Deadly warning of cancerous risk from cost-cutting
The world will be dealing with the cancerous effects of asbestos for many decades to come, but some are concerned that Australia will be less equipped to do so when the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency is scrapped.
The Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency has fallen in range of Federal Government’s cost-cutting axe, but asbestos support groups, lawyers and unions say that will only slow the path for those infected by the old building material, and increase the rate of new exposure.
The National Commission of Audit had recommended that the single Commonwealth for asbestos management and safety should be abolished to save precious funds. Now, the federal budget has confirmed it falls under the range of agencies the Coalition considers to be “window dressing” which are being “misused for public relations purposes”.
The agency was only set up in 2013, given a $12 million budget for the next four years as well as a $3 million grant to create a national strategic plan.
But it appears the agency was barely given a chance.
Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency chief Peter Tighe has told the Sydney Morning Herald that he was shocked by the announcement to abolish the group, and noted that no word had come from the Department of Finance to discuss their work before the Commission of Audit or the budget
Seven asbestos disease support groups have come together to make their dark warnings heard.
The group including the Bernie Banton Foundation, Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia and the Asbestos Victims Association say there will be a human cost attached to ditching the whole-of-government approach.
The asbestos campaigners are joined by the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union in calling for continued funding of the agency to maintain safeguards for workers.
“An independent, national agency is a significant step in the fight against asbestos diseases, providing a strong, focused, consistent, co-ordinated national approach to improved asbestos education and removal activities,” the groups said in a statement, highlighting the 33,000 confirmed Australian deaths.
In the ACT, Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency head Peter Tighe took a particular interest in the 1050 homes containing remnant loose amosite asbestos.
This particularly dangerous style of insulation was popular in the nineteen-fifties and –sixties, and involved the pumping of raw, loose asbestos into the ceilings of homes and businesses. In Canberra, most of loose asbestos was put in place by a firm called Mr Fluffy.
The Fluffy Owners and Residents Action Group has been formed specifically to deal with Mr Fluffy’s troubling legacy on their homes.
“Owners and residents are likely to feel left high and dry if the agency is abolished only weeks after putting this vital issue on the map,” spokesperson Brianna Heseltine said.