Blue Mountains Liberals clash over asbestos claims

Returned fire: Ward 3 Councillor and former Liberal Party mayor Daniel Myles in Springwood.
Returned fire: Ward 3 Councillor and former Liberal Party mayor Daniel Myles in Springwood.

Two prominent Liberal Party politicians in the Blue Mountains have clashed publicly over council’s handling of its asbestos crisis.

Former mayor Daniel Myles accused Upper House Liberal MP Shayne Mallard of launching an “unfounded attack” over a speech he gave in Parliament calling on council to be sacked.

Mr Mallard, who lives in Katoomba, singled out Blue Mountains Labor MP Trish Doyle in his speech but ended up drawing the ire of the high-profile former Liberal mayor instead.

“I'm extremely disappointed that Shayne did not check with myself or Liberal deputy mayor Chris Van der Kley before launching an unfounded attack based on inaccurate information,” said Cr Myles.

“He should be aware that the independent inquiries launched into the council cleared the 12 councillors of blame for the asbestos management failures. I reject his call for a state government administrator to be appointed to this council.”

Mr Mallard’s speech appeared to cast blame for the culture surrounding the asbestos scandal back to 2010 when the Labor Party’s Adam Searle was mayor. He was succeeded by Daniel Myles from 2010 to 2013 before current mayor Mark Greenhill took the reins.

“The only way the Blue Mountains community can be confident that this asbestos issue is resolved is with the appointment of an administrator and the recruitment of an external general manager,” Mr Mallard told Parliament. “It will also ensure other issues are not being covered up as a result of this poisonous council culture that has no transparency or scrutiny,” he said.

Mr Mallard attacked council for its management of asbestos in relation to the construction of the carpark at the Lawson Mechanics Institute, the subject of a scathing report to council. He did not refer to a later report that exonerated the elected councillors over the matter.

Cr Myles said the “independent investigations into the council's asbestos management practices are now showing a remarkable number of the sites mentioned in Shayne Mallard’s speech have either negligible amounts of asbestos containing material (ACM), or in fact, have no traces of ACM at all”.

The Ward 3 councillor said council has been working with SafeWork NSW for many months now “to the point that SafeWork is scaling back their involvement in the Blue Mountains as they are happy with the council’s ability to manage asbestos”.

“Shayne’s comments are a concern because if he was briefed by the Office of the Minister for Local Government then she too may be operating under a misapprehension about the state of play up here.

“The councillors initiated the independent inquiries into this matter. We waited to get all the facts despite the many calls for the council to be dismissed. It's a shame that Shayne Mallard MP has not done likewise.”

Contacted about Cr Myle’s comments, Mr Mallard stood by his speech.

“I stand by my comments made in my speech to Parliament and I believe that the elected body is ultimately responsible for this asbestos mismanagement,” he said.

Blue Mountains MP Trish Doyle said Mr Mallard’s attack on the Labor Party had clearly “backfired”.

“Shayne Mallard clearly wants to play politics as a contact sport up here in the Blue Mountains, which is a pity, but he is obviously not very good at it because instead of landing a blow against me, all he has achieved is to aggravate the local Liberals on council and the well-liked and highly respected former Liberal mayor Daniel Myles.”

Blue Mountains mayor Mark Greenhill criticised the Liberal MP for selectively quoting from one of the independent reports.

“This whole episode smells very political and Mr Mallard’s selective speech just highlights this,” he said.