Chief Minister Andrew Barr has confirmed that the ACT Government is looking into establishing a compensation scheme for those affected by Mr Fluffy loose-filled asbestos.
It comes as Mr Barr used an “act of grace” payment to award one man with mesothelioma $250,000 to help cover his health bills after he was exposed to the loose-filled asbestos throughout his childhood.
“There is a mechanism under the Territory’s Financial Management Act to deal with exceptional circumstances and they were presented to Government, there was not another mechanism and so we used the mechanism that was available to us,” he said.
The payment does not necessarily set a precedent, Mr Barr said, but he added that the Government was willing to consider similar cases in the future.
Currently, the act of grace payment is the only remediation available to Mr Fluffy homeowners who suffer from mesothelioma, he said.
The ACT Government is continuing to push the Federal Government to compensate the Territory which took out a $1 billion concessional loan to help pay for the demolition of more than 1,000 properties. Mr Barr previously called on the Commonwealth Government to forgive the debt as an economic stimulus measure during the pandemic.
“Given that the ACT did not exist at the time of Mr Fluffy, there is a lot of moral hazard taxpayers are taking on here,” he told ABC Radio.
An audit into the product used by Mr Fluffy was conducted by the Commonwealth of the ACT’s 60,000 homes in 1988. The audit identified more than 1,000 properties containing Mr Fluffy asbestos.
A Commonwealth-funded clean-up program took place between 1989 and 1993 to remove the material but some homes were poorly cleaned and others were missed entirely.
Mr Barr said the Federal Government needed to foot some of the bills but did not put a dollar figure on it.
The compensation would most likely be tied to the number of people who came forward but the Commonwealth has not engaged with the ACT on the matter, he said.
“I just cannot put a timeframe on it, it may require a change of Government federally for something to happen, I just do not know.”
More information and eligibility requirements for the concessional buyback scheme is available here.