Somersby Sand Mining and Somersby Public School

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SpeakersRhiannon Ms Lee; Della Bosca The Hon John
BusinessQuestions Without Notice

Page: 13223

Ms LEE RHIANNON: I direct my question to the Minister for Health and Minister responsible for the Central Coast. With respect to the current proposal for a sand mine 260 metres from Somersby Public School, is the Minister aware of the 2008 Queensland Cancer Council review of lung cancer cases around Redlands sand quarries that found higher than average rates of lung cancer? Is he aware of warnings by the World Health Organisation that overexposure to dust containing crystalline silica, present in the air from sandblasting, causes silicosis and temporary and permanent disabilities and death from conditions such as lung fibrosis, emphysema and pulmonary tuberculosis? Given that as education Minister he noted concerns about health impacts on Somersby students, how will he as health Minister ensure that the health of schoolchildren and residents is protected if this sand mine goes ahead? Does his Government have a policy on whether extractive industries should be located so close to a school?

The Hon. JOHN DELLA BOSCA: The member's question is a good one. I am familiar with the issue from my knowledge of matters that are occurring on the Central Coast and also from my previous portfolio with regard to the placement of the school at Somersby. The education department is considering a number of issues in relation to those matters. I am also quite familiar with the tragic impact, potentially, of silicosis and other lung diseases and their relationship, potentially, with various forms of mining. Indeed, I have had a great interest in this area from a number of points of view, both as WorkCover Minister and also as Minister responsible for matters in relation to the Dust Diseases Board.

It is important that the member is careful in her use of epidemiological information. I am not sure that the case she points out from Queensland necessarily has a relationship to this form of sand mining. I suspect it may not but I am happy to reserve my judgement on that. I will ascertain from both the Minister for Education and Training and the Minister for Planning the latest information on these matters and will also seek my own advice and come back to her with an answer.

Ms LEE RHIANNON: I ask a supplementary question. Will the Minister elucidate his answer in that he said he suspects that the study of the Redlands sand quarries is not relevant to the Somersby situation—what does he base that judgement on?

The Hon. JOHN DELLA BOSCA: That is really asking for an opinion but I will be a bit bold and make the point that I was warning the member not to do the opposite, to draw more conclusions than may be available. I was not dismissing the possibility that there is a relationship; I was simply warning her not to necessarily embrace that because two situations are similar it means the same outcome will occur. I am happy to say I have a neutral view based on the information the member has put before the House. That is my interpretation of the matter. I simply caution her against a strict application from one place to the other. I will get back to her with information as quickly as I can.