Bill's Media Releases

National action to tackle Australia’s deadly asbestos legacy

The Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations today introduced legislation into Parliament to establish the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency.

Minister Shorten said that Australia’s history of widespread use of asbestos has left a deadly legacy of asbestos-containing material in our built environment.

“It’s been almost a decade since asbestos was banned in this country and still, today, the dangers of this silent killer remain. Asbestos is the worst industrial menace that will go on killing for decades,” Mr Shorten said.

“The sad truth is that asbestos-related deaths are not expected to peak until 2020, and that tragically, we are expecting another 30-40,000 people to be diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases in the next 20 years. There are children not yet born who will die of asbestos related diseases. We owe it to future generations to come to grips with the blight of asbestos.”

The Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency Bill 2013 will establish the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency and will work with jurisdictions for a nationally consistent approach on asbestos eradication, handling and awareness, including environmental and public health issues.

“The Gillard Government is committed to a plan of action for asbestos eradication and handling across Australia that eliminates exposure, and establishing the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency is a critical step in that process,” Mr Shorten said.

“We lead the world in mesothelioma rates. Today we have the chance to lead in action.”

“We have been reminded this week of the risks of asbestos to the community, with disturbing vision circulated of a truck illegally dumping asbestos material outside a preschool in Sydney. I am disgusted at the reckless, deliberate and callous behaviour displayed by the truck driver.”

“The Agency we are setting up will have amongst its first tasks the implementation of a plan to tackle illegal dumping and to encourage safe disposal across Australia.”

“The agency will work in tandem with all levels of government, unions, industry and support groups to implement a plan of action to eliminate asbestos exposure. This is the first time that we will have a coordinated approach to eradicating, and handling asbestos beyond our workplaces.”

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

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

“The Government trusts that all sides of politics will see the value in prioritising the passage of this legislation through both houses of Parliament,” Mr Shorten said.

“This Labor Government has a consistent track record of action to tackle the scourge of asbestos.”

The Government established the Office of Asbestos Safety in August 2012 to commence work with jurisdictions and stakeholders to start the development of the new national strategic plan by 1 July 2013. It is intended that the new Agency will be operational from 1 July 2013.

We encourage input for the plan to address asbestos; removal, handling, storage and disposal; awareness and education; ways to achieve a coordinated approach across all levels of government; and identification of asbestos containing materials (including in residences).

Public feedback on the draft plan is encouraged and will be available on the Office’s website at http://deewr.gov.au/office-asbestos-safety. The plan will provide a road map for tackling asbestos issues.

Mr Shorten’s Media Contact: Jessica Lindell 0408 642 804