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February 20, 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











Continue at source:  

Work safety watchdog rejects union's asbestos claims

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

NSW launches investigation of 'Mr Fluffy' asbestos

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For the 13 homes already identified, authorities will conduct detailed testing, including air monitoring and possibly asking householders to wear monitors to test the air they are breathing as they go about day-to-day tasks in their homes.

Owners of homes built before 1980 in the 14 local government areas will be able to request a free assessment over the next 12 months, to have their ceilings checked for asbestos insulation.

The chairman of the Heads of Asbestos Coordination Authorities, Peter Dunphy, said the testing offer might well be taken up by thousands of households, but he didn’t expect to find widespread use of the insulation.

“So far we don’t think this going to be very widespread,” he said. “We’re not really anticipating a much bigger number than we’ve already encountered, but we’ll wait to see what comes out of the investigation and what comes out of the samples that come forward.”

He conceded that some homeowners with the insulation might not come forward, but said authorities could not force themselves into people’s homes. They hoped that by offering free assessments they would encourage anyone who suspected the presence of the material to make contact.

Mr Dunphy said the Canberra experience showed removing it had not been effective (the asbestos was removed from the Canberra homes 20 years ago, but fibres have now been found in walls and elsewhere), so containment or demolition were the options facing NSW.

The survey area is highly selective. It doesn’t include all south-eastern areas, but covers the Geater Hume, Berrigan and Wagga Wagga council areas near the Victorian border, the Bega Valley, Snowy River, Cooma Monaro and Eurobodalla council areas on the south coast and the Snowy Mountains, the Palerang (including Braidwood and Bungendore), Queanbeyan, Yass Valley and Goulburn councils around Canberra, the Young council area further west, and Ku-ring-gai and North Sydney councils.

Asked how the areas were chosen, NSW authorities said the decision was made on the basis of information provided by the ACT.

An investigator will be appointed to trawl through state and local government records and follow up anecdotal information to track down any evidence of Mr Fluffy or other loose-fill asbestos companies installing the material in other homes in the 14 areas.

It is clear Mr Fluffy operated outside Canberra, and NSW Health believes a company other than Mr Fluffy may have been operating in the south-west of the state – although this could also have been an offshoot of the Canberra-based company run by Dirk Jansen, colloquially known as Mr Fluffy.

A federal government report from 1968 refers to Sydney company Bowsers Asphalt installing the product over 13 years, but authorities believe Bowsers was using a sprayed form of asbestos as a fire retardant in commercial buildings.

Anecdotal reports suggest the material might have been used in Wollongong in the 1970s, but Wollongong is not part of the survey area.

Mr Perrottet would not reveal the cost of the survey, testing and investigation, but confirmed it was being paid by the NSW government.

Mr Dunphy said similar testing of affected homes had been done in 1993, including monitoring the air householders were breathing over eight hours, and it had not found asbestos levels higher than control houses.

Queanbeyan Mayor Tim Overall welcomed the announcement as a step in the right direction. He has suggested as many as 60 homes in Queanbeyan could contain the asbestos, based on the proportion of Canberra homes affected, and said he hoped the new investigation would identify all affected properties.

Yass council director of planning and environment Chris Berry said the news was welcome, allowing residents to have their homes checked.

“At least then people know, rather than at the present time when they’re completely in the dark about whether they have a problem or they don’t have a problem,” he said. “The challenge is if there is a problem how do you manage that problem with that particular family.”

Yass council has written to the single house it knows of this week, alerting the owner to the presence of the insulation.











See the original article here:

NSW launches investigation of 'Mr Fluffy' asbestos

Assessors failed to detect blue asbestos in family's home

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For this young family, the large mortgage on their home has left them in financial limbo – and completely at the mercy of whatever settlement package is offered.

“We are looking down the barrel of facing financial ruin, which, when you are a young family just starting out, is pretty bad,” Mr Ziolkowski said.

The couple has few savings and even struggled to meet the costs of repeated asbestos assessments. Now they are now watching every dollar of the ACT government’s assistance package for families displaced by asbestos, knowing there is nothing in reserve for when it runs out.

The Ziolkowskis are also seeking answers on how their home was contaminated with blue asbestos and whether there are potential legal ramifications given the public health risks of blue asbestos were already well documented at the time it was being installed by Mr Fluffy.

ACT WorkSafe Commissioner Mark McCabe said blue asbestos had been discovered in just three homes in the ACT.

