Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 02 Hansard (Wednesday, 5 March 2008) . . Page.. 566 ..
MR HARGREAVES (Brindabella—Minister for Territory and Municipal Services, Minister for Housing, Minister for Multicultural Affairs) (5.54): I will speak to the amendment and the motion. I wish to support Ms MacDonald’s motion on a number of levels, and I welcome her initiative in bringing this matter forward.
What we are seeing here is recognition of one of the true heroes in modern Australian life. He is a fellow who knew absolutely that he was going to die—absolutely knew it. He knew what from and he knew what caused it. The less strong of us would go away, sit in a black room and just do it, but Bernie Banton did not do that. He went out and used himself as a shield for other people who may get this disease in the future. He went out there and strove for justice for the people who had suffered this fate because of the ignorance of others—or in some cases the deliberate hiding of the effects of asbestosis from people. It is necessary that we pay a tribute to Bernie Banton for the crusade that he went on. It also provides a salutary lesson about the things that are dangerous that we know about in the industrial arena. This is another reason why we need to support this motion.
I thank Ms MacDonald for bringing this motion forward. I want to recognise her ongoing commitment to safe workplaces and all the work that she has done. I commend the motion to the Assembly.
DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (5.56): Here we have an example of the cooperation that can exist when we all have the same view. In this case, I will be supporting Mr Stefaniak’s amendment: I am well aware that, while it is the government that implements the policy, the legislation came out of action across the Assembly. I want to make sure that people acknowledge that the former Greens MLA Kerrie Tucker had something to do with it.
The legislation came out of the last days of the minority Stanhope government. Let us admit that it was not government action that got it happening. It was then independent Helen Cross who caught the asbestos waves, and she had good reason to: a family member had suffered an asbestos related disease, and an election was approaching and she might not have any further opportunities to act on the matter—and did not, as it turned out.
The government had to negotiate with the crossbench and the opposition of the time. The offer from the government was to put it off until after the 2004 election, by when more work would have been done and there would be less urgency. The crossbench, including my predecessor, stuck by the commitment to move on asbestos then and there, although Kerrie did support the ACT government’s more considered approach. Mrs Cross had proposed the requirement that an asbestos inspection be conducted on all houses, with the result included in sales documentation, giving rise to a number of costs and practicality concerns, including the fear that responsibility could be shifted from the manufacturer—Hardie—to the inspector. The Cross model was not particularly thought through when it came to commercial buildings either.
Anyway, the pressure of an impending election and the possibility that the ACT government was going to be pushed into a contentious structure concentrated minds