Sunday, November 14, 2010

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh denies school asbestos cover-up

QUEENSLAND Premier Anna Bligh says it's regrettable a school community wasn't told about an asbestos find but denies there's been a cover-up. 

Asbestos was found in August 2008 in mulch around a new walkway that linked two campuses of Redcliffe State High School, north of Brisbane.

Ms Bligh today said the decision not to tell students, parents and staff of the find was made after officials determined there was no risk to the community.

But she admits that was a mistake.

"... that is not good enough. I think the community should have been advised and I understand the (education) minister has been taking steps to make sure that happens in the future," she told reporters north of Brisbane.

"This decision, taken two years ago by technical officers on the grounds that it posed no threat, is regrettable."

But she insisted there was no cover-up.

"Here in Queensland we have the most transparent system of managing asbestos in our schools of any education system in Australia," Ms Bligh said.

"I want parents and school communities to know whenever there is asbestos in their schools. That is why we have published registers."

Meanwhile, the Queensland Teachers Union is threatening possible industrial action if the Government does not remove asbestos from buildings at Atherton State High School, southwest of Cairns.

Meetings were held at the school last week with unions and asbestos experts after the decontamination of two classrooms and a staff room.

Union spokeswoman Maureen Duffy said teachers, cleaners and staff were deeply concerned about having been exposed to asbestos prior to the decontamination work.

"We have given them until Monday next week to come up with some answers," Ms Duffy said.

"We want them to agree to removing all the asbestos, otherwise (tomorrow) we will be voting about whether to take industrial action."

She said unions were advising school and auxiliary staff to file WorkCover notifications in case they fell ill down the track.

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