Page 1194 - Week 04 - Thursday, 26 March 2015

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MR GENTLEMAN (Brindabella—Minister for Planning, Minister for Roads and Parking, Minister for Workplace Safety and Industrial Relations, Minister for Children and Young People and Minister for Ageing) (11.13): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

This is the eighth bill to be created under the government’s omnibus planning, building and environment legislation amendment bill process. This process manages all minor policy, technical and editorial amendments for legislation administered by the Environment and Planning Directorate.

The omnibus bill process provides an efficient avenue for consideration of minor amendments to a single bill. The single bill process also helps the wider community to access and understand changes being made to environment and planning legislation.

This bill makes a minor policy, technical and editorial amendment to the Building Act 2004 and Building (General) Regulation 2008, the Construction Occupations (Licensing) Act 2004 and Construction Occupations (Licensing) Regulation 2004, the Environment Protection Act 1997, the Planning and Development Regulation 2008, the Utilities Act 2000 and the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011.

The principal amendments will strengthen building and construction laws and ensure practical and efficient asbestos safety management in the territory.

As members of the Assembly are well aware, asbestos is a most insidious legacy of past building practices. As a government, we must be proactive in our approach to the health and wellbeing of our entire community, and particularly for those who work within it. The government remains committed to continuing to have nation-leading asbestos management frameworks and practices.

At this point I would like to give a bit of history around the amendments made by the bill. In 2014 the territory’s asbestos management framework was harmonised with that of other model jurisdictions, in accordance with the Intergovernmental Agreement for Regulatory and Operational Reform in Occupational Health and Safety. Asbestos licensing provisions were removed from the Construction Occupations (Licensing) Act 2004 by the Dangerous Substances (Asbestos Safety Reform) Legislation Amendment Act 2014, effective January this year. This means asbestos assessor and removalist licensing is now regulated in the territory by the Work Health and Safety Act and Dangerous Substances Act 2004. This means asbestos can only be removed by a licensed asbestos removalist. The Construction Occupations (Licensing) Act does not apply in this situation.

This approach works well in relation to asbestos found in discrete forms; for example, a piece of asbestos cement sheeting not involving structural parts of a building and, as such, material that can be removed without any specialist building knowledge. However, recent investigations in relation to Mr Fluffy houses have revealed that asbestos can be in the infrastructure of a building. In this case, removal of the asbestos also requires the removal of infrastructure that could be critical to the integrity of the building.

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