Last night’s budget saw victims of asbestos-related diseases robbed to beef up the controversial Fair Work Building Commission Inspectorate, according to the Electrical Trades Union.
Funding for the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency has been slashed by a third, from $5 million to $3.2 million, while the budget of the FWBC was doubled, budget papers show.
Electrical Trades Unions assistant national secretary David Mier said that future programs vital to cleaning up dangerous asbestos in the community were now in danger.
“Asbestos is a significant public health threat in this country. It’s not only electricians and tradespeople who are at risk here – anyone can be exposed to asbestos, and it kills,” he said.
“For the government to be playing politics with this issue – removing funding to beef up its highly political construction industry watchdog – is simply not acceptable.
“We are deeply concerned that this funding cut will impede the ability of the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency to implement programs that will remove the asbestos threats faced by workers and members of the public.”
The federal funding for asbestos removal was already inadequate before the cuts, he said.
“When you compare the $3 million that the Federal Government feels is appropriate to the $100 million that Victoria committed to eradicate asbestos from its schools last year, the magnitude of the shortfall becomes clear.”
The Fair Work Building Commission’s coercive powers, which remove the right to silence for construction workers facing questioning, were extended for until 2017 by a senate vote on Monday, over the express wishes of construction industry workers.
Prior to the vote, ETU organisers presented Labor Senator Gavin Marshall with more than 8000 letters signed by construction industry workers urging senators to vote against the changes.
“These coercive powers mean that I am treated differently under the law to workers in any industry outside of construction, even though they might be doing the same job,” the form letter read.
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