A bill that will establish an independent agency tasked with coordinating a national strategy for the safe handling and removal of asbestos materials in Australia has now passed both houses of parliament.
The Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency Bill 2013 had a third reading in the Senate yesterday (June 20) and has now only to receive the assent of the governor-general.
The minister for employment and workplace relations Bill Shorten welcomed the bill’s passing in a statement yesterday.
“It is a historic day for Australians because there will now be a national agency dedicated to working with jurisdictions and stakeholders to create a nationally consistent approach to the eradication, handling and awareness of asbestos,” said Mr Shorten.
“Australia is the first nation to progress towards the ultimate elimination of asbestos-related diseases.”
Mr Shorten says that an estimated one in three Australian homes built between 1945 and 1987 contain asbestos.
The need for a national strategy to deal with this dangerous presence in the lives of many potentially unaware Australians has been highlighted in recent weeks with the revelation that contractors working on the National Broadband Network rollout may not have been sufficiently trained to safely handle asbestos in Telstra communication pits.
The Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency will effect a national plan to improve asbestos safety by using a wide range of strategies.
It will develop and then implement a priority-based removal program of the dangerous material across the country as well as assuming a leadership role in an international campaign for a global ban.
There will also be work done to develop a more nationally consistent approach to asbestos handling and management.
The public will benefit from the agency’s additional task of increasing awareness of asbestos exposure at work and at home and from ongoing research into ways of minimising the risk of this exposure.
Dust related diseases can result from both moderate long-term and intense short-term exposure to asbestos containing materials.
Symptoms can take up to 20 years to become apparent, but when they do they commonly include shortness of breath, a dry cough, fatigue and pain.