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Thursday, 20 September 2007
Page: 206

Mr Murphy asked the Minister for Health and Ageing, in writing, on 8 August 2007:

(1)   Can he confirm that mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that may develop decades after casual exposure to asbestos.

(2)   Is he aware that Australia has the highest per capita incidence of mesothelioma in the world, in part caused by the large amount of asbestos used in commercial and domestic products; if not, why not.

(3)   Is he aware of reports that (a) there is a new wave of cases of asbestos-related disease appearing among home owners who are renovating, or working on, homes built before 1980; (b) workers in the home building industry now account for the biggest percentage of new cases of mesothelioma; and          (c) it is expected that there may be as many as 11,000 mesothelioma cases still to develop and be diagnosed; if not, why not.

(4)   What activities or programs has the Commonwealth Government commenced to (a) increase public awareness of the hazards of asbestos exposure, (b) assist home owners to identify products and materials made from asbestos and (c) provide guidance on how to avoid, or reduce, the risk of asbestos-related disease.

Mr Abbott (Minister for Health and Ageing) —The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

(1)   Yes.

(2)   Yes.

(3) (a)   Yes. (b) Yes. (c) Yes.


(a)   Currently there are two Commonwealth documents covering asbestos related issues: - the Occupational Health and Safety (Safety Standards) Regulations - Part 6 - Hazardous Substances (the Regulations); and - the Approved Code of Practice on Asbestos.

(b)   In April 2005, the then National Occupational Health and Safety Commission (NOHSC) now the Australian Safety and Compensation Council (ASCC) declared a revised National Code of Practice for the Safe Removal of Asbestos 2nd Edition [NOHSC: 2002 (2005)] and a new National Code of Practice for the Management and Control of Asbestos in Workplaces [NOHSC: 2018 (2005)]. These two national codes of practice propose practical safer methods for managing asbestos hazards to support the Australia-wide ban on new uses of asbestos. In 2005, the Commonwealth Government in association with the then enHealth Council, produced the Management of Asbestos in the Non-Occupational Environment guidelines to inform home owners of the risk of exposure to asbestos products in homes. This guidance has been referred to by individual state and territory jurisdictions which have produced detailed guidance for renovators and home owners on dealing with asbestos-containing products in their homes. Commonwealth Occupational Health and Safety regulations require employers falling within the Commonwealth’s jurisdiction to ensure that the removal of asbestos from premises is by asbestos removalists operating according to the relevant State or Territory laws. This might require the removalist to obtain a license, permit or some other authorisation by a State or Territory authority to remove asbestos from premises. The transport and disposal of asbestos waste is controlled by the Environment Protection Authority, which stipulates the safe handling and disposal through specific licensing.

(c)   In September 2006, the Commonwealth Government committed $6.2 million through the National Health and Medical Research Council to establish the National Research Centre for Asbestos Related Diseases and fund eleven research projects for three years.