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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2015 Week 12 Hansard (Wednesday, 28 October 2015) . . Page.. 3710 ..

I welcome the opposition’s support on this issue. We seek the Leader of the Opposition’s assistance in perhaps writing to the Prime Minister and the New South Wales Premier. I will be meeting with both next month in separate meetings and will take the opportunity to raise this face-to-face. If the Leader of the Opposition wants to support a comprehensive inquiry, there is no doubt that it requires the commonwealth and New South Wales to be involved, in terms of the detail and also in terms of sharing the costs of what will be an exercise costing tens of millions of dollars.

That, I think, is the best way to proceed. That is why I urge members to support the amendment that I have moved today, which formally calls on me to raise this issue with the Prime Minister and the New South Wales Premier, to seek the views of the commonwealth and New South Wales governments on the form of the inquiry and to seek their support for the cost. Should this amendment be passed, I undertake to update the Assembly on the outcomes of discussions with the Prime Minister and the New South Wales Premier as part of the quarterly reports that I provide to this place. I urge Assembly members to support my amendment.

MR RATTENBURY (Molonglo) (10.50): I welcome the opportunity to discuss this issue today because the issue of an inquiry of some sort into the Mr Fluffy loose-fill asbestos problem is one that has been discussed by many people over the past 18 months. I hold the view that it just was not the right time 18 months ago to begin any kind of inquiry. At that point the government’s position was to try to respond to the scenario of over 1,000 families still living in Mr Fluffy houses and I think the right approach was to focus on the immediate needs of those families, getting the program up and running and seeking to remedy the immediate problem that people were facing. Indeed, at that point many people were still living in their houses and the architecture of the scheme was still being put together. I think that was the appropriate place to focus resources in that early phase of the scheme.

What we now know is that the cost of the scheme to the ACT government is estimated to be around $400 million and we are still very much in the thick of it, as seems the best description to use, of the work that needs to be done in terms of the many families that are still in the process of resettling. I know some have already and others are still discussing the details of the scheme, as we canvassed yesterday afternoon.

Certainly the scale of this problem is right up there with and perhaps even larger than the 2003 bushfires, with more than 1,000 homes and families affected directly and of course then the impact on neighbours, relatives and workplaces of those people who have been caught up in this as well. And we of course have the ongoing issue of the fear felt by individuals who have lived in Mr Fluffy houses and who have the uncertainty of knowing what impact it is going to have on their health and the health of their loved ones over the longer term, having until now unknowingly lived in those houses.

The demolition and rebuilding process is going to be a long one, and that is a hard thing for people who have already been through a lot. I believe that the scheme has given people the opportunity to move on and to seek to start to rebuild their lives as quickly as possible, given the scale and complexity of it.

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