Calls for a National Fund to Assist Low Income Earners in Removing Dangerous Asbestos from their Homes

Friday March 30th, 2012

Mrs Ronda Kirkpatrick is a pensioner who lives in her own home in Somerset Tasmania. The asbestos roof on her home is so badly degraded that she can pull handfuls of broken-down asbestos cement out of her gutters. This “muck” as she describes it is 20% to 40% loose chrysotile asbestos. She has brought a carefully sealed and labelled bag of this material all the way from Somerset to Hobart to show to Mr Geoff Fary, Chairman of the National Asbestos Management Review.

Today, accompanied by the CEO and President of the Asbestos Free Tasmania Foundation, Mrs Kirkpatrick will meet Mr Fary who is in Hobart on a last round of consultations for the National Asbestos Review. Mrs Kirkpatrick will plead the case for support to be provided to low income earners, trapped in houses that have degraded asbestos products who cannot afford to have the asbestos removed.

Asbestos Free Tasmania receives calls on a weekly basis from home owners and tenants worried about asbestos in their properties, or their neighbours’ properties.

Mrs Ronda Kirkpatrick said:

“When we bought the house we thought it was just a cement roof. It wasn’t until years later we realised it was asbestos.”

“The roof is so bad now I am genuinely worried about my own health and the risk that my grand-children could be exposed when they come to visit.”

“You can’t say asbestos roofing is safe when it has broken down to the point where you can remove it by the handful.”

“I realise there is no quick fix on this but I genuinely don’t know where I am going to find the money and there must be hundreds of Tasmanians in this situation.”

 

“That’s why I want to talk with Mr Fary and make sure the National Asbestos Review considers the thousands of homeowners in my situation,” said Mrs Kirkpatrick.

Asbestos Free Tasmania CEO, Susan Wallace said:

“Asbestos cement products that have been exposed to weather, like the Super 6 roofing on Mrs Kirkpatrick’s house are reaching their end date.”

“We need to work together to find a way to support the tens of thousands of low income Australians who cannot afford asbestos removal.”

“We want a serious conversation as part of the National Asbestos Review as to how we develop a fund that low income earners can apply to for assistance to remove asbestos in their homes that has become dangerous.”

“That fund might take the form of a community fund established by business and government. It might offer loans that are paid back when the property is eventually sold. One way or another, we need to find a solution to this problem,” said Ms Wallace.

Asbestos Free Tasmania President, Simon Cocker said:

“We can’t keep our heads in the sand on this matter and see innocent Tasmanians living with this kind of anxiety, knowing that they are most likely, being exposed to asbestos fibres every day.”

“We need to take a national approach, think creatively and come up with a community fund or scheme that allows these people to stay in their homes,” said Mr Cocker.

The National Asbestos Management Review is due to deliver its final report and recommendations to Minister Bill Shorten at the end of June.