Will free trade talks with India lead to more asbestos claims?

Date: Feb 23, 2017

The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) is concerned that the federal government’s free trade talks with India could result in more asbestos-based products being imported into Australia.

Last year, the Australian Border Force testified to a Senate Inquiry Committee that India posed one of the highest risks to Australia in terms of asbestos exports.

The CFMEU has written to Trade Minister Steven Ciobo in an effort to get him to call a stop to negotiations between the Australian government and India. It comes not long after asbestos-contaminated roof tiles were found at a children’s hospital in Perth, with the building materials sourced from China.

Asbestos is linked to various deadly diseases, including mesothelioma, asbestosis and silicosis. Mesothelioma, for example, is a fatal cancer that killed 626 people in the country in 2015, according to the latest Australian Mesothelioma Registry data.

Asbestos products from India

CFMEU Construction National Secretary Dave Noonan claimed India is the second-largest manufacturer of asbestos-based products worldwide.

“It uses asbestos in the manufacture of products, including building materials like cement roofing sheets, wall panels and pipes, and auto components like brakes, clutches and brake linings,” he explained.

“Australia’s system of protection against imported products loaded with asbestos is broken, as recent detections by our union have proven.”

Mr Noonan said border protection measures would need to be significantly strengthened if a trade agreement was signed between Australia and India, otherwise the market could be flooded with potentially dangerous items.

CFMEU cited reports that more than 50 factories in India currently use asbestos for building materials, and Mr Noonan claimed that the nation doesn’t “take asbestos exposure seriously”.

Additional safeguards needed

Mr Noonan said the extreme consequences of asbestos exposure mean the government must be careful before agreeing to a deal that could see more hazardous materials imported to Australia.

“Until an adequate regime of border protection capable of stopping asbestos is agreed with the union and implemented, along with additional safeguards inserted in trade agreements to deal with high-risk products from high-risk countries, a trade agreement with India cannot be considered in Australia’s national interest,” he explained.

Have you or a loved one contracted a dust disease due to asbestos exposure? If so, you may be entitled to compensation that can help provide financial support at a difficult time.

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