Essential Report

Asbestos — can the world beat the toxic time bomb?

Apr 17, 2012

Paul Bastian explains how Australian trade unions are leading the call for a global ban on asbestos.


Asbestos is a word that strikes fear into the heart of many. Once only thought to cause illness and death to miners and builders, it’s now on its third wave — the general public. Paul Bastian, the acting National Secretary of the AMWU, tells 3Q of plans to clean up public and private buildings by 2030. But the bigger aim is to have the toxic substance banned worldwide.

Australia has some of the highest levels of exposure in the world. However, we lead the world in a positive sense, in that our courts recognise the direct link between exposure to asbestos and the development of mesothelioma. Other countries are only just coming to this conclusion.

A third of the world’s countries still use asbestos and Canada and Russia are still exporting it — even though its use is banned in their own countries. Countries like Vietnam and India are still using asbestos in construction – often without any protective gear. The AMWU is part of a network that is campaigning for a total ban on the use of asbestos worldwide.

Paul Bastian talks about the AMWU’s involvement in the campaign that delivered justice for victims of asbestos exposure by getting billions of dollars in compensation from James Hardie (despite attempts to restructure overseas so its assets were out of reach of victims). Bernie Banton, who became the personal face of mesothelioma sufferers, was a former AMWU member.

The AMWU is calling for the establishment of a National Asbestos Authority representing three tiers of government, asbestos support groups, experts, unions with powers to report on and instigate asbestos removal from private and public buildings, especially schools, by 2030.

Find out more:

This TV report details how India is sitting on a toxic time bomb through asbestos imported from Canada.

The 7.30 Report recently ran this report about the risks to home renovators.

Watch this 1959 clip from the US Bureau of Mines explaining the properties of the mineral fibre.

Who’s killing Australian science?

Apr 17, 2012

Anna-Maria Arabia says our scientific innovation is world class but is at risk if the government and private sector stop investing.


Australia loves its sport champions, actors and writers. But we rarely sing the praises of our scientific innovators.

Yet Australia is amongst the world leaders in medical science and astronomy just to name a few.

Australian scientists invented our indestructible dollar bills, the iconic Aeroguard, the bionic ear, and the life changing wi-fi technology used in computers around the world.

Funding for science is well below the OECD average and with growing international competition Australia stands to fall further behind the pack.

As Anna Maria Arabia, the CEO of Science & Technology Australia tells 3Q’s Sarah Macdonald, Australian innovation will not reach its full potential if we don’t adequately invest in the development and commercialisation of Australia’s world class research.

Find out more.

Check out S&TA’s website Respect the Science which gives an insight into the science research process and to show the importance of the work scientists do.

Anna-Maria explains that rather than boosting innovation and entrepreneurial activity one of the key government programs that supports early stage venture capital is drawing to a close.

She also tells 3Q about a recent summit that brought together the superannuation industry and the science sector to investigate potential investment opportunities to support Australian innovation.

The Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation, Bill Shorten, will lead a trade mission to Israel with superannuation and science representatives to better understand Israel’s innovation system that has lead to more start-ups than Japan, India, Korea, Canada, the UK and Australia.

Can super work for the low paid?

Apr 17, 2012

Matthew Linden unpacks the many historic changes happening to super, especially for people on low incomes.


Super is being shaken up and the beginning of the momentous changes started this month with the passing of two historic new laws. The first means tax breaks for low income earners and the second will affect us all, as super contributions increase from 9 to 12 per cent.

Matthew Linden, the Chief Policy Adviser for the Industry Super Network, tells 3Q the changes mean retirement savings will increase by more than $50,000, even for low income earners.

The new legislation means low income earners (earning less than $37,000) will not have to pay tax on their super contributions. A rebate of $500 annually will be awarded to them to offset the 15 per cent tax rate they previously paid.

And with the mining tax legislation passed, super contributions will now rise from 9 to 12 per cent over the next eight years.

Find out more.

Bills have also been introduced to give safeguards for financial advice consumers, for the first time requiring financial planners by law to act in the best interests of their clients.

The Gillard Government’s other initiative to assist all workers with greater access to super information is through the Stronger Super package which will come into effect in 2013.

This initiative is designed to cut fees on super investments by up to 40 per cent and to give members a better handle on their super fund.

Recent studies
have shown a public disengagement with super – even after 20 years of compulsory super and even amongst those on the verge of retirement.

TRENDS: The Battle for the Weekend

Apr 17, 2012


As employers push for a flat rate of pay on weekends, most Australians believe weekend work should have a higher value, reflecting the fact that family time, community and sporting involvement is still conducted over the weekend. It’s the difference between an economy and a society, Lewis argues.

The segment also explores surprising support for a Coalition policy to fund nannies, bringing into stark relief the different approaches to social policy between the major parties.

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