Thursday, 22 June 2017
Black Lung Disease
That the Senate—
(a) acknowledges the findings of the Queensland Parliament's recent report, Black lung, white lies , detailing 'catastrophic failings' in public administration, including the detection of coal workers pneumoconiosis, or Black Lung disease, in 21 coal workers since 2015;
(b) condemns the failings across government and industry identified in the report;
(c) urges all stakeholders to adopt the 68 recommendations of the report to avoid further diagnoses of Black Lung disease in the future;
(d) recognises the strong advocacy of the CFMEU in relation to Black Lung in Queensland;
(e) notes that occupational lung diseases are estimated to kill 3 000 Australians every year, extending far beyond asbestosis, mesothelioma and Black Lung disease, often originating in non-unionised workplaces, such as stone-cutting and nail salons;
(f) notes the serious concerns raised by the Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand and Lung Foundation Australia with respect to the prevalence and management of occupationally-acquired lung disease, not only Black Lung, and the lack of a nationally coordinated system for reporting; and
(g) calls for the establishment of a national register for occupationally-acquired lung disease.
The government does not support this motion. The diagnosis of black lung among coal workers is of utmost concern for all governments. We are all committed to—and the community expects—the highest possible levels of work health and safety. State and territory governments regulate workers compensation and work health and safety for employees working within their jurisdictions and have their own regulators to monitor and enforce compliance. Even though the Commonwealth does not regulate mining safety, it continues to work with state and territory governments to protect workers' health and safety. The government notes that the recommendations of the Queensland parliament's report are directed at the Queensland government and the coalmining industry in Queensland. We await their response to the findings and recommendations.
The affliction of black lung was all but stamped out as a result of the union movement 100 years ago and the regulatory powers of governments in our country, in European nations in particular and in the United States. Black lung is a very severe disease. However, its incidence right now is due to the abuse of regulations; it is not due to any inherent issue with regard to individuals. We know that, for example, smoking amongst coalminers increases black lung. Black lung is already being controlled effectively by regulations, and these must be adhered to by the CFMEU and by all miners and coal companies and— (Time expired)
Black lung disease, or pneumoconiosis, is a grave serious condition that leads to premature death. It is the result of unregulated workplaces where individuals are exposed to occupational hazards such as coal dust and silicosis. Let's be absolutely clear here: if there is a regime in place that involves appropriate screening, appropriate monitoring—things like spirometry—we can reduce the incidence of black lung disease and other lung diseases. What we have seen is systematic failure as a result of the lack of regulation imposed by state and federal governments, where individual workers are left to the whim of these large companies, which have no regard for the health of the workers. (Time expired)