Delays add to asbestos risk

Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia president Robert Vojakovic.
Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia president Robert Vojakovic.

Mr Vojakovic said the amendments would introduce increased penalties, subsequent offence provisions and daily penalties for asbestos material mishandling or negligence.

He questioned why the Health Department would propose the amendments if the State Government would not enforce them.

‘They’re bragging about it. Every time you go to a meeting they say, ‘Oh we’ve got these amendments coming up,” he said.

‘The amendments are so important because, at the moment, the penalties are often no more than a slap on the wrist.

‘Asbestos is deteriorating by the day, more fibres are being released, more people are being diagnosed and thousands are losing their lives, but 22 years later we cannot get an update on this report. I want to see these amendments made without delay.’

A Health Department spokesman said the proposed amendments were in final drafting stage and its implementation would be linked to the new Public Health Act.

‘Some delays in preparing the amendments were experienced due to the need to consider and document regulatory impacts and the National Asbestos Management Review, which necessitated further scrutiny on some proposed areas of reform,’ he said.

Mr Vojakovic said the discovery of asbestos fibres within Lords recreation centre in March indicated the need for increased accountability regarding council and government-owned public buildings.

‘The laws simply say you have to have an asbestos register and just monitor that, but you don’t have to do anything if it doesn’t release fibres,’ he said.

‘It is fine that councils check their buildings every year, but they need to do it properly. I don’t know how well they test them, because who is going to check them if that information is not made easily public? That’s the problem.’

A Department of Health spokesman said the majority of government and council-owned public buildings were deemed to be workplaces and the main legislation for the management of asbestos was Occupational Safety and Health legislation and supporting codes of practice.