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Tuesday, 10 September 1985
Page: 373

(Question No. 323)

Senator Mason asked the Minister representing the Minister for Territories, upon notice, on 29 May 1985:

(1) On what date was the removal of asbestos from the National Library commenced.

(2) How much longer is the process of asbestos removal expected to take.

(3) What is the reason for the removal taking so long.

(4) To what extent has the inordinately long time taken led to industrial problems within the National Library and staff disruption.

(5) What are the estimated costs of the removal of the asbestos and the time lost due to industrial disputes.

Senator Gietzelt —The Minister for Territories has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) The National Capital Development Commission issued a letter of acceptance to the contractor on 25 June 1984. The actual removal of asbestos did not start until 18 October 1984 because it was necessary for the contractor to conduct a series of smoke tests to establish the integrity of the plastic screen to be used.

(2) All major asbestos removal is expected to be completed by August 1985.

(3) The most significant problem which faced the contractor was his ability to obtain and train a suitable workforce to effectively and efficiently complete the project. There has been a very high turnover of staff because the work is hard and very tedious. The fire which occurred on 8 March 1985 also caused significant delays to the project.

(5) The current authorisation for the project is $1,600,547 and 7 days have been lost due to industrial delays.

The Department of Arts, Heritage and Environment has provided the following answer to part 4 of the question:

(4) There has been no industrial action by National Library staff related to the removal of asbestos from the building since the removal commenced.

Some disruption to the Library's services had been anticipated once a decision had been made to remove the asbestos. Although the Library took all steps possible to reduce inconvenience to users and staff, there have been delays in several services to users. From July 1984 to the end of May 1985 the Library has been evacuated on 14 afternoons and 8 evenings. The need to vacate floor 4 of the Library building while the asbestos is being removed has placed pressure on staff accommodation, limited conference facilities and limited reader services facilities. It has also necessitated the out-housing of approximately 3,000 sq. metres of library materials which has caused delays in providing access to these materials to the Library's clients.