March 25, 2019

Push to close asbestos loophole

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Ms Doust said, as WA laws currently stood, people who received compensation for asbestosis could not receive further financial support for mesothelioma or lung cancer brought on by asbestos exposure.

“What this bill would seek to do is allow at a later stage they can actually go back and seek additional compensation,” Ms Doust said.

The bill could also allow courts to award provisional damages and damages to compensate for any loss or impairment to the victim from doing domestic duty or caring for another person, such as a child.

Each year about 250 West Australians die from diseases connected with exposure to the deadly fibres.

Between 1960 and 2008, about 1400 men and 220 women in WA were diagnosed with mesothelioma. The high toll is attributed to what is considered one of Australia’s largest industrial disasters – mining blue asbestos in Wittenoom in the Pilbara.

“The figures are going up because it’s everywhere and the exposure is everywhere,” Ms Doust said.

“It’s in a whole range of workplaces and the potential for exposure is so high.”

The bill was tabled in parliament late last year and had its second reading in February which WA Attorney General Michael Mischin is responding to on behalf of the government.

Ms Doust said she was not confident the bill would be supported by the government.

“I think Michael Mischin is trying to find a whole heap of reasons not to support this bill.”

Mr Mischin said in a statement the government acknowledged asbestos-related diseases were a serious issue in WA and it was deeply sympathetic to those who are afflicted by asbestos-related diseases.

“While I acknowledge Hon. Kate Doust’s efforts in introducing the bill, it regrettably, cannot be supported by government as the drafting is unsatisfactory in a variety of respects,” Mr Mischin said.

“The bill draws on specifically drafted provisions and incompatible provisions selected from various legislation of other Australian jurisdictions – some of that legislation [is] ill considered.

“If the bill became law, ambiguity in the provisions’ meaning and intended application inevitably would result in controversy and litigation.

“There are so many difficulties with the bill that it cannot pass in its current form.

“Even if key elements of the bill were supported by government, the detail and implications of those elements should be further considered, with appropriate stakeholders, to ensure that it does not work against those whom the bill is intended to help. This important issue is one that I would like to explore further with my department.”

Ms Doust said the additional compensation for claimants would come from monies set aside by manufacturer James Hardie.

“There is no cost to the government… there is no criticism from insurers,” she said.

“How much more time do we want to waste on the semantics? Let’s give some comfort to these people.

“At the end of the day, WA people deserve a better outcome and legislation that provides better compensation and support.

“Why would WA be left behind the rest of the country?”


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Push to close asbestos loophole

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