In August 2008 asbestos was discovered in mulch surrounding a walkway that linked two campuses of the Redcliffe State High School, in north Brisbane. Although the school community was not informed of the find, officials deny that it was an intentional cover-up.
Queensland Premier Anna Bligh has said officials did not feel that the asbestos posed a risk to the community, and based on this decided against telling students, parents or staff members. In spite of this explanation, Ms. Bligh admitted that it was a mistake to keep it hidden.
“Here in Queensland we have the most transparent system of managing asbestos in our schools of any education system in Australia”, she said, adding that the decision made by technical officers from Education Queensland (EQ) is “regrettable”.
The Opposition is accusing EQ of having covered up the asbestos discovery in order to avoid any bad publicity. The responsible officials, including Ms. Bligh, deny this. EQ acting Deputy Director-General Graham Atkins said: “With the benefits of hindsight, perhaps we could have put a letter out saying this was discovered and there’s zero risk”.
In response to Opposition accusations, Mr. Atkins explained: “The school and the principal and the region acted in good faith at that time”.
Education Minister Geoff Wilson has announced that new guidelines were developed this year, which require officials to inform parents about such incidents.