Unions have called on the Abbott government to come clean on its plans for the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency.
The call follows the release of a paper by Finance Minister, Mathias Cormann, that lists the agency under the heading “Misuse of separate bodies for public relations purposes”. Such agencies, according to the paper, merely provide “window dressing” for political purposes.
“This is completely incorrect,” ACTU Assistant Secretary Michael Borowick said, “and ignores the shocking local death toll and great suffering of so many Australians who have been exposed to asbestos.”
Australia has the highest per capita rate of asbestos disease in the world with almost 34,000 people suffering and dying since 1980 as a result of asbestos exposure.
The Agency provides a consistent, coordinated national approach to asbestos removal and eradication with a view to improving safety for workers, renovators and anyone else who might come into contact with the asbestos dust.
When it was established by the Labor party the move was supported by then then Opposition, including now Prime Minister, Tony Abbott and the now, Employment Minister Eric Abetz. But the Agency was targeted by the Government’s Commission of Inquiry which recommended it be axed.
CWU members are among those workers who are at risk from exposure to asbestos because of its presence in telecommunications infrastructure as well as in domestic premises.
The union believes that the Abbott Government should explain its plans for the future of Australia’s Safety and Eradication Agency immediately.