The state’s peak union body is renewing calls on governments at both a state and federal level to commit to the eradication of asbestos from the built environment once and for all. 

Unions NSW is pushing for an asbestos eradication fund to reduce workers’ and the community’s exposure to asbestos. The fund would be levied on construction materials so that asbestos removal can be adequately resourced.

The proposal includes:

  • the establishment of an asbestos eradication fund that is levied on construction materials so functions of asbestos removal and disposal can be adequately resourced. This would be as little as 0.01c from every $10.00 of construction materials sold;
  • that all asbestos eradication from residential properties be given full tax deductibility status to encourage asbestos removal in line with current arrangements applying to commercial and investment premises;
  • a concurrent amendment to the WHS Regulations 2011 and NSW Code of Practice: How to Safely Remove Asbestos to prohibit asbestos removal other than by a licensed asbestos removalist;
  • a mandatory training package be developed and maintained by SafeWork NSW for an asbestos awareness course in NSW in negotiation with unions, and that SafeWork NSW register and regulate training organisations accredited to deliver the course;
  • that the current asbestos waste levy be removed; and
  • the NSW Government fund local governments to build the infrastructure and personnel to safely receive small amounts of contained asbestos.

Unions were successful in having the proposal passed at the NSW Labor conference on the weekend.

Every year more than 1000 people die from asbestos related diseases with an alarming rise in the number of deaths due to non-occupational exposure.

“We have to remove the cycle of exposure to asbestos if we are going to stop the intergenerational carnage being experienced by our community,” Unions NSW Secretary Mark Morey said.

“Much of the asbestos in the built environment is now disintegrating and the bonding is beginning to fail making it friable and highly dangerous,” he said.

The establishment of an asbestos eradication fund will assist in the removal of asbestos from our schools, hospitals, community centres, residential premises and our environment. Tax settings would also be varied to assist owner occupiers remove asbestos from their homes.

“We are calling on the Baird and Turnbull Governments to immediately adopt this sensibly funded policy so that we can have an asbestos-free future,” Mr Morey said.

“Both the Baird and Abbott-Turnbull Governments recently stepped back on their financial commitment to remove asbestos from all government and commercial buildings by 2030,” Mr Morey said.

“The number of deaths from asbestos related diseases is set to substantially exceed the national road toll when cases peak. It’s time for a coordinated response to limit exposure to this deadly dust.”

Mr Morey said unions were also calling for better enforcement of the ban on asbestos imports from countries that have not banned asbestos trade or manufacture.

“We believe Australia should refrain from signing up to free trade deals with countries like Russia and China who are producing and exporting asbestos products at record rates. We also shouldn’t have dealings with companies that produce or import asbestos products. We need more scrutiny of imported building products and tougher penalties for offenders who are sneaking asbestos products into the country under the guise of being asbestos-free,” Mr Morey said. 

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