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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: Week 8 Hansard (4 August) . . Page.. 3387..


MRS CROSS (continuing):

Even with the great breadth and depth of western medical knowledge we had to learn the hard way that exposure to asbestos could have a devastating effect on our health. It took us so long to learn that fact, not so much because of a lack of medical expertise but because the asbestos-related sicknesses were "sleeping"sicknesses-in the sense that they were silent, insidious, and took years or decades to develop.

As an example of the horrific nature of this slow and silent assault, an often quoted estimate concludes that the United Kingdom will lose one per cent of its male population born during the 1940s to asbestos-related diseases. The fine airborne asbestos fibres around many work sites silently entered through the smallest airways of the lungs to cause asbestos lung diseases including mesothelioma and, occasionally, through swallowing, abdominal mesothelioma.

Not only was the asbestos at work sites, factories, shipyards, et cetera but also, because of its remarkable and versatile properties, its application spread more widely so that over a longish period it entered people's homes as building and insulating materials and turned up in such household products as ironing blankets, stove-top simmering pads, and even sometimes as contamination in talcum powder.

This "wonder material"was all around us, but that is now history. Most, or much, of the worst damage has been done. The consequences of that damage are now exercising the minds of society as we try to handle the difficult task of treating and caring for those who have become, or will become, sufferers from asbestos-related diseases. Another task, separate from the task of addressing the plight of those who have already succumbed to asbestos-related diseases, is to do everything in our power to reduce the possible future incidence of these diseases that have already wrought such harm. That is what this amendment bill I am tabling today is designed to do in its small but significant way.

In recent times here in the ACT a program was undertaken to remove asbestos insulation from homes and other buildings in which it had been installed. That program apparently concluded successfully because the loose and readily accessible asbestos had been disposed of. Not surprisingly many people thought the matter had been put to rest, but not so. The spectre raised its ugly head again with the increasing incidence of renovation of older homes, many of which contained asbestos-related materials which, when broken up, set the tiny floating fibres free again, so the hazard remains, waiting to be set loose. This is an emotional topic for me, as I have lost family members to this disease.

The hazard remains, waiting to be set loose by the unsuspecting home owner, home renovator, professional tradesman, tenant or other occupant of a property that contains asbestos. We have to do our best to ensure that the asbestos does not get loose inadvertently; that people who have worked with it are properly protected and that proper disposal of the material occurs. We have to make certain that people know about, and remain alert to, the potential hazard. That is the intention of this amendment bill I am tabling today. I apologise to members for becoming emotional.

In essence, one amendment I am proposing will introduce a new element into the scope of the building inspection report, whereby the obligation is placed upon the building inspector who compiles the report to state whether there is asbestos or asbestos product in buildings on a property and, if there is, where it is and what type it is. Also, the report


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