Mr and Mrs Ziolkowski are haunted by the idea their children have been exposed to crocidolite.

Their initiation assessment, undertaken by a Class A licensed assessor shortly after the government’s February warning letter to households, came back clear.

But, after the Ziolkowskis joined the Fluffy Owners and Residents’ Action Group and began discussing the issue with other affected families, they realised no samples had been taken and questioned the validity of the result.

A burst water pipe provided the chance for a second assessment – which also came back clear.

Mrs Ziolkowski said: “I was trying to stay positive that the house was going to be OK, but something inside me felt wrong. I actually felt sick all the time and I would get angry when Jonathan was playing on the floor and getting dusty – a part of me was always asking ‘what if?’ It was this constant sense of unease and stress.”

When her asbestos assessor came to check the repaired pipe, Mrs Ziolkowski asked whether any further testing should be undertaken but was reassured that it was unnecessary.

It was only when she checked her wardrobes and found large gaps in the wall cavities earlier this month that she called her assessor back and asked him to take a sample – which came back positive.

She then sought a second opinion from Robson Environmental, which undertook a forensic inspection. Samples from every room except the kitchen showed the presence of blue asbestos fibres.

Mrs Ziolkowski was at a shopping centre when the taskforce called to recommend the family vacate the home immediately.

“I was so completely hysterical a complete stranger came up to me and offered to take my baby and sit with her and feed her while I was on the phone,” she said. “I don’t have a home any more. We don’t have any possessions. We can never go back.”

The couple is concentrating on keeping calm for their children. But Mrs Ziolkowski is undergoing counselling to manage her grief and is having trouble sleeping.

Mr Ziolkowski is trying to focus on his work as a scientist, in order to protect their vital sole income.

Mr Fluffy Owner and Residents’ Action Group founder Brianna Heseltine said the family’s case raised questions for the government about the reliability of asbestos assessments and the need for a clear risk management strategy.

“I think the government needs to accept that residents are entitled to feel increasingly unprepared to play Russian roulette in their homes,” she said. “The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. One group member reminded me yesterday that it is his family that bears the exposure risk, not the government, and any delays on a decision about what to do with the homes could prove to be a tipping point.”











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Assessors failed to detect blue asbestos in family's home

Trades union forced ACT asbestos removal, not health concerns

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The union also took out an advertisement in The Canberra Times warning “householders, prospective buyers and renovators” about deadly brown asbestos fluff insulation two months later.

In the ultimatum secretary Peter O’Dea claimed the health of workers exposed to the asbestos was not being taken seriously and that the government continued to permit the use of asbestos in the ACT “fully knowing the health implications”.

But the most damning aspect of the inquiry, he said, was that the casualties of exposure to asbestos “through government and departmental negligence” were not to be considered.

“It can do nothing for those who due to having built, worked or lived in buildings with asbestos have developed cancer of the lungs, larynx or stomach and/or breathing disorders,” Mr O’Dea said.

The council was also angry that the Commonwealth, through the National Capital Development Commission, continued to approve the use of asbestos despite its knowledge the substance was dangerous to people’s health.

Mr O’Dea also writes that the working party had no powers to investigate asbestos in non-government buildings and laments that no one is concerned for the safety and care of people living in homes laden with asbestos.

“Who will pick up the tab for its removal? We have been informed that at least 800 such homes have already been identified,” he said.

The cabinet-in-confidence documents show asbestos was removed from the National Library in 1984 because the Hawke government was concerned about the threat of significant industrial action, not the health implications.

The Trades and Labour Council had picketed the library for about three months over the issue in 1983 which caused inconvenience to users and threatened the collection.

The council wanted the asbestos removed but the government’s first investigation showed there was no health threat to workers and no action was taken.

The National Archives papers show the government approved $1.2 million in funding because of the in-principle agreement given to the union to end the picketing of the library.

The union’s list of demands included that the government advertise the dangers of asbestos insulation in private dwellings.

Documents submitted to cabinet request urgent action because of the threat of significant industrial disruption if a decision on expenditure was not made.

“Any delays or repudiation of that agreement now would be seen by the TLC as a breach of faith and it is anticipated that extensive and strong industrial action would be certain,” a submission by ministers, including Territories Minister Tom Uren, said.

The Hawke government was also concerned about the proposal creating a precedent for asbestos removal from other Commonwealth buildings and facilities. Several departments argued strongly for a delay until all buildings in the territory could be assessed.

