The Napthine Government must put the safety of Victorians ahead of politics and sign up to a national plan designed to get rid of asbestos over the next two decades, the ACTU said today.
ACTU Assistant Secretary Michael Borowick said Victoria's refusal to co-operate with the national Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency, which will oversee a national strategy to remove asbestos from all public buildings by 2030, would put lives at risk.
"The act to set up the ASEA was supported by all parties in the Federal Parliament, including the Coalition, because they recognised the need for a national attack on Australia's biggest workplace killer," Mr Borowick said.
"Australia has an unenviable record of one of the world's highest rate of asbestos related diseases and a legacy of asbestos in many workplaces and buildings.
"In 2010, 642 Australians died from mesothelioma, and it is estimated that double that number died from lung cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Over the next 20 years, an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 Australians will be diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease.
"The Victorian Government failed to make any submission to the national inquiries into the establishment of the ASEA, and has now decided it will be the only state not to sign up.
''They have been consulted throughout the process and there is no reason why they should not sign up.
"This is an issue that should be beyond politics. Regardless of what measures the Victorian Government takes on its own, there are issues that can only be solved through co-operation.
"Recent reports of asbestos being inadequately managed in some Victorian schools, and the unearthing of asbestos during the construction of the NBN should remind everyone that this substance still poses a deadly risk.
"The last thing that Australians need is short-sighted political squabbling, when the need for united action on asbestos is urgent."
Media contact: Ben Ruse 0409 510 879