No Australian home, workplace or the environment should expose people to asbestos fibres that might cause disease or death.
From the 1960s, Australia has been a world leader in progressively restricting and banning the mining, manufacture and use of asbestos. We recognised that without further decisive action, Australians would continue to become seriously ill, or die, from exposure to asbestos fibres. We imposed a total ban on the mining, manufacture and use of asbestos on 31 December 2003.
However, the past use of asbestos has left us with a harmful legacy. We have one of the highest rates of asbestos-related diseases of any country in the world. Some 4,000 Australians currently die each year from past exposure to asbestos, which is more than double the number of annual Australian road deaths.
Many public and commercial buildings, homes and infrastructure contain large amounts of ageing asbestos-containing materials (ACMs). Vigilance and proactive action is needed to deal with this legacy to prevent further disease and death.
Under our 2014–18 National Strategic Plan for Asbestos Management and Awareness, all governments worked together researching, increasing awareness and developing and disseminating practical information about asbestos.
Australia made significant progress under that plan, but there is still a long way to go to deal effectively with the remaining asbestos legacy.
The National Strategic Plan for Asbestos Awareness and Management 2019–2023 (NSP 2019–2023) builds on the previous plan’s progress. It complements and enhances existing asbestos policies and actions at all levels of government.
To increase awareness and support more effective management and removal of ACMs, we need to coordinate practical, targeted and ongoing actions across Australia. We need to manage both the risks of in situ ACMs, as well as those that may arise when we undertake removal. Asbestos management and removal approaches are part of the same risk management continuum.
Under this plan, governments and regulatory agencies along with businesses, unions, individual organisations, advocacy groups, researchers and members of the community will work together to support coordinated and more effective asbestos management. Laws will be strongly enforced to meet the community expectation that Australia will manage and dispose of ACMs responsibly.
By continuing to work together, we will be more efficient, effective and economical by ensuring consistent and coordinated awareness messages and asbestos management approaches.
We recognise the deep community concern about the current and future public health threats from poor asbestos management. To focus our collective actions to support long-term change, we have committed to nine targets. The Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (ASEA) is responsible for coordinating NSP 2019–2023 over the next five years