Page 1190 - Week 04 - Thursday, 17 March 2005

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Association, the Tuggeranong and Weston Creek community councils, the ACTCOSS/HACS Network, the Master Builders Association, the Master Plumbers Association, the Queanbeyan City Council, occupational health and safety representatives, school principals, Shelter ACT, and whole-of-government staff.

Major employers and building groups in the main have been very responsive to the campaign. Overall, I believe the task force has made a very positive first step. There are further stages of the project to be completed in time for the task force’s report in August and the commencement of the second phase of the legislation in January next year. The next stage is the extent and impact survey, which will be conducted by the task force in late April and throughout May. The survey will cover 500 residential properties and an additional sample of commercial, industrial and other buildings sourced from government records, the private sector and additional surveys.

The government has taken a number of steps to ensure the Assembly is aware of the progress of the project, including briefings on the awareness campaign. I acknowledge the strong support from across the Assembly for this issue in both August 2004 and February this year when it was important to make minor amendments to the legislation. It is very important that this level of bipartisan interest and support is maintained. This is an important issue for the whole of our community and is best addressed without political difference. The community need to be supported in managing asbestos issues in a safe and confident manner, and to avoid any situations of unnecessary alarm.

The initiative of this Assembly in progressing the new asbestos laws has received widespread praise from within and outside Canberra. There has been recognition of the leadership approach that is being adopted and also the quality of its delivery and implementation to date. This initiative is the first of its kind not only nationally but also internationally.

We are paving new ground and over the coming months there will be many issues that arise that will need consideration and cooperation to resolve. A recent example has been the issue of waste management and the dumping of asbestos-containing material. This will not be the only issue that arises, and members should not be under any illusion that all issues have been resolved at this point. From 4 April we can still expect some difficulties as education continues and practices change. It will still be difficult over the next 12 months or so until consistent good practice is fully established and the new laws are bedded down. I would encourage all members to constructively provide feedback about issues and potential problems to the task force, or my office, so that they can be addressed.

The project remains sensitive and will throw up some challenging issues, particularly as the work of the task force in investigating and analysing the extent and impact of asbestos in the ACT needs to be conducted in parallel with public awareness and implementation of stage 1 of the new laws. It is important that we keep moving forward. Mesothelioma cases are predicted to increase up to 2010. If we do not take active steps to reduce future exposure to fibres, the number of cases may continue to rise beyond that.

Take the do-it-yourself home renovators: it is critically important to influence those people in the face of the home renovation culture whereby people may be exposed to asbestos fibres through the demolition and removal of asbestos-containing materials in

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