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LNP cover-up over asbestos policy

Minister for Education and Training

The Honourable Geoff Wilson


LNP Asbestos Cover-up: Swept asbestos under the rug for 15 years

Asbestos fell from classroom ceilings and was continued to be used in school buildings for more than a decade, despite education and health officials bringing the dangers of asbestos to a former Liberal National Party government's attention.

Minister for Education and Training Geoff Wilson revealed in parliament today that the Opposition ignored deteriorating asbestos and continued building schools with asbestos for 15 years.

"It was only under a Labor Government that asbestos was banned from 1990," Mr Wilson said.

"The last time the Opposition were in power, the need for a policy on asbestos in schools was brought to their attention several times, but they did not act.

"The LNP Member for Moggill has outed himself as a political hypocrite continuing to criticise the Government's handling of a Liberal National Party mess.

"Government's were first notified of the potential dangers of asbestos as early as 1974.

"In 1982, an Australian National Health and Medical Research Council report on the health hazards of asbestos recommended buildings containing asbestos be registered and regular inspections carried out.

"In 1984 the Queensland Association of Teachers in Independent Schools called for an urgent impact study into the use of asbestos in schools and a national survey by the Australian Teachers' Federation found nearly 300 Queensland classrooms contained asbestos in deteriorating conditions.

"In 1984 Labor called for a register of where asbestos materials were in public buildings.

"But the LNP Education Minister at the time simply labelled these findings as 'rubbish'," he said.

"The Director General of Education said the claims were 'emotive' and not based on expert opinion.

"But they never considered commissioning an expert to look into the claims - they continued to sweep the issue under the rug.

Mr Wilson said the Opposition ignored the dangers of asbestos from the 1970s, when Australia was made aware of the associated health risks, and they still made no attempt to act in 1989 when the Queensland Teachers' Union called for a policy on the identification of asbestos hazards.

"In 1989 the Teacher's Union recommended all buildings be urgently inspected and a register be kept.

"It took a Labor Government to listen to industry concerns and take action, ban asbestos and set-up a register.

"Since then Queensland has continued to lead the charge in asbestos management publishing BEMIRs (Built Environment Materials Information Register) for every public building including schools identifying every location of asbestos.

"We have also established an Asbestos Experts Reference Panel and Stakeholders Reference Panel to provide expert advice on the management of products containing asbestos in state schools.

"Contractors found to have contravened school asbestos regulations have been put on notice and will be dealt with severely including complete bans from future DET work.

"More than $100 million dollars has been spent over recent years removing asbestos products from schools and this program will continue.

"The Bligh Labor Government commissioned independent asbestos industry expert John Gaskin to review asbestos safety and removal procedures.

"Also established a Chief Asbestos Safety Advisor and a Chief Asbestos Health Advisor to support and investigate Queensland state schools asbestos issues.

"The Bligh Labor Government is cleaning up the LNP's mess with an annual building maintenance inspection and asbestos removal program.

"Every Queensland State School roof containing asbestos has been safely removed and replaced by the Labor Government.

Asbestos was used in a wide range of products manufactured between the 1940s and 1980s.

The Department of Public Works records state buildings or other structures built before 1990 are presumed to have been constructed using products and materials that may contain asbestos.

Asbestos was finally banned from building products in 1989.

It is estimated that one third of all private dwellings and commercial buildings contain some asbestos related building material.