Page 3979 - Week 12 - Thursday, 20 October 2005
and 47L, rather than deferring their implementation. I am pleased to say the opposition supports that move. It shows a sensible solution to the matter before us. The task force found that there are many problems with asbestos management which go far beyond reporting the presence of asbestos and providing reports. Some of the shortcomings the report cited were insurance for asbestos-related work being limited, and being a major constraint for any long-term management system. I am advised that, globally, asbestos is the largest single area of insurance liability.
In relation to section 47J, people surveyed by the task force were concerned with a number of matters, including the fact that it would lead to the provision of inconsistent advice, because some people have quite extensive knowledge about where asbestos can be found within their premises, while others have none. There was also concern that providing signed written advice may attract an inappropriate degree of liability in cases where there is not certainty as to the presence of asbestos within the premises. Finally, because of the limited asbestos insurance cover available, a major constraint is placed on management practices.
The obligations for asbestos management have fallen predominantly on property owners, especially in the residential sector. The government would require significant resources to ensure that sections 47K and 47L were being adhered to at every transaction point as required. There is a high likelihood that the regime would not result in the most effective cost-benefit outcomes. The cost generated by the obtaining of an asbestos report for every premises within the ACT would not be likely to yield a corresponding benefit in the context of improved management practices. Those resources would be better used in a more targeted way.
I am also aware that there is a shortage of competent asbestos assessors to service the new laws. Of course the long latency period of asbestos-related diseases, which is 15 to 40 years, results in potential for complacency. Community awareness dissipates if it is not continually reinforced. General community awareness, though, does not translate into special knowledge of safe management practices. A “she’ll be right” attitude exists within some sectors of the building industry trades and among some home renovators, although I think we are making progress as far as greater appreciation of safety practices is concerned.
There are many hundreds of items that contain asbestos in different locations, with a wide variety of uses. They are very difficult to identify visually. Asbestos has even been found within parts of cars and so forth in the past. The new asbestos laws have been only partially effective. Asbestos advice laws, which commenced on 4 April 2005— section 47J—have contributed to high levels of asbestos awareness but have not been consistently effective in providing protection and reliable advice. There is community support for measures to provide advice to purchasers and tenants of properties, but more effective ways must be found for providing general advice to home owners, purchasers and tenants. The task force concluded that the way ahead was in changed behaviour, better management, the setting of standards, much higher levels of awareness and much better training. Accordingly, the task force recommends a revised model for long-term asbestos management. The key elements are as follows:
• targeted education and training for at-risk groups, particularly trade groups and do-it-yourself home renovators;