Legislative Council: Tuesday, June 14, 2022


Dust Diseases

The Hon. R.B. MARTIN (15:17): My question is to the Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector. Will the minister please update the council on steps the government is taking to support organisations fighting dust diseases?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Attorney-General, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (15:17): I thank the honourable member for yet another good question today and his interest in this area. Sometimes threats to safety are obvious, such as exposed wiring and unsecured load, or bullying and harassment in the workplace. Other times, the threat is hidden, such as with dust diseases. We have seen this with the scourge associated with the widespread use of asbestos installations, and while dust diseases such as work-related asthma and asbestosis are showing a downward trend, sadly we are seeing a new threat to workers in the increasing incidence of silicosis associated with engineered stone manufacturing.

In 2021, the National Dust Disease Taskforce concluded that every case of silicosis affecting a stone benchtop worker is evidence that business, industry and government need to do more to recognise and control the risks of working with engineered stone. The new Labor government was proud to commit $400,000 over four years to two registered charities seeking to increase the awareness of dust diseases, reduce risk and create a safer community for South Australian workers and families.

The first organisation is the Asbestos Victims Association (AVA). The AVA was established in 2000 and is a not-for-profit organisation providing support for people and their families living with asbestos-related diseases, amongst other diseases. The AVA also offers assistance to family members, carers and friends, including through services such as gatherings of victims to share experiences as well as phone services for those unable to attend in person.

As I know a number of members here have attended, the AVA hosts the annual Asbestos Victims Memorial Day service at Pitman Park in Salisbury to coincide with National Asbestos Awareness Week. Impressively, the organisation is volunteer-run and a testament to the dedication of those volunteers to tackle this serious issue.

The second organisation is the Asbestos Diseases Society of South Australia. It is a community-based charitable organisation providing information and education awareness to those who contract asbestos in the environment, home and workplace. It oversees the annual Asbestos Victims Memorial Breakfast held at the Jack Watkins Memorial Reserve, which is in itself a memorial to the man affectionately knows as 'Asbestos Jack' due to his strong advocacy against the dangers of asbestos and in support of workers. He was an organiser for the then builders labourers union, and then at the United Trades and Labor Council before becoming president of this organisation at its formation in 2005.

Both of these are well respected charities doing important work to support people living with the impact of dust diseases, and it is proactive work to ensure that people are not exposed to dust diseases in the future. That is why I am proud that the government has provided a commitment over the next four years of $400,000 funding to help them continue their important work.