Car, Mitchell in heated debate over asbestos in schools

Prue Car speaking in Budget Estimates on Tuesday.
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Education Minister Prue Car has accused her predecessor of “looking for headlines” after the pair became engaged in a heated debate over the asbestos mulch saga.

Some 50 sites across New South Wales have now been found to have asbestos in mulch, including bonded asbestos at Penrith Christian School and Regatta Park in Emu Plains.

The drama has now become a political headache for the State Government as it tries to get on top of further sites and investigate how the mulch is so widespread and where the supply chain broke down.

Speaking at Budget Estimates today, Car conceded while bonded asbestos is low risk, it is still a cause for concern.

“It’s low risk when it’s bonded but of course if it becomes anything that’s not bonded it becomes of great concern, that is why we are removing it,” she said.

“We are working overtime literally to identify the sites in question.”

Car and her Education Ministry predecessor, Nationals MLC Sarah Mitchell, became involved in a heated debate at one point, after Mitchell pushed Car on details around the asbestos issues at Liverpool West Public School, which has been closed, and what was being done to avoid further issues in the future.

“I’m not interested as you are in going down a rabbit hole to scare parents,” Car declared.

“This is actually getting absolutely ridiculous.”

Sarah Mitchell questioning Prue Car on Tuesday.

Mitchell asked Car if there would be changes moving forward in terms of how suppliers worked with schools.

“We will be going through each and every one of our suppliers,” Car said.

“The safety of our children is our number one priority. If we have to close a loophole, we’ll close a loophole.”

Car accused Mitchell of “looking for headlines” in her questioning.

Mitchell accused Car of not having worked to identify loopholes in the supply chain and taking appropriate action.

Last week, the State Government launched an Asbestos Taskforce to give more resources and support to the NSW Environment Protection Authority’s investigation into asbestos in mulch.

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