Ignored asbestos recommendations could put lives at risk
Coalition senators have been accused of putting industry profit ahead of worker’s lives, after they rejected the asbestos import recommendations from a Senate Committee inquiry report.
The report on illegal asbestos imports made 26 recommendations, including prioritising prosecutions, increasing penalties and deterrents, tougher requirements when importing high-risk products from high-risk countries, and funding for asbestos awareness training in the construction industry.
However, Coalition senators on the committee released a dissenting report, rejecting the recommendations to stem the tide of illegal importation of asbestos and manage the associated risks.
“The ban on asbestos imports has been flouted with impunity, putting Australian lives at risk,” said CFMEU National Construction Secretary Dave Noonan.
“Every day, workers in construction and building trades face the threat of exposure to deadly asbestos. The Australian Government has dropped the ball and workers have no way of knowing whether new building products being used in construction contain asbestos.
“Any exposure to asbestos is unsafe. Asbestos-related diseases are deadly and there is no cure.
“Hundreds of hours of testimony and thousands of pages of evidence have been ignored by the Coalition senators on the committee, who’ve put building industry profits and global free trade interests ahead of the safety of building workers.”
Imports of products containing asbestos into Australia have been banned since 31 December 2003.
In Senate estimates in October, it was revealed that Border Force made 63 detections of products laced with deadly asbestos last year — a fivefold increase from the 2015–2016 financial year.
Yuanda, a Chinese building company, escaped with a paltry fine despite admitting responsibility for importing lethal asbestos-laced building products in Brisbane’s ‘tower of power’.
It also received a small fine for supplying contaminated roofing panels for a $1.2 billion children’s hospital in Perth.
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