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October 22, 2018

Work safety watchdog rejects union's asbestos claims

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“My belief is we have a competent group of removalists at the moment, there have been issues from time to time, but it’s not like there’s some widespread deficiency in the skill set,” Mr McCabe said.

“It won’t be like the pink batts [home insulation rollout] work, because pretty much everyone can do that work, where the drive was to get the money out the door for economic stimulus.

“The stress here is to get the money to owners, not removalists.”

CFMEU ACT branch secretary Dean Hall said it was critical the ACT government scrutinised applicants and spent what was needed to ensure the highest standard of removalist work.

“Everyone in the industry knows that there are some very problematic individuals and companies in the industry,” Mr Hall said.

“If it goes to an aggressive competitive tender process it’s going to serve the cowboys.”

Mr Hall said he was aware of removalists on a number of sites in recent years who had been seen, and in at least one case photographed, in asbestos-related exclusion zones without wearing the correct respiratory gear.

He also raised concerns about the alleged failure of some removalists to decontaminate before eating or having a cigarette.

Mr McCabe said WorkSafe had taken action in relation to a 2012 incident captured in CFMEU photographs, but there were only a small number of cases where removalists were proven to have the done the wrong thing.

He said recently announced restrictions and direct oversight of removalists by WorkSafe would ensure wider scrutiny.

Fyshwick asbestos assessor Peter Hengst said he had found no problems with ACT removalists and did not know of any local “cowboys”.

“Because I’m an assessor I often do inspections for other companies, and I find their standards pretty good,” Mr Hengst said.

Now working for Ozbestos, he began as an asbestos removalist in 1985 and became an assessor in 2007.

He said he welcomed moves to strengthen Worksafe oversight, after now-stark Fluffy memories from his past days as an electrician.

“I remember crawling through roofs thinking this [stuff] is brilliant, it’s not itchy.”

There were 70 Class A asbestos removalist licences this week, the only ACT licence which allows the removal of friable asbestos, including that used as loose-fill insulation, but Mr McCabe said the number of removalists who operated in Canberra was “barely in the double figures”.

He said he would be surprised if there were 20-30 used across the clean-up and demolition of the 1021 Mr Fluffy homes across the next five years.

“We’ll have a very close look at anyone we’re not familiar with,” he said.

Tell us your thoughts: Email: sunday@canberratimes.com.au











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Work safety watchdog rejects union's asbestos claims

Cancer link to two asbestos factories

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Queensland Health’s executive director of the Health Protection Unit, Sophie Dwyer, confirmed the “raw data” from the Queensland Cancer Registry showed 20 people who had contracted mesothelioma lived within a 1.5-kilometre radius from the two plants.

However, the risk from asbestos from Gaythorne’s former asbestos history is now low, according to Ms Dwyer.

She confirmed that “sheets” of old asbestos were being found in a creek leading into Kedron Brook.

However, Ms Dwyer told residents at a public meeting at the Gaythorne RSL on Tuesday night that the risks from asbestos had declined since the plant closed.

“People should be aware that the site has not been used as an asbestos factory for over 20 years, so any general ambient contamination outside buildings is likely to have washed away with subsequent rain and flood events,” Ms Dwyer said.

“The greatest risk would have occurred when the factory was in operation and during close-down and clean-up.”

Ms Dwyer said Queensland Health was more than aware of public concerns in the two areas of Brisbane because there was a “30 to 40-year latency period” for asbestos-related diseases, between exposure and the emergence of mesothelioma.

On Wednesday morning Ms Dwyer said there were many variables that had to be cross-checked before the significance of the cancer disease close to the two asbestos factory sites could be classed as “significant”.

She said that included whether those people who contracted asbestos-related diseases had moved recently to the locations, whether they had worked at the factories, or whether the sufferers were the partner of a person who worked at either of the factories.

That research was part of a four-pronged study now underway into cancer-related diseases at Gaythorne, Mitchelton and Newstead, Ms Dwyer said.

She said the raw data was “important” but it was too early to tell if the asbestos-related disease statistics were “significant”.

Three Queensland Government departments – Environment, Health and Occupational Health and Safety with the Attorney-General’s department – and Brisbane City Council have been drawn into a multi-agency investigation.

Ms Dwyer said teams were doing inspections of dump sites being notified by residents, talking to James Hardie about the operations of the two plants and trying to locate former staff and management of the Wunderlich factory.

“Queensland Health is working with other agencies to determine whether there are any current health risks for residents living in close proximity to the former plant.”

This review will include tests of asbestos that has been found and checks of results found by a private company employed by a Brisbane media outlet.

