The Guardian November 29, 2000


Ban slapped on asbestos imports

The Maritime Union of Australia has begun a nationwide health and safety 
ban on shipments of raw asbestos coming into Australia.

Australia imports 1,500 tonnes of raw asbestos and an estimated one million 
products containing asbestos. Most of the raw asbestos goes into the 
manufacture of brake linings in Melbourne.
The National Health and Safety Commission has recommended a phasing out of 
asbestos imports over five years, but the ACTU says this is unacceptable.

"The ACTU Executive is appalled at the failure of the National Health and 
Safety Commission to recommend prohibition of the use of white asbestos", 
says an ACTU resolution.

"The failure of government representatives and employers on the Commission 
to support the prohibition of the use of asbestos is a national disgrace 
and if not challenged will condemn innocent workers, their families and the 
general public to unacceptable exposure to a killer dust."

Australia has one of the world's highest rates of mesothelioma; by Worksafe 
Australia estimates between 1987 and 2010 there will have been 16,000 
mesothelioma deaths and 40,000 asbestos-related lung cancer deaths. As yet 
there is no cure for mesothelioma, a cancer of the lung lining caused by 
asbestos.

The union movement has been at the forefront of the battle to outlaw 
asbestos and win compensation for men and women dying from asbestos 
disease, having successfully campaigned for the closure of asbestos mines 
at Wittenoom, Barbara and Baryulgil.

They have also succeeded in having governments ban blue asbestos and for 
employees to have the right to stop work if asbestos guidelines are 
breached.

The Maritime Union, the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union and 
the Electrical Trades Union are currently lobbying the NSW Government for 
an asbestos disease research institute at Concord Hospital.

Unions have also helped win record compensation payouts for workers and 
their families struck by asbestos disease and death.

Recently wharfie's widow Maureen Crimmins won a marathon legal battle for 
compensation against the Federal Government. More than 500 claims are to 
follow.

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