Almost a decade after asbestos was banned in this country, an overwhelming majority of Australians are concerned it remains a major health risk and want Federal government action to remove it from all homes and public buildings within two decades, according to a new poll.

Two-thirds of respondents to a poll commissioned by the ACTU believe the Government should set a target to have all asbestos removed from Australian homes and buildings by 2030.

The new research comes after the release earlier this month of the report of a national inquiry into the removal of asbestos, which recommended the Government must investigate removing asbestos from public and commercial buildings in the next 18 years, as well as set up an audit of its existence in residential properties built before production ended in 1987.

Unions will discuss their own action plan for the removal of asbestos at a national summit in Sydney tomorrow (Tuesday, 4 September). Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten will speak at the summit.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said the poll of 1022 people showed deep public concern about the prevalence of asbestos remaining in Australian buildings, leading to the death of 500 Australians each year from the asbestos disease, mesothelioma.

“These deaths don’t need to happen and we are pleased the recent Asbestos Management Review, chaired by Geoff Fary, agreed with Australian unions and the wider public that asbestos must be removed from any environment where it poses a health risk,” she said.

“Clearly the dangers of asbestos didn’t end when we stopped mining or producing asbestos, or fully banned its use in 2004.

“Australia had one of the highest rates of asbestos consumption per head in the world, and most of that asbestos is still in place in buildings and is deteriorating.

“Every third domestic dwelling built before 1982 is thought to contain asbestos – that’s more than a million houses. It is in our homes, our schools and hospitals and our workplaces.

“It is a silent killer, and a plan needs to be put in place to remove it from the built environment completely. The results of this poll show that there is strong community support for government action to remove asbestos in Australia by 2030.”

In the Auspoll survey, two thirds of respondents say asbestos remains a big health problem and almost 90% say the presence of asbestos would influence their decision whether to buy a house or not. The survey also found 85% support for a national audit to identify remnant asbestos in Australia and 89% want a national program for the removal of asbestos.

Eighty-two per cent are in favour of making property sellers obtain an asbestos safety certificate which identifies hazards before a house can be put on the market. And 58% said they would be prepared to pay more for a property if all the asbestos had been removed by the previous owner.