The federal government’s efforts to formulate a national strategy for eliminating Asbestosis and other asbestos-related dust diseases continued last week.
Minister for employment and workplace relations Bill Shorten met on Friday (May 3) with members of the Select Council on Workplace Relations.
The purpose of the meeting was to consult on the National Strategic Plan for Asbestos Awareness and Management.
This plan will be the first co-ordinated national approach to managing asbestos in the workplace, and has been in development since the government established the Office for Asbestos Safety in August 2012.
In a statement, Mr Shorten said the wide use of asbestos in Australia – finally banned completely in 2003 – had left a “deadly legacy” in buildings around the country.
“The Gillard government is committed to a plan of action for asbestos eradication and handling across Australia that aims to eliminate exposure and today’s meeting is another important step in developing the National Strategic Plan,” Mr Shorten said.
Despite nearly a decade passing since asbestos was banned, its legacy will continue to haunt the country.
Mr Shorten said the government expects another 30-40,000 people to be diagnosed with asbestos-related conditions over the next two decades.
The Office of Asbestos Safety released a discussion draft of the National Strategic Plan for Asbestos Awareness and Management on April 3.
The stated aim of the plan is “to minimise exposure to asbestos fibres, in order to eliminate asbestos-related disease in Australia”.
The draft outlined five strategies to achieve this end: awareness; better practice; identification and removal; and international co-ordination.
The public were able to provide their views on the discussion draft, and now the plan is at the consultation stage.
Driving its development is the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency, established on March 20.
The agency will work with representatives from all around the country to have the plan ready by June 30, 2013.
“I am pleased that seven out of the eight state and territory representatives are supporting the development of the National Plan,” Mr Shorten said. He stated his disappointment that Victoria was not taking part in the nationally co-ordinated approach.
The minister said the input of these representatives is “vital” in making sure the final plan is practical, comprehensive and there are no barriers to implementation.
Exposure to asbestos fibres or dust can lead to conditions such as Asbestosis, Mesothelioma and lung cancer.