The Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Bill Shorten, has directed the Office of Asbestos Safety to coordinate a national response and work with Telstra and its contractors on a best practice approach to asbestos safety, following recent instances of potential asbestos exposure.
“We take any potential cases of asbestos exposure extremely seriously and a national approach to asbestos awareness, handling and eradication is urgently needed,” said Minister Shorten.
“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.”
“The Gillard Labor Government is delivering a National Plan of Action aimed at eliminating asbestos-related diseases through a national agency.”
Legislation to create the national Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency is currently before Parliament. The new Agency will drive the implementation of a National Plan of Action, working with state and territory regulators.
It is expected that the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency will commence formally from 1 July 2013. The Gillard Labor Government allocated $10.5 million to the work of the national Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency in the recent Budget.
The Gillard Government calls on all Members of Parliament to support the passage of this important legislation.
More immediately, the Office of Asbestos Safety will work closely with Comcare, as well as with all 8 responsible State and Territory work health and safety regulators, to ensure best practice management of any potential asbestos hazards arising from the Telstra pits.
“The Office of Asbestos Safety will work closely with Comcare to address any asbestos hazards in a nationally coordinated way, to protect Australians from asbestos exposure.”
“This will ensure that concerning incidents of potential asbestos exposure are acted on quickly and consistently across each state and territory.”
Comcare Inspectors are investigating the work health and safety systems of Telstra and its contractors in Tasmania, New South Wales and Victoria.
The Office of Asbestos Safety will ensure that the lessons of any shortcomings in asbestos handling and disposal identified by Comcare investigations are acted upon by the Agency.