that information that is due to a tenant is also due to prospective tenants.

I would like to emphasise that the responsibility to discover such information does kick in in another year, once the Asbestos (Assessment) Task Force has finished its

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