LIBERAL Polwarth MP Richard Riordan claims the Labor state government has broken a promise to remove asbestos from all Victorian schools, but Labor says it is prioritising the buildings that are the most risky.
Last week in Parliament, the Opposition said now-Premier Daniel Andrews promised ahead of the 2014 election that his party would make all Victorian government schools asbestos free.
“Under Labor, the asbestos will be gone, the risks will be removed and the portables will be replaced, because our kids’ health and safety means everything,” Mr Andrews said at the time.
Shadow Minister for Education Cindy McLeish said in 2017, Labor then decided it would “only target asbestos that posed a medium or high risk to students and staff”.
She referenced recent reports that asbestos was found inside a classroom in a primary school in Melbourne during renovation works.
In a media statement, Mr Riordan said he wanted Labor to restore the removal program, and many of the 50 schools in Polwarth had limited capabilities to deal with asbestos.
“There is no safe level of asbestos exposure, and even limited exposure can prove to have serious health impacts, and can be fatal.
“Local parents deserve an explanation about whether our schools in Polwarth have deadly asbestos, and if it does, what is the Andrews Labor Government going to do about it.”
Responding to Ms McLeish in Parliament, Education Minister James Merlino said works in schools “occasionally did disturb asbestos”.
“It is the reality of the building fabric of our schools, having been built over many, many decades.
If asbestos is disturbed, it is dangerous and it is responded to immediately.”
He said Labor had already invested $200 million to roll out the largest ever removal of asbestos from Victorian schools.
“We have conducted an audit of 1,700 schools and the removal of all high-risk asbestos has already happened in 497 schools.
“All the A1 and A2 high-risk asbestos has been removed and now we are getting on with removing A3 asbestos. That is asbestos that is not high risk but may be if it is disturbed.”