The Civil Liabilities Act 2002 has been amended to allow a later claim to be made for damages if a sufferer develops a different dust related disease. ‘In some cases,’ said AFTF President, Simon Cocker, ‘a person suffering with one asbestos disease can develop another, sometimes years later, but once a claim had been made prior to this amendment, it was final.’
The Bill, passed on November 6th 2013, has another important element to it. If the asbestos sufferer was a carer for another person, an award can be made to provide care by other means. The AFTF has worked tirelessly on driving this, and other amendments through Parliament in 2013, to support the increasing number of people and their families who experience illness or death as a result of exposure to asbestos fibres.
Civil Liability Amendment Bill 2013
This Bill amends the Civil Liabilities Act 2002 to:
·Allow a Court to award provisional damages where a plaintiff has established a claim for a particular dust-related disease so that further damages can be awarded at a later date if the person develops a different dust-related disease; and
· Allow for an award of damages for loss of ability to care for another and to set limits on when such a claim can be made and cap the amount that may be awarded; and
· Clarify that in section 28 the reference to “other courts” includes interstate courts.
· Insert a standard provision stating that the Act binds the Crown.
Asbestos Free Tasmania welcomed today’s announcement by Minister Bill Shorten that the Federal Government will create a new asbestos agency to work with all levels of government to develop a national strategy to remove asbestos from the built environment and increase asbestos awareness and education.
A representative from Asbestos Free Tasmania is attending the Second National Asbestos summit in Sydney, convened to examine the recommendations of the Asbestos Management Revue, delivered to the Federal Government in July.
The spokesperson said:
“Australia has the highest recorded rate of asbestos related deaths from the dreadful cancer mesothelioma, 600 to 700 per year. Medical experts estimate approximately two cases of lung cancer for ever incidence of mesothelioma so the real yearly death toll is probably twice that.”
“Now we are seeing a new wave of these preventable diseases from people exposed to asbestos, largely in ignorance, through the home renovation boom.”
Ms Wallace acknowledged that removing asbestos safely from our built environment is a massive task that requires Federal Government support and a considered national strategy:
“Tasmania is doing some great work in this area working towards greater public awareness of asbestos, improved education and the development of a prioritised removal policy. However this issue is beyond any one level of government and a national strategy and a bipartisan approach can make a real difference.”The adoption of the proposed national strategic plan will require co-operation and action from all levels of government to be successful.
“We need all levels of government to work together on this. We need a visionary approach but with practical and achievable outcomes,” said Ms Wallace.
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's spokesperson 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.”
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.
The Asbestos Free Tasmania Foundation today welcomed the launch of the Asbestos-Related Diseases (Occupational Exposure) Compensation Scheme and congratulated the Government for creating Tasmania’s first asbestos diseases compensation scheme.
Chair of the Asbestos Free Tasmania Board, Simon Cocker said:
“This is a very important day for asbestos disease sufferers who have their disease as the result of exposure to asbestos in the workplace.”
“These are terrible diseases and this new, no fault compensation scheme will hopefully offer some comfort that access to quality medical care and compensation will be readily available.”
“Our current workers’ compensation scheme was never designed for asbestos diseases that can develop thirty to fifty years after exposure to asbestos fibres and often, long after a worker has retired.”
“The only alternative for many asbestos disease sufferers has been the costly, time consuming, stressful and adversarial court system which has seen many inadequate settlements and claimants dying uncompensated for an injury that is related to their work.”
Mr Cocker noted that there was still a great deal of work to be done to raise awareness about the dangers of asbestos in the workplace and in the wider community.
“The Asbestos Free Tasmania Foundation has a great deal of work ahead of it, not just in raising awareness of the dangers of asbestos, but also in assisting workers and the broader community to identify asbestos product and take the necessary precautions,” said Mr Cocker.
Simon Cocker will be available for comment at the launch of the Asbestos-Related Diseases (Occupational Exposure) Compensation Scheme, 2 -2.30pm, Wed 26th October, the Long Room, Parliament House.
For more information or comment:
AFTF’s vision is for Tasmanians to be free from the risk of exposure to asbestos and asbestos related disease.
The Asbestos Free Tasmania Foundation today congratulated the Government and both houses of the Tasmanian Parliament for the passing of legislation to establish Tasmania’s first asbestos diseases compensation scheme.
Asbestos Free Tasmania spokesperson said:
“Today is a landmark day for asbestos disease sufferers who have their disease as the result of exposure to asbestos in the workplace.”
“For years these disease sufferers have had great difficulty in accessing workers’ compensation, mostly because our current workers’ compensation scheme was never designed for diseases that can develop thirty to fifty years after exposure to asbestos and often, long after a worker has retired.”
“Up to this point the only alternative for many disease sufferers has been the costly, time consuming, stressful and adversarial court system which has seen many inadequate settlements and claimants dying uncompensated for an injury that is related to their work.”
“These are terrible diseases and this new no fault compensation scheme will hopefully offer some comfort that access to quality medical care and compensation will be readily available.”
“It is important to note the many Tasmanians who have worked hard for years to create this significant reform and the general goodwill on all sides of the political divide to get this done.”
AFTF also noted that there are still some reforms needed to assist asbestos disease sufferers whose disease is not work related.
“There is still work to do to ensure those in the community with asbestos disease, but can’t connect their asbestos exposure to the workplace, have access to fair and timely compensation through the courts.”
“Some of these people are the direct family of asbestos workers, like partners and children who hugged dad when he got home or washed his clothes.”
“Exempting dust diseases from the Limitation Act and giving our courts the capacity to award provisional damages will greatly improve the situation for these disease sufferers and we urge the Government to move ahead with these reforms also.”