The Education Department of Queensland has received heavy criticism after it was revealed it had failed to update the public asbestos register pertaining to schools – despite assuring stakeholders that the information would be made available.
According to the department’s website, “each month, a list will be available detailing schools and dates that have been tested for asbestos-contaminated dust following a reported incident”.
That would mean that there has been no reported asbestos in schools this year, but the ABC reported earlier this year that there were confirmed asbestos incidents in 2021 at Macgregor State High School, Victoria Point State School and Sunnybank State High School.
The Opposition education spokesman Dr Christian Rowan criticised the department’s reporting processes in July.
“This is about openness and transparency of what is happening in terms of a serious public health issue,” he said.
Education Queensland director-general Tony Cook said he understood the delay to be because they had not received the information from QBuild.
“QBuild undertakes that and provides us with periodic updates,” Mr Cook said during budget estimates.
“I know we are in contact with QBuild in terms of that and we will continue to do that to ensure that the most up-to-date information is available.”
The incident sample testing register has not been updated since 2020. The opposition’s education spokesman has called on the department to release information as to why that is the case.
“There is nothing more important than the safety of children,” Dr Rowan said.
“I’m concerned that this again shows how the state government only cares about making announcements and about how things look, not how things actually are.
“This is a vitally important workplace health and safety issue which demands full accountability and transparency.”
A spokesperson for the department explained that “The Department of Education’s highest priority is the health, safety, and wellbeing of students, staff, visitors and contractors at our facilities.”
Between 2020 and 2021, asbestos was removed from 196 buildings over 133 school sites, with a further 55 removals scheduled as of 1st of July.