ETU calls on Ministers Bishop and Ciobo to tell the US asbestos dangers no ‘mafia conspiracy’

Nicholas McCallum

MEDIA RELEASE: Wednesday June 13, 2018

Amid the echoes of “peace in our time” on the Korean peninsula, news that US regulators will no longer consider the danger asbestos poses to workers might have been missed.

Last week the head of the US Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, announced safeguards around asbestos and considerations of how workers and the public are exposed to the toxic material would be relaxed. 

The news came as President Donald Trump’s views on asbestos also resurfaced; a substance he once said was “100 per cent safe, once applied”, dismissing its health risks as a conspiracy “led by the mob”.

This is simply wrong, and a backward step and the Electrical Trades Union of Australia calls on Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Trade Minister Steve Ciobo to lobby against any moves to relax protections around the deadly substance.

“Australians know all about toxic asbestos and that’s why its use, manufacture and import has been totally banned here since 2003,” said ETU National Secretary Allen Hicks.

“The Australian Government must come out strongly and condemn the United States for trying to wind back bans on asbestos because there will be knock-on effects for workers there and globally.

“America leads the world in laws and industry, and to see it take a backwards step like this must not go unremarked by the Turnbull Government.

“The ETU calls on Ministers Bishop and Ciobo to lobby the US against any rollback of asbestos protections that will have severe and deadly effects on the public and the environment,” Mr Hicks said.

Since the 1980s more than 10,000 Australians have died from mesothelioma, the illness caused by carcinogenic asbestos, and thousands more lives are at risk of exposure to the toxic material still sitting in homes around the country.

Despite the well-documented dangers, asbestos is still used heavily in developing countries with little regard for workers’ health and safety.

The ETU National Secretary said softening protections against workers and the environment in the US sends the wrong message on asbestos and Bishop needs to correct it.

“Right now, the ETU is standing with fellow workers in our neighbouring countries of Indonesia, Vietnam and Laos in their fight to ban the deadly ‘devil’s dust’ and the Australian Government should be doing the same,” Mr Hicks said.

“Given Ms Bishop’s former role defending CSR against sick and dying miners’ claims in Australia’s worst industrial disaster, the ETU is calling on the foreign minister to take a clear stance against the Trump Administration’s anti-worker rollback.

“Julie Bishop has stood against asbestos victims in the past and now she and the Turnbull Government can right wrongs and take a firm stand against endangering workers in the future with a solid call for the US to keep its asbestos ban in place.” ­­­

Media enquiries: ETU National Communications Coordinator – Nicholas McCallum

0419 499 886, [email protected]

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