THERE are probably people reading this column who live in a “Mr Fluffy” house. They may live next door to you. You wouldn’t know that their home potentially has the deadly Mr Fluffy fibres somewhere within it, but they certainly do.Mr Fluffy was Canberra man Dirk Jansen, a thinker who in the early ‘60s had the bright-spark inspiration to insulate homes with 100 per cent pure loose asbestos. Luckily, he was the only person in the world to have this idea.
Before we knew any better, he’d insulated 1100 homes in Canberra and Queanbeyan. The Canberra homes have now gone through an asbestos removal process of sorts that cost $100 million.
Despite that, Mr Fluffy house owners still have a tough choice to make, a predicament not made any easier by the words of the man in charge of the Asbestos Safety and Eradication program nationwide, Peter Tighe, last week.
When quizzed about the Mr Fluffy homes, Peter suggested that there’s no way he would let his family live in one of them.
“You just wouldn’t take the risk,” he told me, suggesting that no amount of cleaning could decontaminate these homes and the only responsible course of action was to demolish them.
It may not be economically practical to do that, but is it morally responsible not to?
Simon Corbell is the minister responsible for all this in the Legislative Assembly and has warned Mr Fluffy homeowners that there is no guarantee the clean up removed all of the asbestos fibres and that it’s likely there are still some lingering in wall cavities and under the floor.
If you owned one of these houses, what would you do? If you make full disclosure, nobody is going to want to buy your house, but it seems irresponsible not to. The Government isn’t going to take it off your hands. Do you just walk away and leave it? Money does make the world go around, but it can also make it stop.
Minister Corbell reminded me that his Government has carried the can for the remediation of four homes that were missed by the initial clean up. The total bill has been $2 million.
Despite signing an agreement to indemnify the Territory from all future claims arising from the Mr Fluffy debacle, the Feds have been very slow in coughing up any further cash.
Simon’s other argument is: “Well, at least we’ve done a lot more than the NSW Government over the border in Queanbeyan.”
He’s right. What has NSW done? Bugger all!
God help those involved at any level if someone from our town died from mesothelioma after living in a Mr Fluffy home. Do you reckon the asbestos fibres will hit the fan then?
Peter Tighe reminded me in very simple language that when people contract the disease, it’s never pretty.
“It’s a mongrel of a way to die,” he said.