PLAN FOR AUSTRALIANS TO PAY FOR ASBESTOS CERTIFICATES
Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten gave his personal backing to the asbestos-alert strategy.
He said one in every three homes built between 1945 and the mid-80s contain asbestos, a mineral fibre that can cause the lethal lung cancer mesothelioma.
“If I was purchasing a home, I would want to know if it contained asbestos or not,” he told News Limited.
“Obviously I am conscious of the additional cost implications associated with mandating such measures.”
Mr Shorten said the government would work with state and territory governments, the Australian Institute of Architects’ Architecture service, and consumer group Choice.
His department’s Office of Asbestos Safety is seeking public comment on a proposal to require an “asbestos content report” from a licensed assessor before properties are sold, leased or renovated.
The ACT already requires sellers and landlords to provide an “asbestos advice” with each sale or rental contract.
The plan is being championed by government’s Australian Asbestos Management Review chairman, former ACTU assistant secretary Geoff Fary.
Mr Fary said the asbestos reports – including an inspection and sample testing by an accredited laboratory – would cost $150 to $200.
“For the cost people would incur when they’re selling a house, that’s chicken feed,” he told News Limited.
“By doing that, we save people from being exposed to airborne asbestos which could cost them their lives, so it’s a reasonable impost.
“Rather than nitpicking over costs, we need to get on with it.”
Mr Fary said local councils should co-ordinate the certification scheme, and keep certificates in their databases.
A label declaring the location of asbestos in a home could be fixed to the electrical box, in the same way as termite notifications, to alert tradespeople to danger zones.
“It’s entirely possible these days for the label to be a barcode,” he said.
“The tradesperson would simply point their iPhone at that, and get the report showing the location and condition of asbestos in the house.”
Mr Fary said asbestos was more common in Australian homes than overseas because it had been considered a “miracle product” for the tropical climate.
“It wouldn’t rot, it was waterproof and termite proof, and you could cut it, bend it and turn it,” he said.
“It was a product that suited our conditions.”
The Real Estate Institute of Australia said it was still discussing details with the Office of Asbestos Safety.
“Real estate agents … support community safety and awareness of the specific dangers posed by some forms of asbestos in buildings and homes,” chief executive Amanda Lynch said.