A new government body tasked with developing a strategic plan for asbestos management and coordinating government efforts to remove asbestos from buildings in Australia will come into effect in July next year.
Earlier this week, Employment and Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten announced the government’s intention to create the new body as the key plank of its response to the Asbestos Management Review Panel report.
That report, which was released last month and made 12 recommendations, called for the government to develop a strategic plan for asbestos removal in Australia to be overseen by a new national agency.
The report also said the plan should require the prioritised removal of all traces of asbestos from government buildings by 2030.
Shorten says the new body represents a key aspect of the fight against asbestos.
“Today, the Australian Government declares its commitment to establishing an Office of Asbestos Safety which will be tasked with developing a national strategic plan as recommended by the Review, by 1 July 2013,” Shorten said on Tuesday. “As an insidious killer, asbestos is a national issue requiring urgent attention and greater national preventative coordination – so we are making a concerted effort to address it. A critical element of the recommendations is the establishment of a body to oversee how we manage asbestos in Australia and how we can reduce exposure to asbestos.”
The latest moves have been welcomed by building industry groups.
Master Builders Australia CEO Wilhelm Harnisch says his association supports the announcement.
“The legacy stemming from the high use of asbestos in Australia needs to be addressed in a safe and coordinated fashion,” he says.
Harnisch adds that the new agency should engage clients and consumers as well as the building industry to educate all involved about what to do if asbestos is suspected in their buildings. However, he cautions that asbestos must be removed strategically and carefully rather than haphazardly.
“The safety of the community and the individuals who are either directly or indirectly involved in the removal of the asbestos must remain the priority,” Harnisch says. “We cannot risk creating new hazards by hastily trying to remove asbestos from buildings.”