Call for bans on dangerous asbestos imports linked to trade agreements

August 5, 2016: The discovery of deadly asbestos from imported materials used in a new Perth hospital has sparked a debate about inspection of increased numbers of imports resulting from the China FTA, already in force, and the proposed Indian FTA.

But rather than cracking down on dangerous imports of asbestos products immigration Minister Peter Dutton has launched an extraordinary attack on the construction union,, blaming the union for "driving Australian companies to ‘cut corners’ by importing cheap Chinese materials that may contain deadly asbestos,” according to a report in The Australian. 

The construction union’s national secretary Michael O’Connor wrote to Trade Minister Steve Ciobo this week calling for the suspension of free-trade agreement talks with India until there were better ­systems to stop dangerous imports. India is the world’s second biggest manufacturer of products with ­asbestos.

Senator Nick Xenophon has also called for stronger import controls to ban asbestos imports.

The greater volumes of imports resulting from trade agreements mean it is harder to find and prevent dangerous products from coming into Australia. The agreements also make it more difficult for governments to increase product standards without being accused of interfering with free trade.

This is just another reason why we need further scrutiny and proper cost-benefit analysis to ensure that all trade agreements, including the current negotiations with India, are in Australia’s national interest and do not restrict our government’s ability to regulate in the public interest