$12.3 million not enough to remove asbestos: Qld Govt
PATIENTS could be taken from their hospital beds and students removed from classrooms if a national asbestos removal program is approved, the Queensland Government has warned the Commonwealth.
A Federal Government bill to create a national asbestos safety and eradication agency is currently being examined by a Senate committee.
The bill aims to ensure the removal of asbestos in public buildings, including schools and hospitals, by 2030, as part of a national effort to eradicate the hazardous material.
But in a submission to the Senate inquiry, the State Government said the $12.3 million that would be allocated to the program was inadequate.
The state also argued the mass removal of the cancer-caused fibre from Queensland buildings could result in a "significant disruption to goods and services".
"For example, during removal works, children would need to be relocated from their schools classrooms, patients from their hospital beds and electricity sub-stations turned off," the submission reads.
The state also said the costs of such a national program would put undue burden on state and local governments, as well as potentially lead to the illegal dumping of asbestos.
However, the Australian Council of Trade Unions - which was involved in court cases related to asbestos-related cancer - also put in a submission supported the bill, arguing it was needed to prevent further disease and suffering of the nation's workers due to the hazardous fibre.
ACTU assistant secretary Michael Borowick said the Queensland Government's submission put lives at risk by disregarding the key messages of a recent national asbestos management review.
Mr Borowick said the comments in the state's submission demonstrated a "worrying disregard for the dangers of asbestos", and school rooms and hospitals would not be shut down.
"This is especially concerning when you consider the extreme weather in the state," he said.
"Events like cyclone Yasi and the Brisbane floods saw fibres from buildings dislodged putting thousands of people in danger of contracting asbestos related cancers.
He said the government should be informing the public, rather than misleading people on issues as important as asbestos.
"The Queensland Government have signed up to national asbestos regulations and is aware of the new qualifications of clean up professionals.
"Yet, they have launched a pre-emptive attack on their professionalism."