Jenny Leong MP on Work Health and Safety

Jenny Leong MP, Greens Member for new explains that reforms to the Work Health and Safety Act do not go far enough if they do not include making lung disease and kidney disease resulting from silicosis a notifiable disease.


Ms JENNY LEONG (Newtown) (11:21:05): On behalf of The Greens, I speak in debate on the Work Health and Safety Amendment (Information Exchange) Bill 2020. I indicate that this bill amends the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 to make silicosis a notifiable disease, creating a silicosis health register to allow SafeWork NSW to track and investigate the workplaces of those diagnosed with the disease. When a medical practitioner diagnoses an individual with silicosis they will be required to notify NSW Health. Taken on its own, this reform is not a bad thing. However, exposure to silica dust is linked to the development of lung cancer, kidney disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease as well as silicosis. The diseases should be included in any notifiable disease regime.

Even with those diseases included, we have concerns this reform goes nowhere near far enough to ensure that no worker becomes ill or dies after being exposed to silica dust. We know that these have been long‑term campaigns. We know the historical impacts of the campaigns around the impact of asbestos on workers in our community. We know that many unions and others are reflecting and supporting the rights of workers in the community who are very concerned about the impact of silicosis on our communities and on working people. I acknowledge that the Minister said we want to minimise the number of people who contract the disease, or ideally remove the idea that anyone will get silicosis and therefore die as a result of going to work. We should never accept in our community that anyone would go to work and not return home, or suffer a long-term illness causing death as a result of their work. All that can be done must be done to ensure we stop this disease.

That is why The Greens believe we need to go further and ban manufactured stone entirely to address this ongoing issue. We recognise that the disease is widespread so we encourage widespread free screening of all workers within the manufactured stone industry. That should be available as soon as possible. A low-dose, high‑resolution CT scan, not a chest X-ray, should be the preferred diagnostic measure available to workers in the manufactured stone industry and other impacted industries. The Government should be working towards implementing the recommendations contained in the2019 review of the Dust Diseases scheme: Silicosis in the manufactured stone industry inquiry report. As I said, we believe we should go further and ban manufactured stone entirely. The Greens will work with the Opposition to move amendments to this bill in the upper House, and I acknowledge the contribution of the Opposition in this Chamber to try to enforce more robust testing measures, along with other recommendations from the inquiry, in this bill. I acknowledge that this bill does go some way towards that and, on its own, is not a bad thing. However, more can be done. We hope that in the upper House, the amendments will be considered by the Government and the Minister to strengthen the bill to ensure that no worker is put at greater risk to their health and or is at risk of death as a result of working in an industry in this State.

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