Schwarten does a Garrett on asbestos

9 Mar 2010 3:11 PMJann Stuckey

9 March 2010

WORKS Minister Robert Schwarten continues to turn a blind eye to unqualified workers being contracted to remove asbestos, the LNP said today.

Shadow Minister for Public Works and Information and Communication Technology Jann Stuckey said Minister Schwarten had become the Peter Garrett of Queensland politics by ignoring warnings that unsafe asbestos removal practices were being used.

“Despite Minister Schwarten’s assurances to the contrary, QBuild workers are still being exposed to asbestos without appropriate training or licences,” Ms Stuckey said.

“Of QBuild’s 944 field staff, only 56 per cent have completed specific training and hold a B class asbestos removal licence, while none has an A class licence which covers all asbestos removal work.

“Despite Minister Schwarten’s claims that QBuild employs a suitably qualified contractor in all instances where such a licence is required, this is simply not happening.”

Ms Stuckey said following the fiasco at Caningeraba State School last year, QBuild was shown to have failed to comply with its own policies and procedures regarding asbestos handling.

“After a damning report by Workplace Health and Safety Queensland, Minister Schwarten gave assurances that QBuild would implement the recommendations of that report to ensure such improper practices would never happen again.

“Now evidence from Mackay West State School suggests that untrained workers have once more been used to remove asbestos.

“Worse, QBuild has directed contractors to backdate workplace statements to state workers were trained when they were not.

“A worker who spoke out against the inappropriate removal practices has been sacked for his honesty, and an accredited asbestos removal contractor has been blackballed by QBuild, causing the loss of 28 jobs.

“Minister Schwarten is simply paying lip-service to safe asbestos removal practices and, like Minister Garrett, turning a blind eye to dangerous cowboy operators who are putting lives at risk.”

Media contact: Jann Stuckey 0439 755 919