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Labor forces inquiry into asbestos importation



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THE HON BRENDAN O’CONNOR MP SHADOW MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT AND WORKPLACE RELATIONS

THE HON SHAYNE NEUMANN MP SHADOW MINISTER FOR IMMIGRATION AND BORDER PROTECTION FEDERAL MEMBER FOR BLAIR

LABOR FORCES INQUIRY INTO ASBESTOS IMPORTATION

Labor is pleased to have received support from the Senate to successfully establish a Senate inquiry into the illegal importation of asbestos, enacting an election commitment to combat one of the most serious threats to OH&S in Australia. Australia has one of the highest global rates of asbestos-related diseases and more Australians die each year from asbestos-related diseases than the number of our fellow citizens killed in road accidents.

The re-establishment of the Inquiry into non-confirming building products will now include a specific focus on asbestos importation and is needed to ensure a total ban on asbestos is enforced. The inquiry will receive submissions and contributions from a range of stakeholders. Labor expects that the scope of the inquiry will enable the committee to make recommendations concerning the policing of our borders and on keeping Australia free of this insidious substance.

Unlike the Liberal party, Labor has consulted with all affected parties to develop the terms of reference for the Committee inquiry. We believe it is not only important to include employers, employer groups and unions, but also asbestos disease support organisations that represent the very people who have been deeply and personally affected by the tragic consequences of asbestos exposure can have. While the importation of asbestos is banned in Australia, there have been reports of suspected contamination of more than 50 building sites across the nation as a result of illegal asbestos imports from China.

The Abbott-Turnbull Government’s response to the repeated examples of illegal asbestos importation has been wholly inadequate.

In February 2016, the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection announced that Australian Border Force (ABF) had initiated an independent review of Australia’s

asbestos border control management, which was to examine the effectiveness of Australia’s asbestos border control as enforced by the ABF.

However, this “independent inquiry”, was conducted over just four weeks, had narrowly constructed terms of reference and did not consult with all affected parties. This Labor initiated inquiry will not repeat the Government’s approach. This inquiry will be thorough investigation of the problems, not a rushed political fix.

Labor acknowledges the tragic preventable deaths that can result from asbestos exposure and it is our intention that recommendations of this committee inquiry will form the basis of policy responses that will ensure a proper total ban on asbestos is enforced.

Submissions by interested parties can be lodged on the Committee’s website.

MONDAY, 7 NOVEMBER 2016

MEDIA CONTACTS:

ERIN SMITH (O’CONNOR) 0458 950 010 MEL HOCKEY (NEUMANN) 0418 511 529