Page 571 - Week 02 - Thursday, 17 February 2005

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When section 47K commences in 2006, owners and persons in control of buildings will have a duty to undertake an asbestos inspection when a high-risk activity is planned. Section 47L will also commence in 2006, providing that a seller of a property accepting specified circumstances or exempted by regulations must obtain an asbestos report before the property is first advertised, listed or offered for sale. A seller must also make the asbestos report on the property available for inspection during the time an offer to buy may be made.

The asbestos task force established by the act is comprised of representatives from the building, housing and property industries, unions, the community, victim support groups and all government departments. The role of the task force is to analyse the extent and impact of asbestos in the territory and to prepare a report of the analysis for presentation to me by 1 August this year.

The task force was formed late last year. It has made significant progress, including the development of a draft survey methodology for the required survey. The task force has already undertaken a pilot survey to test the methodology of the survey and the task force has also undertaken initial technical research and has engaged a reference panel of expert advisers who are providing technical advice and support on scientific building and health issues.

The task force has prepared an extensive communication strategy to prepare the community for commencement of section 47J of the act. It is in this context that the bill before the Assembly today has been prepared. The task force has identified areas of the legislation needing clarification and amendment in anticipation of the first disclosure requirements coming into effect. The asbestos task force has brought to the government’s attention that there is some concern about when an owner or occupier is required to make further inquiry about the presence of asbestos essentially through obtaining an asbestos survey report in order to comply with the new provision.

At the time of the debate last year, the Assembly as a whole was conscious of the need to minimise community anxiety that could result from the legislation and to avoid uncertainty in the act. For these reasons, it was determined that section 47K of the act, which imposes the obligation to investigate the presence of asbestos when high-risk activities are to be undertaken, would not commence operation until 16 January 2006. Despite these best endeavours, the task force has advised that clarification of section 47J is needed and that a short postponement of the commencement of 47J is wise to enable appropriate information to be publicly disseminated.

As it is presently phrased, section 47J would apply when an owner or occupier knows or ought reasonably to know that there is asbestos at the premises. That knowledge would give rise to a duty of care to persons at risk to provide such persons with required information about the asbestos at the premises. At present the required information includes up-to-date information about the location and condition of asbestos.

The amendments proposed in this bill have two important effects: firstly, to clarify the intended scope of section 47J of the act and, secondly, to postpone the operation of 47J until 4 April 2005, which will allow for the effective implementation of the government’s asbestos awareness program. As other members have stated, the current

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