Bill's Media Releases

An extra $10.5 million to help protect Australians from asbestos

The Gillard Government will invest more than $10.5 million to deliver a national approach to protect Australians from asbestos-related diseases.

Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Bill Shorten said Australia’s history of widespread asbestos use has left a deadly legacy of asbestos-containing material in our cities and towns.

“Asbestos is a cruel, indiscriminate killer, and because of its widespread use over much of the 20th century, it remains a persistent threat to Australians,” Mr Shorten said.

In 2010, 642 Australians died from mesothelioma, and for every death attributed to mesothelioma, it’s estimated two further people die from lung cancer caused by exposure to asbestos.

“Over the next 20 years, up to 40,000 Australians are expected to be diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease. There are children not yet born who'll die of an asbestos-related disease.”

Earlier this year, Minister Shorten introduced legislation to establish the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency which will work with and have representatives from all levels of government, as well as unions, industry and support groups to implement a national plan of action to protect Australians from asbestos.

“This is an example of this Government’s commitment to protect Australians by leading the first nationally coordinated approach to handling asbestos beyond our workplaces.”

Asbestos cement materials were made in Australia from 1917 to the mid-1980s so even the very youngest asbestos cement roof has been subjected to over twenty years of weathering, heat, cold, rain, hail and winds. All Asbestos Containing Materials (ACMs) will eventually become friable and once air borne there are no means of making an asbestos fibre safe.

Minister Shorten said the Gillard Government would continue to invest in initiatives like this to ensure we build a smarter, stronger and fairer Australia.

One of the first tasks for the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency will be the implementation of a plan to tackle illegal dumping, to encourage safe disposal across Australia, and to develop a strategy for the staged removal of ACMs from government and commercial buildings.

The establishment of an independent national agency was a key recommendation of the Asbestos Management Review of 2010.

The Review made it clear that we must act quickly to prevent further Australians from being exposed to deadly asbestos fibres and put in place a plan to address identification of asbestos containing materials in buildings, asbestos removal, handling and storage and asbestos awareness and education.

The Government established the Office of Asbestos Safety in August 2012 to commence work with states, territories and other stakeholders to develop the new national strategic plan by 1 July 2013.

The Bill to establish the agency is currently before the House of Representatives. It is the Government’s intention that the agency will commence operations from 1 July 2013.

Mr Shorten’s Media Contact: Sam Casey—0421 697 660