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Asbestos in Canning Vale – Is anyone responsible?
Everyone knows – and the City of Canning agrees – that asbestos is very common in the older suburbs of Perth. It can be found in fencing, roofing, pipework and outbuildings, such as garden sheds. When old properties are demolished to make way for new development, the asbestos must go too. How it goes is of critical importance – to those who remove it and to the surrounding community. So who is responsible?
Not the Minister for Health, apparently, to whom I directed a question in Parliament in March, asking about the removal and disposal of asbestos from a building site in East Cannington. “The Department [of Health] is advised that the matter is being handled by the City of Canning”, replied the Minister’s representative in the Legislative Council – although she also acknowledged that the Department’s response was ‘confusing’ and did not clearly state whether it was aware of the matter.
Nor the Minister for the Environment, since Department of Environment and Conservation does not deal with asbestos demolition. They refer you to your local council, too.
But the City of Canning says that the issue of asbestos is only a Council matter insofar as the Council is required to enforce compliance with the “appropriate legislation.” Perhaps this means the Occupational Safety and Health Act? This puts the onus on the person in control of the workplace not to start or continue working on a site when “the presence of asbestos containing material is apparent”. It seems in the case of the development in East Cannington that this provision may well have been flouted, but what has the Council done about it?
And as the name implies, the Occupational Safety and Health Act is concerned with the safety of workers. This is important, of course, but who looks after the safety of the community? In the case of East Cannington, our sources report that the asbestos was dug up, shaken and crushed under the wheels of heavy vehicles, and moved around the site into piles of rubble in a high wind. No subsequent air monitoring was done and no inquiry into the consequences of the incident.
It is well known that asbestos is a silent and slow killer, with its effects often not made manifest for many years. The community must live with the aftermath of events such as these.
My Question to the Minister is below:
190 STATION STREET, EAST CANNINGTON — REMOVAL OF ASBESTOS
168. Hon LYNN MacLAREN to the minister representing the Minister for Health:
This question was directed to the Minister for Environment, but I understand that it was redirected to the Minister for Health. I refer to the building site at 190 Station Street, East Cannington, at which asbestos was found in late February 2012.
(1) What steps have been taken to remove the asbestos?
(2) Were dust samples taken from the surrounding area after the removal to analyse the extent of asbestos pollution in the community?
(3) If no to (2), why not?
(4) If yes to (2), what was the result of the analysis?
(5) Has the building site been re-inspected to ensure that no asbestos remains at the building site?
(6) Has WorkSafe been notified of the incident?
(7) If no to (6), why not?
Hon HELEN MORTON replied:
I thank the member for some notice of this question. The answer does not make sense. It states —
(1)–(7) The Department of Health was not are aware of the issue and what steps have been taken. The department is advised that the matter is being handled by the City of Canning.
I am not happy with that answer because I think it is a bit confusing as to whether the department was aware or was not aware.