The Australian Minister for Workplace Relations, Senator Chris Evans, today announced the establishment of a national review into the management of asbestos and the Government?s intention to ratify several international labor organization treaties.

The Australian Asbestos Management Review will assess current activities in the area of asbestos management and research and make recommendations for the development of a national strategic plan to improve asbestos awareness, management and removal. ?It?s time that we took a long term, strategic approach to these important issues,? Senator Evans said.

?Australia has one of the highest rates of asbestos related disease in the world. Due to the long period between exposure to asbestos and the onset of disease, asbestos related diseases are projected to increase.

?It is critical that we develop a comprehensive understanding of the scope of the problem and set clear targets as to how we address issues relating to awareness, management and removal of asbestos.?

Mr Geoff Fary has been appointed as the Chair of the Asbestos Management Review. Mr Fary has a background in occupational health and safety and workers? compensation matters and is currently the ACTU?s representative on Safe Work Australia, and previously the Australian Safety and Compensation Council.

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Mr Fary will be assisted by an expert advisory group, including acclaimed researchers, employer and employee representatives, and members of the legal fraternity who have substantial experience in dealing with asbestos disease and mesothelioma claims.

?Asbestos exacts a terrible human toll in Australia,? Senator Evans said.

?The Australian Government is committed to doing what it can to ensure that asbestos management arrangements in Australia minimize the risk of avoidable exposure,? Senator Evans said.

The Review will build on work already being undertaken at the Commonwealth, state and territory levels and will report by 30 June 2012. It will complement the development of harmonized workplace health and safety laws which include regulations and codes of practice relating to asbestos management and removal in the workplace as well as the Tasmanian Government?s response to the 2010 report Improving Asbestos Management in Tasmania.

The Minister also announced the Australian Government?s intention to pursue ratification of three International Labour Organisation (ILO) treaties: the Asbestos Convention, 1986 (Convention 162); the optional Protocol to the Occupational Health and Safety Convention, 1981 (Protocol 155); and the Part-Time Work Convention, 1994 (Convention 175).

?Ratification of the Asbestos Convention and the Protocol to the 2002 Occupational Safety and Health Convention guarantee that Australian workers will continue to enjoy the protection of a world class OHS regime, reflecting best practice when it comes to protecting our community from the harmful effects of contact with asbestos,? Senator Evans said.

The Part-Time Work Convention commits Australia to protecting the rights of part-time employees in a way which is consistent with internationally-recognized standards.

?I am very proud to be announcing our intention to ratify this instrument given the importance of part-time work to many Australians as a way of balancing their commitments to paid and unpaid work,? Senator Evans noted.
?This year marks an important milestone in Australia?s commitment to respecting international rights at work.

?Not only is it the twentieth anniversary since the Hawke Government ratified the ILO Workers with Family Convention, but these are the first ILO instruments to be ratified by Australia since 2006.?

For more information:
Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations

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