THE boss of Orica says he tried to speak with NSW Environment minister Robyn Parker three times in the week after the hexavalent chromium leak but was told she was ‘‘busy’’.
Giving evidence to a parliamentary inquiry into the August 8 leak over Stockton, Graeme Liebelt this morning offered ‘‘sincere apologies’’ for the incident and said it had shaken his company.
Mr Liebelt revealed he’d had ‘‘no direct discussions’’ with Environment minister Robyn Parker, but had tried to get in touch with her on August 15, 16, and 17.
‘‘I called the chief of staff because I was at that time seeking to speak with the minister,’’ he said.
‘‘I had intended to say essentially three things to the minister.
‘‘One was to express my regret for the incident.
‘‘Second is to say we were doing everything possible to respond to the incident in a responsible way.
‘‘And then thirdly to reinforce with the minister that we as a company take these matters very seriously.’’
Asked why he had been unable to reach Ms Parker, Mr Liebelt said ‘‘I spoke to the chief of staff on a number of occasions and she explained to me that the minister was busy’’.
‘‘It was inappropriate for the minister because legal proceedings had commenced,’’ government MP and committee member Melinda Pavey interjected.
In response, Environment Minister Robyn Parker said Orica should have contacted Government and environmental authorities as soon as the leak at Kooragang Island occurred.
“The time for Orica to contact the Government and environmental authorities was as soon as the Kooragang Island leak occurred – not 7 days later,” Mrs Parker said.
The NSW Opposition has called again for her to be sacked following the revelations.
Last week, she was criticised for needing a bureaucrat to prompt her to give Mr Liebelt’s name during a press conference and for not issuing a public statement about a recent ammonia leak from Orica until nearly 24 hours after the latest incident.
She said at that time it was the role of the regulator, the Environmental Protection Authority, to communicate with the public about serious pollution incidents.