Thursday, 22 March 2018
I won't be using it again; I've had my say. On a federal level, this government and the Labor Party continued to sit on their hands. The Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency highlighted the growing waste problem and called for action by all levels of government. In December 2016, the federal government was given the opportunity to not only tackle our waste problem head-on but also lead the world in asbestos waste eradication through the introduction of thermochemical conversion technology, a process which destroys asbestos fibres and produces a non-hazardous, inert recycled material that can be used in a broad range of construction applications. This technology has a 20-year development history, with regulatory and environmental protection authority approvals in the USA to convert asbestos and to destroy PCBs. Yet, instead of embracing this technology and exploring its application in Australia, this place has instead chosen a do-nothing approach.
Is this because there are questions around the veracity of the technology? No. Is this because there are concerns regarding the project proponents? No. Is this because asbestos isn't a major issue in our present society? No. It is simply because the wheels of bureaucracy have ground to a halt. For a government that prides itself on innovation, this is simply unacceptable. The Turnbull government's own innovation statement acknowledges:
It has often been easier for government to continue with the ways things have been done rather than embrace new technological opportunities.
It's time Malcolm Turnbull and his government introduced this innovation to save communities and people's health in Australia.
Australia has the highest per capita incidence of mesothelioma in the world, with an average of 700 deaths each year. The rate of all forms of asbestos related disease is up to five times this number, resulting in approximately 4,000 deaths per year. Australia was one of the highest per capita users of asbestos-containing materials for decades until the late 1980s, and we now have to deal with the significant legacy issues associated with that use. This legacy relates not only to product contained within our homes, our workplaces and even our surrounding infrastructure but to the legacy created by our ongoing reliance on burying this hazardous material and continual contamination of our land.
If we choose to ignore the opportunity that thermochemical conversion technology presents to treat asbestos waste, we are condemning future generations of Australians—my grandchildren, your grandchildren—to dealing with this problem. Innovation is not just about robots and applications for our iPhones; it's about creating cultural change, embracing solutions for existing problems and ultimately rectifying our mistakes. One Nation, and I personally, will continue to badger this government for this thermochemical technology to come to Australia. I think it's so important. I heard about the recent fires in New South Wales, and we have an asbestos problem there now. What are they going to do with it—bury it somewhere else? And then we have the landfills that will never ever be worth anything or can never be built on.
This is a program that will actually clear land and get rid of the asbestos in our society. One fibre is all it takes. One fibre in someone's lung and it's not a matter of 'are you going to die'; it's a matter of 'when you're going to die'. Wake up and start dealing with our problem.