“An environmental sampling program of the area surrounding the former Wunderlich factory will incorporate recognised testing standards and sampling methods,” Ms Dwyer said.

“If significant, above-background levels of contamination are detected as part of this investigation, then recommendations relating to health protection or mitigation measures to manage ongoing risks to the community will be provided to the appropriate agencies.”

Amanda Richards, general manager of Queensland’s Asbestos-Related Disease Society, on Tuesday said northside residents were now worried after several “dumps” of old asbestos sheeting were found.

“Every day we are getting more phone calls from people who lived in the area or who worked at the factory,” Ms Richards told Fairfax Radio 4BC.











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Cancer link to two asbestos factories

Gaythorne asbestos meeting

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Amanda Richards, general manager of Queensland’s Asbestos-Related Disease Society said northside residents were now worried after several “dumps” of old asbestos sheeting were located.

“Every day we are getting more phone calls from people who lived in the area or who worked at the factory,” Ms Richards told Radio 4BC.

Ms Richards said people told her organisation of different dumping grounds for broken-up asbestos from the factory.

“It seems to be spreading out wider and wider every time I get another phone call,” she said.

She said the concerns had emerged after newer residents move into the suburb and began to create gardens and renovate older homes.

“They are starting to find asbestos in their yard. It may even be that they may not even be able to dig because their house may be on an asbestos dump.”

She said residents were finding small pieces of older blue and brown asbestos in the garden.

However she in one area she went to look at near Kedron Brook Creek there was “sheet upon sheet upon sheet” of asbestos.

She said local residents told her that trucks from the factory would dump asbestos near a drain that runs into Kedron Brook.

Ms Richards said she had spoken with residents about “older dimpled fibro” sheeting made from asbestos.

Concerns were first raised last month about the former Wunderlich plant in suburban Gaythorne.

Residents told a law firm specialising in asbestos-related claims of seeing clouds of dust in streets around the factory which left windows and washing coated in white powder.

It has been reported that 20 cases of asbestos- related compensations claims with former residents have been finalised, though this could not be confirmed on Tuesday night.

Ms Richards said it was now a Queensland Government responsibility to repair.

“Now that we know that these dumps are around, we need the government to deal with it,” she said.

“And whether it is public land or private land, something has to be put in place to either seal the asbestos off, or dig it up and dump it properly in the mines site.”

A Queensland Health spokesperson could not be contacted on Tuesday night.

ABC Television reported that Queensland Health representatives at the public meeting told residents that because the asbestos being found was old, any risk was “low”.

However Fairfax Media understands a state government investigation will identify where asbestos is being found in Gaythorne and Mitchelton and the history of the Wunderlich factory site.











Original article – 

Gaythorne asbestos meeting

Mr Fluffy homes can be demolished safely, asbestos taskforce head Andrew Kefford says

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“It is possible to demolish a house with loose-fill asbestos safely and without there being a risk to neighbouring property,” he said. “It’s an area of work which is very heavily regulated and at the point where the houses are actually being knocked over, either the lose-fill asbestos has been removed or it has been bonded to the structures so the prospect of the fibres escaping is being controlled.”

He pointed to a demolition of a Fluffy house in Woden in July, where he said asbestos removalists had worked for a fortnight before the building was knocked over to remove the remaining fibres and glue the rest to the structure, so by the time it was knocked over it was safe. Dust-suppression measures would be in place during demolition, along with air monitoring.

“The whole thing is designed so at the point it is actually knocked over, the fibres are controlled and there is active dust suppression and active air monitoring to make sure that it’s working,” he said.

With the Woden home, the internal walls were removed so the remaining fibres could be taken out before demolition, but the taskforce has been considering how to handle double-brick houses, where the load-bearing wall is on the inside, so the outside wall must come off first to clean asbestos from the wall cavities. Mr Kefford confirmed some would have to be “bubble wrapped” – effectively enclosed in a tent – but for others, it would be safe to use technologies such as foam products, glue and water suppression to prevent fibres escaping.

“It is possible to demolish a double-brick house safely and not necessarily by putting it in a bubble,” he said. “It is something we are continuing to explore, but all of the advice we’re getting from the industry is it can be done safely.”

Each house would be assessed separately and have a demolition plan in place.

“If the advice is this house needs a bubble because it’s so bad, then there will be a bubble.”

Asked about an exclusion zone around houses, he said “the bloke standing on site spraying dust suppression might wear a suit”, but “the whole process is designed from beginning to end to prevent fibres from escaping”.

Once the house was down, 10 centimetres of soil would be removed from under the footprint of the house and a little wider, then the soil would be tested. If it showed asbestos fibres, “you keep digging and then you test again”.

