In an ongoing dispute over asbestos importation in Australia, Queensland Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace reacted to Border Protection Minister Peter Dutton’s interview on Sydney radio station 2GB on Thursday.
“They talk about a 40 percent additional cost in building a block of units because of CFMEU involvement, and obviously, that has some behaviours, including driving builders to use this product, which is completely unacceptable,” said Mr Dutton.
“There are a number of reasons that they’re cutting corners – one is that they are being driven into the ground by the CFMEU and these other thugs… walking around on building sites, including bikies employed by the CFMEU.”
Ms Grace said Mr Dutton is attacking construction workers who exposed the issue.
“Peter Dutton is in denial about deadly asbestos imports, and he clearly doesn’t have a clue about how to stop them,” she said.
“Instead of fixing this mess, as any responsible Border Protection Minister would do, Mr Dutton is sulking and blaming anyone but himself for what’s emerging a major public health issue.
“He’s even resorted to pointing the finger at hard-working construction workers – it doesn’t get much lower than that.
“It was these same workers, who through their union the CFMEU, brought this problem to national attention by carrying out their own testing on construction sites including 1 William Street in Brisbane.
“They should be commended, not condemned, for carrying out these tests.
“Peter Dutton needs to do his job and enforce the nationwide asbestos importation ban which has been in place since 2003.”
The Asbestos Disease Foundation of Australia and CFMEU have also blasted Mr Dutton for his comments. Foundation president, Barry Robson, told The Guardian that Mr Dutton’s response was “outrageous”.
“For Dutton to say just being a union job adds 40 percent to the cost and then blame the union is outrageous,” said Mr Robson.
CFMEU construction division’s national secretary, Dave Noonan, said his comments reflect the minister’s desire to avoid being blamed for the issue.
“They reflect the minister’s desire to avoid responsibility for the demonstrated poor performance of his department by clumsily seguing into a smear of the CFMEU,” he said.
Last month, Ms Grace wrote a letter to Mr Dutton demanding the immediate release of the Asbestos Importation Review report following serious asbestos incidents. She also called on Mr Dutton to change Commonwealth legislation to increase the fine level of $180,000 for importing asbestos-containing material.
“Now we know why it took Peter Dutton five months to release this report – it reveals a shocking litany of failures under his watch,” said Ms. Grace.
“Instead of making this report public, as I urged him to do last month, he decided to hide it from Australians in the hope that the problem would simply go away.
“This didn’t wash with Queenslanders, and it shouldn’t wash with Malcolm Turnbull.
“Queenslanders can see through Peter Dutton’s hypocrisy and they’re fast running out of patience with his lame excuses – they just want this debacle fixed.”