More than 50 years ago, the federal government was warned of the risks posed by the Mr Fluffy asbestos company, but did nothing to shut it down for the next decade.
Fast-forward to 2019 and the sorry saga continues to drag on, with answers still sorely lacking for the thousands of people affected by the potentially deadly loose-fill asbestos found in 1023 ACT homes.
Except now, the ACT government is considering putting something on the table that has never been offered before: the chance for the last remaining homeowners to stay put. The scourge of Mr Fluffy has reduced nearly 1000 homes to rubble. It has cast a shadow over the health of more than 17,000 people. The stress brought on by the scandal has led to marriage and family breakdowns. More than $1 billion of taxpayers' money has been spent in response. The scars left may never fully heal. We need to seriously look at how this was allowed to happen and how the fallout was handled.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr all but abandoned the idea of a full board of inquiry into the Mr Fluffy affair in 2016, saying he lacked Commonwealth and NSW support.
Subsequent calls for the ACT equivalent of a royal commission, which would have the power to compel witnesses and subpoena documents, have led to nothing.
As reported today, the ACT government is still yet to finalise its exit strategy for the buyback and demolition scheme, four years after the first home was knocked down and a year before the date it had been demanding to have the last remaining Mr Fluffy homes empty and ready for demolition.
The few who remain in their homes have valid reasons for wanting to stay. Some, like Lorraine and Leo Carvalho in Lyons, believe the buyback offer was inadequate. The couple also share the thoughts of people like Jean Geue in Aranda, who can't stomach the idea of leaving a house she's lived in for decades and having to effectively start again elsewhere in their retirement - a time designed to enjoy the fruits of a life's work. As former Mr Fluffy homeowner Felicity Prideaux points out, more people would certainly have stayed in their homes had the possibility of staying beyond 2020 been on the table. Worried by the prospect of compulsory acquisition, she felt she had no choice but to take the money and go.
Every option should have been laid out to Mr Fluffy homeowners from the start. Instead the final few are still unsure of their fate beyond June next year. The government is only expecting to finalise its plans by the end of 2019.
It is not good enough to make up policy as you go. Homeowners deserve quick answers on their future.
After that, a board of inquiry must give everyone answers on this whole sorry saga.