“This is a heavily regulated process. At the point that the asbestos assessor is prepared to sign off that the site is clean, they stop digging.”

In the Downer demolition last year, 30 centimetres of soil had been removed. In Woden, testing had been clear after 10 centimetres.

“You need to be in a position to say this block has been remediated, which means we tested, we didn’t find anything, we replaced the dirt to ground level with clean fill and this block is now remediated,” he said.

“We’re getting a lot of questions about this, but the point is it can be done safely. It is a very tightly regulated space and at the end of that process it is possible to say that it’s been done properly and safely.”

The government is considering a buyback and demolition of the 1000 homes.











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Mr Fluffy homes can be demolished safely, asbestos taskforce head Andrew Kefford says

Welcome to the asbestos houses

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Property data shows at least five have been sold during the 1990s.

They were put together in panel polystyrene blocks sandwiched between asbestos cement facings.

Mr Kelly discovered the danger when he was in the middle of renovating and a neighbour ran over shouting for him to stop.

Mr Kelly discovered the danger when he was in the middle of renovating and a neighbour ran over shouting for him to stop.

Resident Jay Kelly discovered what his house was made of after starting renovations. He paid $357,500 for the three-bedroom house in 2009.

The commercial refrigeration mechanic planned to renovate for a few years and build equity to invest into land at Michelago while keeping the house as an investment.

He says at no stage in the sales process was he informed it was made almost entirely of asbestos and he is now stuck with a worthless house that he won’t be able to sell and can’t afford to knock down.

“I’ve gone back hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Mr Kelly said.

The building report describes the construction as “fibre cement sheet clad sandwich panels over foam, with metal wall framing” but the composition was not listed as known.

Under ACT legislation vendors must provide an asbestos assessment report, if there is one, or generic advice on asbestos if there is not – this is what the young first home buyer received.

Despite the fact the government built the houses and allowed them to be sold, ACT authorities have told the owners it is up to them to fix the problem.

Mr Kelly discovered the danger when he was in the middle of renovating and a neighbour ran over shouting for him to stop.

He had already done internal work including sanding and repairing in preparation for repainting the pink walls.

Mr Kelly sent a sample of the house to the ACT Government Analytical Laboratory for testing where it was found to be bonded chrysotile asbestos.

This is the most common form of the substance in the ACT and it differs from the amosite loose-fill asbestos now plaguing thousands of the city’s residents.

The loose asbestos was pumped into ceilings as insulation and is always present in a dangerous form as microscopic fibres. Bonded chrysotile asbestos becomes dangerous when it is degraded or disturbed and fibres are released.

Another test by Robson Environmental showed the chrysotile asbestos to be in the internal walls, external walls, ceiling sheets, eaves sheets and joint cover strips.

“No renovation or repair may be carried out in this house if it involves drilling, screwing or sanding which may disturb asbestos containing materials,” it said.

The report also rated the internal house as being in good condition with no risk of exposure during normal building use.

But, Mr Kelly said, his house remains dangerous due in part to its poor design and lack of insulation which causes mould to constantly grow on all surfaces and leads to paint cracking because of the moisture.

He is continually repainting but cannot work on the house to improve the situation.

The other day he caught his partner’s young son sticking his finger into the hole in the wall where a towel rail had been pulled out.

“How do you teach an eight-year-old asbestos awareness?” he said.

Mr Kelly feels trapped in the house that he can’t do any work on and is angry that the advice he has been given from the government is not realistic.

He said his home does not contain a manageable amount of asbestos and if he was to remove the substance he would be left with only windows and a tin roof.

“I can’t just sell the house because I can’t pass it on to someone else,” he said.

“I can’t rent it out – who would live here with the mould.”

Mr Kelly and the other home owners want action on the matter, believing their health and financial security are under threat.

Do you know more? Email meredith.clisby@fairfaxmedia.com.au.











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Welcome to the asbestos houses

Govt rejects asbestos claims

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The union maintains the partially demolished site is a public health disaster in the making, with broken cement sheeting causing wind gusts to blow the deadly fibres across the city.

Health fears were raised publicly last week when it was revealed the prominent CBD site, in the heart of Brisbane’s business district, was abandoned mid-demolition when the contractor, the Wacol-based P&K Demolitions went broke, owing $3.7 million to creditors.

The director of River City Asbestos Removals, the company contracted by P&K Demolitions to safely remove the cement sheeting, said he had not been able to declare some areas of the site safe, prompting fears thousands of city workers could unwittingly be inhaling the deadly airborne fibres.

