Wednesday, November 23, 2016

ACTU: Asbestos Awareness Week: 307,000 Contaminated Crayons

23 November 2016
ACTU Assistant Secretary Michael Borowick

307,000 crayons contaminated with asbestos were thankfully stopped on Australia’s border in the last year – but we have no way of knowing how many made it through a customs and into the hands of Australian children in childcare centres and schools.

The ACTU marks this year’s Asbestos Awareness Week as a timely reminder of the ongoing dangers presented by asbestos, which claims the lives of more than 500 Australians each year.

Despite awareness of the risk, there have been a number of serious incidents just this year where asbestos contaminated material has been found at worksites.  More needs to be done to ensure workers are protected, and companies that illegally import the material are prosecuted.

The Senate Committee Inquiry into asbestos importation which is being undertaken by the Senate Economics Committee as a result of union lobbying is due to report in 2017 and will be essential to uncovering ongoing failings in both the regulation and enforcement of the import ban.

Quotes attributable to ACTU Assistant Secretary Michael Borowick:

  • “While stopping nearly a third of a million crayons at the border might be viewed as a success, the crayons were all of the same colour, suggesting that there may have been hundreds of thousands more that were not detected. This uncertainty is indicative of the issues with the current system.”
  • “The policy adopted at the Victorian State Labor Conference, which would require importers to be responsible for removing contaminated material, is a good step in the right direction, and other states as well as the Federal Government need to follow.”
  • “The fact that asbestos was found in construction materials at a children’s hospital in Perth earlier this year clearly demonstrates that the ban is not being enforced, and greater effort by the government is desperately needed.”
  • “The Federal Government needs to do much more to ensure no else is exposed to asbestos in Australia.  The Australian Border Force lacks the resources to adequately monitor imports and too many companies are getting away with importing this dangerous material.”
  • “It’s simply not good enough for federal and state governments to sit on their hands around this issue. More needs to be done to ensure that there is an effective mechanism in place to enforce the ban.” 

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