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Labor welcomes the decision to increase penalties for importers who knowingly or recklessly import goods containing asbestos, but note this comes after nearly six years of complete inaction from the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government.
Australia has one of the highest rates of asbestos-related diseases in the world and more Australians die each year from asbestos-related diseases than the number of our fellow citizens killed in road accidents.
To be frank, the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government’s response over the years to the repeated examples of illegal asbestos importation has been wholly inadequate and has potentially put hundreds of construction workers’ lives at risk.
Labor has been calling for years for the government to better address the illegal importation of building products containing asbestos.
Despite this, in December last year Scott Morrison chose to put Australia’s borders at risk by inflicting savage cuts and chaos on the Australian Border Force.
Due to Morrison’s cuts, ABF staff responsible for screening cargo entering the country were reportedly taken off the job to plug gaps at Australian airports – raising concerns that contraband such as asbestos could slip through our borders undetected.
Labor is proud of its record of being at the forefront of banning asbestos and tackling the risks and hazards associated with asbestos exposure.
It is our hope and determination that asbestos related disease is eventually eradicated in Australia altogether. But, it is clear that more work needs to be done.
In 2013, Labor set up the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency. During this time the Agency has worked with State and Territory governments and stakeholders to implement the first national plan for asbestos eradication, handling and awareness. Something that was not effectively coordinated in Australia prior to this time.
Labor remains committed to ensuring that this agency continues to play a critical role in working towards the ultimate elimination of asbestos-related diseases in Australia.