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Thursday, 20 June 2013
Page: 3550

Senator FEENEY (VictoriaParliamentary Secretary for Defence) (12:58): I will begin by thanking senators for their contribution to this debate on the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency Bill 2013 and indeed by thanking them for supporting this bill. Before concluding, I will just address some of the questions and points that have been raised by Senator Abetz and Senator Xenophon.

Firstly, with respect to Senator Abetz and the question of funding, I guess I would be keen to make the point that the Australian government has indicated that it will be providing some $10.5 million over the forward estimates. This funds the agency's 10 staff, together with the costs of the council and its research and communications activities. Further, the government has said that the agency will have sufficient funds to deliver the outcomes of the national strategic plan. I think it is worth noting, for the benefit of the Senate, that this agency—the Office of Asbestos Safety—has commissioned Allen Consulting to undertake an analysis of asbestos removal approaches. This report is now being revised in the light of consultations on the draft National Strategic Plan. Until that information is provided and assessed and the report is finalised, an estimate of its costs cannot be provided.

I would also make the point—perhaps it is a little partisan, but I do not think it is out of keeping with Senator Abetz's own partisan remarks—that, while Senator Abetz is supporting this bill and is eager to accuse this government of not adequately funding the agency, he, of course, made absolutely no commitment with respect to funding.

I thank Senator Xenophon for his remarks and his support. I am pleased to be able to give you quick comfort on your question. Clause 8(1)(f) of the bill states that part of the agency's function is to commission, monitor and promote research about asbestos safety. So research into these issues is very much part of the agency's function.

I commend the bill to the Senate.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.