Turnbull Government Must Come Clean on the Barracks

17 April 2018

The Turnbull government must come clean about what it has done to remediate the Barracks site and respond to any contaminants found there, Terri Butler MP said.

“The Turnbull government has been evasive, unforthcoming with information, and unspecific about the remediation they have done,” Ms Butler said.

“What seems clear is that they've done remediation only for contamination "unique" to Defence, which suggests there may still be contaminants such as asbestos at the site,” she said.

“I wrote to the Minister about this issue on 9 April 2018, following up requests I had made for information dating back to 2015,” she said.

“It’s time for the Minister and the Turnbull government to tell locals and the market exactly what has been found at the site, what has been done to fix it, and what further remediation any purchaser will need to do,” she said.

In July 2015, an environmental investigation report was written, in relation to the Bulimba Barracks site.

Though the Turnbull government has not made that report public, claiming it contained “commercially sensitive information”, it has provided a synopsis of the report’s findings.

That synopsis included references to actual or potential contamination including leaking from underground tanks; hydrocarbon impact from the previous fuel storage point; solvents, degreasers and other caustic and alkaline solutions; elevated radiation levels in surface soil, and the presence of garnet; and asbestos-containing material.

By letter to Terri Butler MP, received 30 January 2017, the then Minister the Hon Dan Tehan MP said:

"Defence has undertaken some remediation work at the site following the preparation of the environmental report in July 2015. The contaminants that were identified on the site are not unusual for any typical metropolitan redevelopment site. Defence will ensure a prospective purchaser is aware of the report and the extent of the work that has been undertaken."

Ms Butler wrote back in March asking for a further update on the remediation work, asking for specifics.

By letter received on 3 May 2017, Mr Tehan wrote back and said:

"With regard to remediation works, stage one of the environmental investigation for Bulimba Barracks was conducted in July 2015. Defence has undertaken the recommended remediation work to address contaminants unique to Defence activities and will make relevant due diligence reports available to prospective buyers. The contaminants remaining at the site are not unusual for any typical metropolitan redevelopment site."

Ms Butler wrote back in May, asking for a timeline for the sale. Mr Tehan responded in June that Defence intended to list the site for sale "in late 2017".

In August 2017, following a committee hearing that had canvassed some of the issues of the site, Mr Tehan wrote to Ms Butler again. In that letter, he said:

"Defence will make available all relevant due diligence documents, including heritage and environmental assessments to potential purchasers."

Subsequent further correspondence was exchanged, but no further detail about the contamination or remediation has been forthcoming.

Ms Butler wrote to the now Minister on 9 April 2018 stating “I have seen no detail of the remediation work that has been undertaken. Nor have I seen any information about any second stage Environmental Investigation that may have occurred. Your predecessor undertook to me that “relevant due diligence reports” in this regard would be provided to prospective buyers. I’d be grateful if you would provide such reports, and an update about what has been done to remediate the site, at your earliest convenience.”

No reply has yet been received.