Deadly silence: Australia must rebuke Trump’s weakening of asbestos controls

Nicholas McCallum

MEDIA RELEASE: Thursday August 16, 2018

The Turnbull Government’s deafening silence over the weakening of asbestos controls in the US is shameful.

Australia put a ban on the manufacture and import of asbestos 15 years ago. This was the right move and one that more nations were starting to follow. Until now.    

Last week the Trump Administration removed protections on asbestos in the US, which was great news for Russia, the largest asbestos producing country where one company stamped the president’s face on its product as a seal of approval.

We knew this was coming and two months ago the Electrical Trades Union of Australia called on Foreign Minister Julie Bishop – who has a history of supporting asbestos companies – and Trade Minister Steve Coibo to condemn the US for weakening protections around the deadly “devil’s dust”.

We’ve heard nothing but silence.

ETU Assistant National Secretary David Mier has reiterated the union’s call for the Turnbull Government to rebuke the US government for putting profits ahead of public health.

“It’s shameful that we’ve heard nothing from either Foreign Minister Bishop or Trade Minister Coibo about the removal of protections on asbestos, a product everyone knows is dangerous and deadly,” Mr Mier said.

“This move puts profits ahead of the public and workers’ safety and it’s time Turnbull grows a backbone, shows some leadership and stops being a sycophant to the greedy Trump Administration.

“Last week the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency released a report showing asbestos-related disease will cost Australia more than half-a-billion dollars each year.

“That’s a huge cost that comes after the stuff’s been banned here for 15 years. Now Trump wants to release the deadly fibres back into the wild.”

The ETU Assistant National Secretary said weakening asbestos bans will put millions of construction and manufacturing workers around the world at risk of contracting mesothelioma and make it harder to keep it out of Australia and other nations battling to ban it.

“Loosening asbestos controls in the US will have knock-on effects for the entire world and workers will be the losers,” he said.

“There is no safe level of exposure to asbestos and this deadly stuff is already hiding in homes across Australia and it’s likely the rates of mesothelioma haven’t peaked. Trump will make this worse. 

“America is going backwards on bans of asbestos and other deadly chemicals and weakening pollution standards and any government that doesn’t wholly represent corporate interests must come out publicly to resist it.”

Media enquiries: ETU National Communications Coordinator – Nicholas McCallum

0419 499 886, [email protected]

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