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Monday, 13 February 2012
Page: 929

Mr CRAIG KELLY (Hughes) (20:25): I rise tonight to support this motion on Asbestos Awareness Week, to congratulate the member for Page for putting it together and to support the comments from the members for Gippsland and Throsby. This is a rather long motion, but there are a few clauses which I think need to be highlighted. One is clause (2), which says that the House:

… recognises the proactive actions of the Australian Government in mitigating the possible spread of asbestos related diseases through continuing bans on the production and use of asbestos as well as strict controls on the removal and disposal of existing material;

Those bans actually came in in 1991, when we had a complete ban on the use of asbestos in Australia. The only thing I can say to that is that it is a bit disappointing that it took so many years to do. The dangers of asbestos were known decades before 1991, yet asbestos continued to be used throughout the seventies and eighties, which means that no doubt in years to come we will continue to see a lot of people suffering from asbestos related diseases. The bans should have been brought in decades earlier, when we knew the problems that we had.

The other part of a motion that I think needs commenting on is paragraph (3)(e), which says that the Australian government supports:

… harmonisation of health and safety legislation which will provide, for the first time, a uniform framework for the minimisation of exposure, the removal of asbestos, and the management of asbestos materials in the workplace;

As other members have commented, there is a lot of home renovation going on. A lot of people are working on renovating old houses, and it is very important that steps are taken and safety standards are put into place to make sure that these people are not exposed to asbestos.

Asbestos diseases have been found to take 20 years to develop and they affect people from all walks of life. It is not only people who were directly exposed to industries and workplaces where there was a lot of asbestos; many people who have had no contact with industry or with building sites have still succumbed to asbestos related diseases. Clause (5) of the motion states that the government:

… extends its profound sympathies to all individuals suffering asbestos-related diseases as well as their friends and families and the friends and families of those who have passed away as a result of asbestos-related diseases;

It is tragic that we have lost so many people so far to asbestos related diseases, but unfortunately it appears that for the next 20 years we are still going to have this problem going on. Therefore it is important that the government continues to support research in this field and treatment and care for people who have suffered.

In my electorate of Hughes, Newbridge Heights Public School recently had an issue with asbestos from a fire that occurred 14 years ago at the school. A lot of the building rubble from the fire was actually buried on the school grounds. We should thank one of the local residents, a parent called Linda Lambourne, who was vigilant in exposing this and bringing it to the school's attention that asbestos had been found in the schoolyard. Hopefully the remediation work being undertaken on that will make sure there are no problems at Newbridge Heights.

We should learn from the mistakes and the time that it took us to bring in proper regulations to regulate asbestos, especially in view of the many other types of pollution we have in our environment today, particularly air pollution and the particulate matters known as PM10 and PM2.5. It was interesting that a recent national environment protection of ambient air quality study in Australia noted:

Overall, the results of health reviews show that there were significant health effects at current levels of air pollution in Australian cities. These findings indicate that the current standards are not meeting the requirements of adequate protection of human health. There is evidence that these standards should be revised to minimise the impact of air pollution on the health of the Australian population. The finding is strongly supported by all stakeholders throughout the consultation process.

I was very surprised to discover that currently in Australia we have no compliance standards for the particulate matter PM2.5 and we have no annual average standards for PM10. These are things we need to look at, especially in areas of Western Sydney. We need to make sure that everything we are doing in government is to give the best quality air to our residents and to bring Australian standards up to international standards for particulate matter. We do not want to see a repeat of the mistakes we have made in the past with the time it has taken to bring in thorough regulations on asbestos. (Time expired)