National Asbestos Summit 2: September 2012

Following the release of the Asbestos Management Review Report, the ACTU in conjunction with the Cancer Council and a number of Australian asbestos support groups held the second National Asbestos Summit.

In June 2010, at the first National Asbestos Summit, the ACTU, unions, Cancer Council and Asbestos support groups developed and endorsed a National Declaration: Towards an Australian Safe Asbestos Free Environment, which called for the elimination of asbestos related disease by 2030 and the establishment of a National Asbestos Authority. Partly as a result of the summit and the widely supported declaration, the then Deputy Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, commissioned the Asbestos Management Review in October 2010. The report was handed to the Minister on July 1, 2012.   

The Hon Bill Shorten MP, Minister for Workplace Relations, delivered a speech outlining his and the Labour Government's response to the recommendations of the review. The response is a historic one: for the first time not only in the history of Australia, but in the history of any other country in the world, there is going to be a coordinated, national approach to the management and removal of asbestos. 

Minister Shorten said, 'Today, the Australian Government declares its commitment to establishing an Office of Asbestos Safety which will be tasked with developing a national strategic plan as recommended by the Review, by 1 July 2013.' It will also prepare a costed response to all the recommendations.  It will also begin  the work to ultimately remove asbestos from the Australian built environment.  The Minister supported the removal of asbestos in government and public buildings by 2030, but acknowledged that removal from domestic homes would be a huge, albeit important, task. The Minister added, however, that in the meantime, he is going to immediately establish a group which will start preparatory work, such as community awareness and education.

ACTU Assistant Secretary Michael Borowick said asbestos remained a silent killer and the Government's announcement at the joint ACTU-Cancer Council Australia Summit showed it took the issue seriously.  He said the new Office for Asbestos Safety must quickly move to implement a plan to make Australia asbestos-free within two decades.

Mr Borowick said a strategic plan by the new Office for Asbestos Safety would pave the way towards the ultimate goal of complete asbestos removal, and would help deal with its existence now, while ensuring all Australians were made aware of its dangers. "Australia has the highest rate of mesothelioma deaths in the world and experts predict this will worsen in the future, with the rise of home renovations," he said.

"Unions have long been calling for the safe removal of asbestos by 2030, starting with Government buildings, and for an audit of its existence in residential properties built before production ended in 1987. The trail of asbestos leaves a grim legacy and today's Summit is an important discussion about how to end it."

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Last Amended February 2015

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