Employment Minister Eric Abetz: Reject the Commission of Audit recommendation that independent Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency be abolished
In order to save a small amount of money the Federal Government could be about to put Australian's lives at risk. The National Commission of Audit recommended last week that the independent Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency be swallowed by the vast Department of Employment and it’s governing Council be abolished as a budget saving measure.
The Agency and Council were set up last year with bipartisan support of the Parliament. The ASEA has the task of providing a nationally coordinated approach to improving asbestos education and moving towards the eradication of the deadly product. This is an important and vital role. That is why Minister Abetz must commit to keeping it.
Here are some facts about asbestos in Australia:
- Asbestos is still found in millions of Australian homes and workplaces;
- Australia continues to have the highest per capita rate of asbestos diseases in the world — with a death toll that has already exceeded 33,000 people — the loss of the independent national body set up to address the situation will have potentially deadly consequences for thousands of Australians;
- Experts estimate that up to 40,000 Australians that have been exposed to asbestos will die from agonising asbestos-caused diseases. We believe that it is absolutely imperative that all efforts be made to protect the community from further exposure to asbestos;
- The formation of an independent national agency was a key recommendation of the Asbestos Management Review.
- The Agency’s formation enjoyed bipartisan parliamentary support;
- The Asbestos Safety and Eradication Council —made up of medical, legal, safety, industry and other experts, as well as asbestos disease related support group representation — was formed to ensure this new agency had the best possible guidance for its challenging task;
- The Agency has already begun to make a difference in the fight against asbestos disease, working towards a nationally consistent response to prevent the tens of thousands of future cases of asbestos related diseases predicted by medical experts;
The recommendation by the Commission of Audit would see Australia return to a patchwork approach.
the ongoing existence of a strong and independent body that is focused on coordinating asbestos issues nationally is essentially to turning the tide on this scourge.