Despite the departmental test results, CFMEU Queensland and Northern Territory branch president David Hanna said workplace health and safety officers had neglected their duties in properly supervising the demolition of the 1970s buildings, which they knew contained large amounts of asbestos.

“Everyone has known there has been asbestos there all along and that’s fine, if it’s managed well but it just hasn’t been,” he said.

“The asbestos has to be taken off in full sheets but this has been broken and parts have been pushed off the roof.

“There has been no reticulation system put in place, so there was no way to contain any of the dust that rose and spread.”

Mr Hanna said CFMEU members on site raised concerns about the asbestos removal procedures in early June, six months after the demolition process began.

He said all asbestos needed to be removed in a “soft strip” before demolition work commenced, which he alleged had not been the case.

Mr Hanna said the workplace health and safety officers should move quickly to install a reticulation system to prevent dust blowing off the site, despite its test results returning a negative finding for the fibres.

“It’s no good the department saying it’s not their responsibility, the department is there to protect the public to ensure legislation is adhered to,” he said.

“We think the department should ensure the asbestos is contained and removed in a proper manner and that means a sprinkler system needs to be set up as a precaution straight away.”

The Workplace Health and Safety spokesperson said sealed bags of asbestos remained on site at 300 George Street but that they that posed no public health risk.

“The sealed bags of asbestos still remain on-site, and demolition cannot resume until the bags are collected. It is the responsibility of the site owner to manage the safe removal of these bags,” the spokesperson said.

The developer, the Taiwanese-based Shayher Group, has not been available for comment.

The procurement process to find a new demolitionist is underway.

The CFMEU’s independent testing was undertaken by environmental consultancy Parsons Brinckerhoff. It did not undertake independent air testing at the site.











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Govt rejects asbestos claims

Government rejects union claims of asbestos risks

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The union maintains the partially demolished site is a public health disaster in the making, with broken cement sheeting causing wind gusts to blow the deadly fibres across the city.

Health fears were raised publicly last week when it was revealed the prominent CBD site, in the heart of Brisbane’s business district, was abandoned mid-demolition when the contractor, the Wacol-based P&K Demolitions went broke, owing $3.7 million to creditors.

The director of River City Asbestos Removals, the company contracted by P&K Demolitions to safely remove the cement sheeting, said he had not been able to declare some areas of the site safe, prompting fears thousands of city workers could unwittingly be inhaling the deadly airborne fibres.

Despite the departmental test results, CFMEU Queensland and Northern Territory branch president David Hanna said workplace health and safety officers had neglected their duties in properly supervising the demolition of the 1970s buildings, which they knew contained large amounts of asbestos.

“Everyone has known there has been asbestos there all along and that’s fine, if it’s managed well but it just hasn’t been,” he said.

“The asbestos has to be taken off in full sheets but this has been broken and parts have been pushed off the roof.

“There has been no reticulation system put in place, so there was no way to contain any of the dust that rose and spread.”

Mr Hanna said CFMEU members on site raised concerns about the asbestos removal procedures in early June, six months after the demolition process began.

He said all asbestos needed to be removed in a “soft strip” before demolition work commenced, which he alleged had not been the case.

Mr Hanna said the workplace health and safety officers should move quickly to install a reticulation system to prevent dust blowing off the site, despite its test results returning a negative finding for the fibres.

“It’s no good the department saying it’s not their responsibility, the department is there to protect the public to ensure legislation is adhered to,” he said.

“We think the department should ensure the asbestos is contained and removed in a proper manner and that means a sprinkler system needs to be set up as a precaution straight away.”

The Workplace Health and Safety spokesperson said sealed bags of asbestos remained on site at 300 George Street but that they that posed no public health risk.

“The sealed bags of asbestos still remain on-site, and demolition cannot resume until the bags are collected. It is the responsibility of the site owner to manage the safe removal of these bags,” the spokesperson said.

The developer, the Taiwanese-based Shayher Group, has not been available for comment.

The procurement process to find a new demolitionist is underway.

The CFMEU’s independent testing was undertaken by environmental consultancy Parsons Brinckerhoff. It did not undertake independent air testing at the site.











Read original article – 

Government rejects union claims of asbestos risks

Asbestos's toxic sprawl revealed

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The data shows that there were at least 41 more homes on the list with Mr Fluffy asbestos than the 1049 that were remediated following the survey.

Data displayed above represents the number of houses per suburb affected, and does not reflect the actual locations of affected homes.

A spokesperson for Workplace Safety Minister Simon Corbell said the list of houses had been taken from the list originally surveyed for loose-fill asbestos.

He said the list of 1049 houses relates to the number of houses that were identified for the purposes of the 2014 mail-out as having been part of the program.