Expert advice to cabinet from the Commonwealth Institute of Health said there was no significant health risk from the presence of asbestos in the library and removal of it was not supported.

However this was at odds with the independent report compiled by Kevin Purse and Ian Furness of the South Australian Asbestos Advisory Committee that was scathing of the ACT’s “total absence of legislative and ancillary provisions concerning all aspects of asbestos usage, control and removal”.

They said historically the hazards posed by airborne asbestos dust had been known as far back as 1918 but had been largely neglected.

“Despite this, legislative provisions have been totally lacking as in the case of the ACT or not implemented as has been the case in other states,” they said.

“Together with poor management practices this has resulted in workers being subjected to totally unwarranted health hazards.”

Former Hawke government adviser Peter Conway said at the time there had been a realisation asbestos in the territory was going to be an issue.

“I think it was a growing awareness that we had a problem and had to do something about it,” Mr Conway said.

The former chair of the first ACT Asbestos Working Party, Ben Selinger, says the National Library was the first attempt to deal with asbestos in the ACT.

“We had no regulations, no way of dealing with it except for trying to find another jurisdiction whose rules and regs we could just use,” Dr Selinger said.

Dr Selinger, who was a reader in chemistry at the Australian National University, said it was the union that forced the government to take action on the issue.

“They had placards saying One Fibre Kills and so on which were wrong, but they got the public onside, they got things moving and Tommy Uren, who was the minister, said ‘Look, get me out of this hole. I want to see something done’,” he said.

“Like most campaigns if you want to get something done you overstate it and they certainly did that.”

Dr Selinger said he doesn’t know how much was publicly known about asbestos at the time but certainly within scientific and regulatory authorities a “lot was known”.

“Asbestos has been an issue since Roman times,” he said.

“By post war its effects, like smoking, were pretty well established but enthusiasm for doing something about it was pretty low.”

Dr Selinger said the asbestos working party he chaired had been disbanded after a few years and the incoming working party dealt with the issue of loose-fill asbestos in residential properties.

“The Commonwealth was running the ACT, this was a standard material that was authorised to be used, so most people then quite naturally assumed it was fine,” he said.

The removal of asbestos from the National Library paved the way for new asbestos guidelines for the ACT, the first ACT Asbestos Advisory Committee, the ACT Asbestos Branch and the loose-fill insulation removal program.

The ACT Administration wrote to householders in the ACT about the Mr Fluffy loose-fill insulation in 1987 when it believed that up to 8000 houses could have been affected.











Excerpt from:  

Trades union forced ACT asbestos removal, not health concerns

Asbestos scare at Perth school

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Mr Axworthy said he recieved a call from the school and that he elected to take a cautious approach.

“Parents were notified by an SMS at 6pm on Monday night saying the school would be closed on Tuesday, with more information to come,” he said

“That information was emailed to parents at 9pm.”

However the school will now be closed until Monday, with staff from The Department of Finance’s building management and works division, along with expert contractors, spending the rest of the week inspecting the school.

Mr Axworthy said there was no indication more asbestos would be found at the school and that the closure was a precaution.

“They will conduct comprehensive testing within the school so we can assure ourselves there is no risk or danger to any students or staff, so the school will be closed until Monday.

“We have contacted all parents.”

Mr Axworthy said Willetton’s 260 Year 12 students, along with upper school students, would not be disadvantaged

Their teachers will be relocated to North Lake Primary School for the duration of the week, and would work with the students using WIlletton’s already well-developed online learning system.

“Willetton has a very strong online connection….we’ve moved the teachers to another site and they will be able to connect directly with the families and the individual students to maintain and moniter educational programs and assignments.”

He added that the school would definitely be reopening on Monday.

However Mr Axworthy pointed his finger squarely at the Department of Finance’s building management and works division when asked if he was concerned the Education Department wasn’t aware of Friday’s asbestos discovery.

“Our staff are not in the school during the school holidays.

“Building management and works had reported nothing to us…I am not at all happy that I was informed at 5pm last night that our biggest high school has a potential problem

“We are certainly taking it up with building managment and works.”

An Education Department spokeswoman confirmed that 600 WA schools have asbestos-containing material on site, which was commonly used in buildings before the 1990s.

” All Western Australian public schools have at their premises, a site-specific asbestos register that forms an integral part of the Department’s Asbestos Management Plan,” the spokeswoman said.

