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Monday, 21 February 2011
Page: 751


Mr FORREST (11:19 AM) —I second the resolution. I am very pleased to have an opportunity to support my geographic neighbour, the fine member for Murray, in this resolution. Carbon monoxide poisoning has been a priority of mine for a long time. This goes back to my former life as a consulting engineer involved in building design and some of the things that the member for Chifley referred to. All of us need to pause for a moment and realise that the member for Murray’s resolution starts with her point number one. Her resolve and her desire to have something done about this comes from the tragedy of the loss of the two young Robinson boys. Any death is completely unnecessary. But deaths are more unnecessary when they involve young people, the richest resource that the nation has. I am particularly interested in supporting the member for Murray because I am very concerned about the lack of awareness about carbon monoxide. I support the other points in her resolution about encouraging building control boards to look at this issue and encouraging the use of detectors.

Carbon monoxide is a very insidious gas. We hear a lot about carbon dioxide, which is relevant to the discussion that occurs in regards to climate change. Carbon dioxide is the combination of a carbon atom and two oxygen atoms. It is detectable. The thing about carbon monoxide, which is a carbon atom and one oxygen atom, is that it is not detectable. That makes it very insidious. I encourage people when they are driving their motorcars, which I often do as I travel through my vast electorate late of night, to always drive with their window down, even if it is only an inch or two. You will notice if you are driving along, particularly in the winter and you are trying to keep the vehicle warm and you have the circulating air on warm, how drowsy one can become. That is the subtle, dangerous impact of carbon monoxide poisoning. If that feeling comes over you, you will be amazed when winding the window down and getting a sniff of good air how remarkably quickly one’s awareness returns.

I am particularly anxious to support the member’s resolution. The reason that I am harping on so much about awareness is that it will take a long time to get the states together through COAG. I am sure that the member’s resolution will get some action. But in the meantime we need to promote awareness. We as members of this place have the opportunity to promote through media comments the dangers of carbon monoxide.

Energy Safe Victoria have produced a brochure that is designed to make landlords aware of their responsibilities as lessors to vulnerable people who are not necessarily aware of this. They have made some very strong comments about carbon monoxide poisoning in this brochure. It says:

Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning is a threat where internal gas appliances are misused, incorrectly installed or poorly maintained. CO poisoning can have symptoms similar to flu and can be fatal.

If people are not aware of what is happening to them, which is probably what happened with those two youngsters, fatality can be imminent.

I am particularly concerned about the use of mobile caravans and cabins. If a person wants to use gas for heating, they should never go to sleep with the gas appliance operating—never. I have seen incidents of that. I saw it happening in campervans when I was a young person backpacking through Europe. People with gas appliances in their campervans kept them on at night because it was chilly or icy outside. That is an absolute no-no. Carbon monoxide poisoning is a threat because the symptoms of overindulgence are symptoms that we come across in other illnesses, like flu. These include headaches, dizziness and nausea, which we do not necessarily link with a high concentration of carbon monoxide.

What I would like see in the meantime is that we encourage COAG and the states to see what they can do about appropriate detectors and ensuring that modern construction provides adequate warnings for gas appliances fitted to homes. We need to promote more and more of this style of brochure to every person who has a gas appliance in their home. I am supporting the member for Murray in that particular part of her initiative, because I just happen to know it will take some time to get the Australian Building Code changed. Despite the fact that there have been tragedies, it will take some time. I am hoping that other members will take up the cause here and warn people of the terrible dangers of carbon monoxide. It is insidious: you cannot smell it, and that makes it dangerous.

I am pleased to have this opportunity to support a good resolution and to see the parliament operating in the way it should. I think the energy of a non-partisan approach on this will ensure we get an outcome. We just do not want the nation to be deprived of the resources of youngsters, young teenagers, whose only fault was that they were not made aware of the risk they were taking in keeping a gas appliance operating all night.

With those few words, I offer a message of condolence to the Robinson family, for whom, whilst this incidence occurred in May last year, time will not heal the wounds and grief they feel at the loss of two youngsters. I share that condolence with them and through the member for Murray. I commend her on the resolution she has put before the parliament.