Asbestos agency not ‘window dressing’

Gippsland Asbestos-Related Disease Support group has defended the agency tasked with eradicating asbestos after it was criticised by Federal Finance Minister Mathias Cormann.

In a recently released ministerial paper, Mr Cormann accused the former Labor government of “window dressing”, when it established the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency in 2013, .

Mr Cormann claimed there was no change in the scope of the asbestos-related activity of government, other than the addition of extra resource and administrative costs.

GARDS chief executive Vicki Hamilton said she could not understand why Mr Cormann was attacking a newly-formed agency which the current government had supported.

“I’m asking Mr Cormann, if he’s so worried about the agency just being window dressing, to take the mantle up and give the agency the teeth it needs to hand down the decisions and actions it needs to,” Ms Hamilton said.

She said the agency was formed so it could work several government departments and agencies, including WorkSafe and the Environment Protection Authority, to improve asbestos education and move towards the future eradication of the deadly substance from Australian homes and workplaces.

“It was created so people didn’t have to deal with four or five different departments, it would be a one-stop shop to address these problems in the community,” Ms Hamilton said.

However, Ms Hamilton has applauded the Federal Government’s decision to continue to fund the agency as detailed in the budget, despite Mr Cormann’s criticisms.

“The federal budget also cemented ongoing bipartisan support for the agency, which was set up last year, while rejecting the deeply concerning recommendation of the National Commission of Audit that the agency, and its advisory council, be abolished as a budget saving measure,” she said.