Ms TIERNEY (Western Victoria)– In the past Australia was the highest per capita user of asbestos in the world. Consequently we have the unenviable reputation of having the highest per capita incidence of asbestos-related disease and death in the world. Areas such as Victoria’s Latrobe Valley have paid and continue to pay a disproportionate toll due to past asbestos use.
It is conservatively estimated that more than 40 000 Australians will succumb to mesothelioma by 2020, and medical experts calculate that there are at least two cases of asbestos-related lung cancer for every case of mesothelioma. Almost every home constructed or renovated between World War II and 1987 contains some asbestos, which equates to more than 3 million residences in total.
Experts agree that major problems in our response to the menace of asbestos include ignorance about the dangers it poses and the fragmented regulatory regimes that apply. This lethal legacy requires urgent, coordinated national action.
Against this background the federal government commissioned the Asbestos Management Review, which came up with 12 high-level recommendations. The review’s recommendations received bipartisan support, and subsequent legislation to establish a new national Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency passed through the House of Representatives unopposed. I have been advised that every state and territory government except Victoria’s has agreed to participate in the governance and advisory arrangements for the new national agency. I believe this Parliament and all Victorians at the very least deserve an explanation from this government as to why it has such disregard for proactive intervention on asbestos eradication.