“There are many reasons for possible discrepancies between the two numbers, including the demolition of some houses that were originally identified,” the spokesman said.

The suburb breakdown shows that Kambah, Curtin and Pearce had the highest number of Mr Fluffy homes in the territory.

There were 103 homes identified in the Tuggeranong suburb followed by 43 in Curtin and 40 in Pearce.

There were more than 30 Mr Fluffy homes discovered in the suburbs of Fisher, Farrer, Holder, Lyons, Torrens and Weston.

Just under 30 homes were found to contain the dormant danger in Chapman, Duffy, Flynn, Hackett, Melba and Rivett.

The loose-fill asbestos insulation scourge was discovered by assessors more than 30 years ago to have been pumped into ceilings in Belconnen, Weston Creek, Tuggeranong and Gungahlin as well as in inner-south and north Canberra.

Mr Fluffy was pumped into the ceilings of O’Malley, Red Hill and Forrest homes.

It was spread south as far as Tharwa and north as far as Hall, to Oaks Estate and Fyshwick and housing of the ANU.

The list shows that the homes pumped full of the deadly fibres are all over the territory and not only concentrated in the inner established areas.

The survey was conducted to determine how many homes would need to be remediated under the Loose Asbestos Insulation Removal Program, which was carried out between 1988 and 1993.

The federal government spent $100 million removing the insulation in 1049 homes determined to have the substance.

The ACT government wrote to the owners of these homes in February urging them to get an assessment done on the property as residual fibres could be present.

The vast majority of these assessments carried out since the warning have tested positive for remnant amosite within the walls and subfloors.

More than a dozen required the intervention of ACT WorkSafe for short or long-term lockdowns after the asbestos was found in living areas.

The ACT government has started to announce a series of actions it will take to address the concerns of the Mr Fluffy home owners and those who may come into contact with the homes.

This includes the announcement this week that all workers who might be exposed to asbestos complete training by September 30.

About 12,000 workers in more than 64 different occupations will be required to complete asbestos training.

An asbestos taskforce to assist the families affected has also been set up.

Workplace Safety Minister Simon Corbell has said that he does not consider the release of the addresses of Mr Fluffy homes to be the solution to identifying and managing risks associated with the houses in the program.











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Asbestos's toxic sprawl revealed

Asbestos sites at Birrigai school campsite covered in topsoil, fenced off

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Mr McNamara, whose mother died of mesithelioma after the family did bathroom renovations involving asbestos, said Birrigai was safe and he would have no problem sending his own children there.

“I know only two well what horrible stuff this and there’s no way that we’d risk anyone’s health out there,” he said. “I’m confident that … it’s safe.”

The asbestos had probably came from the sheds and houses there before the 2003 bushfires, and been exposed by heavy rains. He had become aware of it about October last year.

Earlier, Mr Bray said the asbestos finds were “so extensive that normal remediation work where you dig it up and take it to a disposal site would be prohibitively expensive”.

The asbestos not in the camp buildings. It had even been found in areas well away from the buildings, and it was “hard to know how far it goes”.

The fragments were bonded asbestos cement, which was “generally safe unless drilled, sandpapered, broken or handled”.

“Unless a child was to pick it up and rub in their hands and breathe it or ingest it, it’s very low-risk material,” he said.

The asbestos cement sheeting is not the same as the loose-fill Mr Fluffy asbestos causing distress after being found in Canberra homes.

Canberra Grammar School cancelled a Year 3 camp scheduled for June after news of the asbestos contamination, but other schools are still using Birrigai. Mr Bray said students, staff and parents were being made aware of the risk when they visited.

The remediation work had been finished two weeks ago, and a second official, Stephen Gwilliam, said it was “business as usual”.

An information pack went to visiting schools and other groups outlining the contamination and including a map of the areas where it had been found and induction procedures for visitors, Mr Gwilliam, a school network leader for Tuggeranong, said.

A spokesperson for Education Minister Joy Burch said 40 ACT schools had visited Birrigai this year, with only one cancellation. Schools received a letter advising of the asbestos situation, and “may use this to inform their school communities and families of students”, she said.

The ACT Government’s Tidbinbilla website has a series of risk management plans covering risks at Birrigai, from strangers on site, to natural disasters, lost students, snake bites and wildlife hazards, swooping birds, and even splinters. Asbestos does not appear to feature.

Radford school, though, has identified the asbestos risk, in a management plan that considers the possibility that students would “unknowingly pick up a piece of bonded asbestos containing material and release the fibres through hammering, drilling, abrasion” – a risk it assesses as having a remote likelihood.











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Asbestos sites at Birrigai school campsite covered in topsoil, fenced off

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