Thursday, March 13, 2008

Exactly who's doing what at Roberts Street?

Recent correspondence from the Office of Housing suggests that the successful tenderer for the Roberts Street estate demolition, City Circle Demolitions, will be sub-contracting out asbestos removal to a company registered for the work with WorkSafe Victoria. If this is the case, we still do not know who will actually be doing the work, nor whether the sub-contractor has submitted an asbestos control plan, let alone whether it will be made public any time soon.

What we also do not know is the management relationship between City Circle and its sub-contractor. To what extent will City Circle be managing its sub-contractor's work? Just what previous experience does City Circle have with projects involving asbestos?

A search of all classes of licenced asbestos removalists by name and suburb at the WorkSafe Victoria website appears to indicate that City Circle is not itself currently registered for asbestos removal work – hence the sub-contracting arrangement, which I understand from WorkSafe is quite common and acceptable in these cases.

However, we are entitled to ask if the company has ever been registered for asbestos removal, and, if so, what were the circumstances of any previous registration, including if and when its registration lapsed or otherwise ended.

Following contact with WorkSafe on the 5 March, I have again written to them to look into these and other matters. As everyone expects the government to set the standard for asbestos removal in these kinds of projects, if everything is being done that should be done, they should have no difficulty in answering these kinds of questions – in writing and at a public meeting. One would imagine they are indeed the kinds of questions the Office of Housing would have asked during the tender selection process.

There are also no prizes for guessing that I am yet to receive a response to letters I sent to Wynne and Richardson on Tuesday 11 March – the date asbestos removal works were to begin before a sudden postponement announced on the Office of Housing website last Friday. The letters set out the unresolved questions remaining from those previously sent to Wynne and Richardson on 18 January. They also demand appropriate disclosure of related information, and call for a public meeting on asbestos safety before the asbestos removal works begin.

The questions about this project are mounting, yet public interest information is still scarce. Is this really good enough? I suppose you could say it's garden-variety non-disclosure of the kind we've become used to seeing. Unfortunately, in this case, it involves asbestos.

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