Mr McEACHAN (Redlands—LNP) (12.38 am): I rise tonight to speak about a matter of utmost concern. For many years the residents of Macleay Island have lived with an area of their foreshore that is quite literally littered with asbestos. As you arrive on the island, you are immediately taken with its natural beauty and friendly atmosphere. However, just to the left of the ferry terminal is a two-metre cyclone fence adorned with signs warning to keep out due to the asbestos risk. I know of no other community or town in Queensland where this situation either exists or would be acceptable. At low tide you can walk between the fence line and the water and pick up pieces of asbestos. In the fenced-off area asbestos could be raked into dry, fibrous piles. The community’s patience and forbearance is at an end.
I put it to the House that every single one of us here would find this totally unacceptable. How many people are being exposed to airborne fibres? How many people are at risk of developing asbestos related diseases? How many schoolchildren waiting for the ferry are exposed on a windy day? The truth is we will never know, but we do know that exposure to asbestos is deadly: it kills. The federal Department of Health states that there is no absolutely safe level of exposure to asbestos fibres. The Australian Asbestos Network states that ‘medicine tells society that there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos fibres’ and that ‘medical authorities advise that people’s safety could be ensured only by the elimination of exposure altogether’.
As I speak tonight, a decision to entomb this area is pending with SARA, the State Assessment and Referral Agency. I put it to members of this House that entombment is the only acceptable outcome for residents and visitors to Macleay Island. In 2009, the report of the Queensland Ombudsman, Phil Clarke, contained 36 recommendations for improving asbestos removal regulations. Redland City Council and the state government have been discussing how to contain the asbestos on the beach since a 2009 Safety in Mines Testing and Research Station, or SIMTARS, report found contamination. Since then, 8,800 square metres of land above and below water has been fenced off, and the council has applied to two state government departments for a development application to build a car park to entomb the asbestos and in the process provide much needed infrastructure including a recreational boat ramp. All we need is the go-ahead.
It seems obvious to me, and I suspect to those opposite, that a mesh fence is not in any way suitable to containing and eliminating the risk of airborne asbestos fibres, and any delay in entombment is unacceptable. I need not remind anyone in this House of the human tragedy of exposure to asbestos. This is an injustice to Macleay Island residents. It needs to be resolved. This asbestos must be entombed. Macleay Island will not accept anything less. As their representative, neither will I.