The ACT Government will establish a dedicated response taskforce that will be a single point of contact for people affected by the legacy loose-fill asbestos issues, Chief Minister Katy Gallagher and Minister for Workplace Safety and Industrial Relations, Simon Corbell, announced today.
The Asbestos Response Taskforce will provide a single contact point via phone and online for affected people to access practical assistance, information and advice. This will be coordinated through Canberra Connect on 13 22 81.
"Establishment of this high level government taskforce recognises that providing assistance and support to the many Canberrans impacted by loose-fill asbestos insulation is a priority for the ACT Government," the Chief Minister said.
The Asbestos Response Taskforce will report directly to the Chief Minister and be led by senior ACT Government official Andrew Kefford. Members will be drawn from all parts of government that deal with this complex issue and will be centrally located.
Minister Corbell said today that the creation of a government taskforce reflects the growing complexity of this issue.
"It has been suggested that home owners feel similar to those that have lost their homes to flood or fire. Like an advancing tide that is engulfing homes and families one at a time, there is a sense of loss, uncertainty, financial hardship and overwhelming concern about their financial and physical wellbeing. The government believes that a dedicated taskforce will provide the needed assistance, information and advice to those affected.
"While this is a legacy issue that predates self-government when the Commonwealth was responsible for the ACT, the government must respond in a way that meets the needs of those affected," Minister Corbell said.
The taskforce will operate in a similar way to the government task force that was set up in response to the devastating 2003 bushfires.
"An important lesson learnt from the bushfire taskforce was that there is no single, simple solution to complex issues that involve families, households and businesses. Every case is slightly different and assistance needs to be provided on a case-by-case basis. The Asbestos Response Taskforce will adopt the same approach, taking the time to understand the individual circumstances of those impacted and seeking the most appropriate response to those circumstances," the Chief Minister said.
"One of the first actions of the taskforce will be establishing a register for those affected by, or who have concerns about loose-fill insulation in Canberra homes. This includes current and former home owners or tenants, tradespeople, neighbours and real-estate and other professionals," the Chief Minister said.
"Since the government advised homeowners to have their property assessed earlier this year it has received, and continues to receive, more information about the increasing issues that are affecting property owners and residents," Minister Corbell said.
The Chief Minister said that the more information the government has received, the more obvious it has become that a high-level response is required to support those affected.
"This taskforce will provide that – ensuring a coordinated one-stop shop for all issues relating to loose-fill asbestos in the ACT.
"I am pleased that Mr Kefford, the current Commissioner for Public Administration, has agreed to head the Asbestos Response Taskforce, as Coordinator-General. Mr Kefford brings a wealth of cross-government and stakeholder connections, experience and knowledge to this critical role," the Chief Minister said.
A community and expert reference group will also be formed to assist the taskforce and will include representatives of homeowners, technical experts (including planning and health) and relevant industry groups.
Mr Fluffy loose-fill asbestos was installed in more than 1000 Canberra homes during the 1960s and 1970s while the Commonwealth government was responsible for the ACT.
The Commonwealth began a $100 million clean-up program in 1989 that ran until 1993 and removed all visible and accessible asbestos from the identified properties.
"It is important that the Commonwealth comes to the table and takes responsibility for this legacy issue that was caused by actions taken when it was responsible for the territory," Minister Corbell said.
Discussions with the Commonwealth are ongoing.
Affected people should register with Canberra Connect on 13 22 81 or online at www.canberraconnect.act.gov.au/app/forms/asbestos
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