“This register documents the location and condition of all known and suspected ACM, identified through visual inspection and includes details of major ACM removal.

“Asbestos registers in schools are updated every two to three years as part of the Building Condition Assessment process.

“The Western Australian Advisory Committee on Hazardous Substances Report in August 1990 indicated that exposure to asbestos cement materials in WA public schools represented negligible risk to health.

“The Department of Education’s position on ACM in WA public schools is that the material, if in relatively good condition and left undisturbed, presents negligible risk to the health of building occupants.”

She also confirmed that in the last financial year, the Education Department has spend $2 million on repairs and maintenance associated with ACM.

WA Opposition Leader Mark McGowan said the state government and the education department should have inspected buildings earlier in the school break.

“Students have been arriving and journalists have been telling them to go home,” Mr McGowan said.

“It’s clearly unacceptable, although I can’t say the students appeared unhappy.”

Willetton Senior High School has more than 1800 students.

It was built during the 1970s and is now the subject of a multi-million dollar redevelopment.

– with AAP











Originally posted here – 

Asbestos scare at Perth school

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 Safety and Eradication Agency faces the chop

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Mr Tighe has spent nine months in the new job and has already taken a particular interest in Canberra’s pressing problem of 1050 homes containing remnant loose amosite asbestos in the form of Mr Fluffy insulation. Mr Tighe has labelled these homes unliveable and has called on the ACT and Commonwealth governments to come together to seek a solution for affected families.

Meanwhile, asbestos disease support groups have warned of the human cost of abandoning a whole-of-government approach and accused the Coalition of a split over the issue.

Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency head Peter Tighe.

Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency head Peter Tighe. Photo: Louie Douvis

When Labor set up the agency last year following the recommendations of a two-year review into Australia’s asbestos problems, it received bipartisan support from the Coalition.

At the time the legislation was being tabled, Liberal Senator Eric Abetz told the Senate: “Now that we as a community are fully aware of all the dangers of asbestos and the effects that it has on people exposed to it, it makes good sense for all sides of politics and for unions and employers to join together to try to overcome the legacy issues that are clearly out there. Those legacy issues will remain with us as a country for at least another 30 years.”

Senator Abetz also highlighted the flaws in the existing approach to asbestos management throughout Australia. “The involvement of multiple governments across these diverse areas means that efforts to date to address asbestos issues have been fragmented and duplicative,” he said.

Senator Abetz is now the Employment Minister in charge of the agency. A spokeswoman said on Thursday: “The Commission of Audit’s proposals are recommendations to government; they are not recommendations by government. No decisions have yet been made in relation to the agency. The government remains committed to working with the states and territories to remove asbestos risks and this will not change.”

But seven asbestos disease support groups – including the Bernie Banton Foundation, Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia and the Asbestos Victims Association – warned there would be a human cost of abandoning a whole-of-government approach. They are joined by the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, which has also called for continued funding of the agency to maintain safeguards for workers.

Australia has the highest per capita rate of asbestos diseases in the world, with the deadly substance still found in millions of homes and workplaces.

Asbestos has claimed the lives of more than 33,000 Australians, and the groups said in a joint statement “an independent, national agency is a significant step in the fight against asbestos diseases, providing a strong, focused, consistent, co-ordinated national approach to improved asbestos education and removal activities”.

ACT Work Safety Commissioner Mark McCabe, who is the local appointee to the agency, said it would be “a huge loss if the agency folded”.

“It is co-ordinating a national response to the management of asbestos and taking a leadership role to ensure it is done appropriately,” he said. “Without that, the potential is a continued fragmented approach to what is one of the most serious safety issues confronting our society”.

The head of the Fluffy Owners and Residents Action Group Brianna Heseltine said the agency had played a vital role in informing owners and residents about Mr Fluffy’s troubling legacy on their homes.

“Mr Tighe’s call for the demolition of our homes put Canberra on high alert about the serious health risks posed by the likelihood of ongoing loose-fill asbestos contamination, and drew attention to the absence of legislative protections for residents,” she said. “The ACT government’s February 18 letter was conspicuously silent on the main issue at stake for our community – health – focusing instead on the increased burdens owners must bear when carrying out even minor internal works.

“Owners and residents are likely to feel left high and dry if the agency is abolished only weeks after putting this vital issue on the map.”











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Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency faces the chop