Monday, January 30, 2017

ACTU – Turnbull Government must stop terrifying asbestos exposure

30 January 2017

The Australian Council of Trade Unions says the Turnbull Government must take immediate action to protect Australians from exposure to imported products containing life-threatening asbestos.

Although importation of products containing asbestos has been banned since 2004, significant amounts of this dangerous substance continue to be slip through border protections and more must be done to protect consumers.

Asbestos claims the life of more than 500 Australians every year and yet products containing asbestos are still being illegally imported. Earlier this year, 307,000 crayons contaminated with asbestos were stopped at Australia’s border sparking serious concerns about what could have slipped through customs and come into contact with Australians.

The ACTU said it was deeply alarming that there was no way of knowing how many contaminated products made it into the hands of Australian children in childcare centres, schools and homes. It also represents a scary and potentially life-threatening failure of regulation.  

In its submission to the Senate Economics Committee Inquiry into Non-Conforming Building Products (illegal Importation of products containing asbestos), the ACTU makes 11 recommendations that address the ineffectiveness of existing importation bans on asbestos.

Quotes attributable to Michael Borowick, ACTU Assistant Secretary:

  • “The Federal Government is dangerously negligent when it comes to controlling asbestos importation in Australia. We must have stronger penalties and better border protections to make sure Australians consumers are not unwitting exposed to this lethal product.
  • “This Inquiry was established after a serious breakdown in the regulation and oversight of importation of products containing asbestos. Asbestos was found on a significant number of construction sites around the country, including the Perth Children’s Hospital and the new Royal Hobart Hospital in Tasmania.
  • “It’s frightening, and it demands immediate attention by the Turnbull Government. Asbestos claims the lives of more than 500 Australians each year. Australian Border Force must be specifically resourced to properly monitor all imports and better protect people from this dangerous material.
  • “Given a single exposure to asbestos can lead to decades of uncertainty and illness and in many cases death, it should be treated with the same seriousness as any prohibited drug or substance.
  • “It’s terrifying to think that products like crayons, given to children could be contaminated with traces of asbestos. Asbestos kills – the Turnbull Government needs to do everything it can to address the current failings in regulation and enforcement of the import ban".

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