SA’S ASBESTOS LAWS ARE A DYING SHAME

1 November 2005

WITH THE AVERAGE LIFE EXPECTANCY OF A MESOTHELIOMA VICTIM BEING ONLY 9 MONTHS FROM DIAGNOSIS: SA’S ASBESTOS LAWS ARE A DYING SHAME

● South Australians with deadly asbestos lung cancers face extra hurdles after High Court decision

●Bill to reform law – to fast track claims in line with other states – to be introduced into Parliament next week

● Plea to Premier Rann, as a patron of the Asbestos Victims Association of South Australia (AVA) - to support urgent passage of legislation

Legislation to fast track claims for asbestos victims will be introduced into State Parliament next week, following serious concerns from the AVA that South Australian claimants are worse off than those interstate.

The legislation, the Dust–Related Conditions Bill 2005, to be introduced by No Pokies MLC Nick Xenophon – a patron of the AVA – brings South Australia in line with other states by:

● setting up an ‘expedited hearing list’ for asbestos claims

● simplifying rules of evidence

● bringing SA damages in line with other states

● preventing companies such as James Hardie from using technical defences that have the consequence of delaying claims for dying victims (technical defences aren’t available in NSW for instance)

● provisional damages – allowing victims with benign (but serious) conditions such as Asbestosis to bring another claim if they subsequently contract Mesothelioma or asbestos related lung cancer

Mr Xenophon who was responsible for getting laws changed in 2001 to allow the families of an asbestos victim who died prior to a case being completed, to continue a claim for damages for pain and suffering, urged the Rann Government to support the legislation as a “matter of urgency”.

“Mike Rann as Opposition Leader and Michael Wright as Shadow Industrial Relations Minister, did the right and honourable thing by supporting the 2001 legislation. This Bill is necessary because victims of South Australia are now worse off following a High Court decision that stops access to the fast track NSW system”.

“I urge the Premier – as a fellow patron of the AVA – to back this legislation with absolute urgency”.

“The issue is even more urgent because South Australia now has the shocking burden of having the highest per capita rate of Mesothelioma – the deadly and excruciating lung cancer – in the world”.

It is expected that asbestos related deaths will peak in South Australia in 2020, and that thousands of South Australians will die in the coming years of asbestos related disease.

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