ACT News

Mr Fluffy impact statement enshrined in Hansard

Tears flowed in Federal Parliament on Thursday as owners of Mr Fluffy homes across the ACT witnessed their stories of personal tragedy being committed to Australia's political and historic record.

Federal Member for Fraser Andrew Leigh tabled in Parliament the harrowing impact statements of 330 families who are living in Mr Fluffy homes – suggesting all Liberal politicians read it and ask themselves whether their government had done enough to help the victims of the ACT's asbestos crisis.

Last month, the Commonwealth denied any liability for the public health disaster and instead offered a concessional  $1 billion loan to the ACT to buy back and demolish homes – which will seriously hit the local economy.

Dr Leigh and member for Canberra Gai Brodtmann were later asked what a federal Labour government should have done to assist home owners.

Dr Leigh said: "The ACT Government has taken a strong step forward but frankly I've been a little disappointed in the contribution that the Commonwealth Government has made to date. This is a question for the Abbott government, they are the federal government, they've been engaging with the ACT government and the appropriate question for them is whether they've done all they should, given the impact of Mr Fluffy in the ACT and its historical legacy."

The founder of the Fluffy Owners and Residents' Action Group said there was widespread disappointment among home owners with the Commonwealth's response and its refusal to honour a memorandum of understanding with the ACT government over shared funding responsibility for Mr Fluffy.

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"We understand that on technical legal grounds we might be statute barred from bringing legal proceedings against the Commonwealth but governments should govern. This isn't a legal issue, it's a moral issue and it's an issue which requires strong political leadership."

The group was now lobbying hard for the NSW government to follow the ACT government's lead in buying back and demolishing homes.

Ms Heseltine said the tabling of the Canberra Mr Fluffy impact statement was the end of the active campaign in the ACT "and we now turn our minds to Queanbeyan".

"These Queanbeyan families still have the full amount of Fluffy asbestos in their roofs. It makes me almost sick to even think about it."

The NSW government is conducting an inquiry into the Mr Fluffy issue.

Petra Weisner, a Mr Fluffy home owner from Queanbeyan, said Queanbeyan families were desperate for recognition of their plight.

"We face devastation both in terms of the health impact but also financial devastation if the government does not act."

She said Queanbeyan families had been hugely buoyed by the support coming from across the ACT border and Thursday was an important day for Canberra families affected by the asbestos tragedy because the record of their experience was enshrined in Hansard.

Dr Leigh told Parliament: "For people outside the ACT, the name 'Mr Fluffy' probably calls to mind something fun and frivolous. But fun and frivolity have been pretty scarce over the last few years for over 1000 Canberra families who discovered their homes had been pumped full of crushed raw asbestos by a dodgy contractor trading under the name of Mr Fluffy."

"The families affected by this calamity will see their treasured homes reduced to rubble. As if that weren't painful enough, they also face years of uncertainty as they wait to find out whether anyone they love will fall sick from asbestos exposure."

Ms Heseltine said there were still many families uncertain about whether they could buy back their blocks and rebuild. And some owners had been so traumatised by their experience that life would never be the same.

"Every family will move on from this in their own way. And not every family will get all that they wanted. But we do have a result, and we stood together through this and now we need to move forward and regain a new form of normal."

Legislation to provide the $1 billion loan to the ACT Government from Commonwealth coffers to buy back and demolish all 1021 Mr Fluffy homes was also tabled in Federal Parliament on Thursday. The ACT Government Loan Bill 2014 is expected to pass Parliament, without debate, next week.

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