Page 570 - Week 02 - Thursday, 17 February 2005

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comprehensive sampling and survey of Canberra buildings and reported to the Assembly in August this year and there has been time to amend the legislation once again if necessary. This more rigorous requirement for information will then apply when owners and occupiers engage people to work on their building or when they put it up for sale. I still see that as somewhat unsatisfactory as tenants are also likely to engage in the occasional wall stripping or construction work where they might be vulnerable to attack from asbestos fibres.

I am also concerned with the transfer of general information. There are many houses across Canberra which are likely to include asbestos-based materials. That information—that your bathroom, for example, might be lined with asbestos sheeting—may well become available through the work of the asbestos task force but then perhaps forgotten by absentee landlords or unconcerned owners. I do wonder what we can do to make sure that this kind of general awareness is passed on to construction workers, new tenants and so on. The time to push that point, however, is with the task force over the next few months or when it reports in August. I think that until then we need to take the work a step at a time.

I will support the amendment but I reiterate my concern that it was tabled on Tuesday and is being addressed by the Assembly only two days later.

MS GALLAGHER (Molonglo—Minister for Education and Training, Minister for Children, Youth and Family Support, Minister for Women and Minister for Industrial Relations) (12.07): The legislation we are considering today seeks to amend the Dangerous Substances (Asbestos) Amendment Act 2004. It is a bill to improve the clarity of the act’s operation in time for its proposed implementation in April of this year.

As other members have said, the Assembly passed this legislation in August 2004 when we significantly amended a bill introduced by Mrs Helen Cross. The resulting act, the Dangerous Substances (Asbestos) Amendment Act, created a comprehensive framework for addressing the risks arising from exposure to asbestos in the built environment.

The act inserted new provisions into the act establishing the asbestos task force and statutory disclosure requirements in relation to information about asbestos on premises. Section 47J requires owners and occupiers to provide required information about the presence of asbestos. Section 47J is due to commence operation on 1 March 2005. Section 47K imposes an obligation to investigate the presence of asbestos when high-risk activities are to be undertaken and section 47L imposes an obligation to furnish a report for properties listed for sale. The two latter provisions will not commence until 16 January 2006.

The intention of 47J is to ensure that owners and occupiers of buildings who are aware that their building contains asbestos disclose this fact to people such as prospective purchasers or tenants or persons doing certain types of work who need to know this information. This duty was to be imposed only upon persons who have actual knowledge of the existence of asbestos but would not require a person to discover whether there is asbestos in the building. The proposed amendments in the bill will ensure the original intent is achieved.

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