The head of an organisation aimed at supporting Tasmanian workers with asbestos related diseases says the government has a question to answer around why a compensation appeal took seven months to process.
Asbestos Free Tasmania Foundation president Simon Cocker said he had never heard of a case like Beauty Point man Robert Williams, who lodged an appeal with the Asbestos Compensation Tribunal after two failed claims with the Asbestos Compensation Commissioner.
All up it took 16 months for the 70-year-old’s claim to be approved, along with $80,000 in legal fees.
Mr Cocker, who played an integral role in the establishment of Tasmania’s compensation scheme, said the government had a lot to answer for.
“For seven months for the appeal to be heard and a determination made – that’s a ridiculously long timeframe,” he said.
“I look at $80,000 for lodging what is a relatively simple application to an appeal tribunal and I think that is a hell of a lot of money for not much work.
“The whole philosophy of this scheme has been to deal with these things as quickly as possible. This type of situation doesn’t arise often … but I think the government has a question to answer.”
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Tasmania’s Asbestos Compensation Scheme was established in 2011, aimed at providing a quick and efficient system for getting compensation to asbestos sufferers. Overall, Mr Cocker said the scheme was achieving what it set out to do.
However, he said anyone like Mr Williams who had worked in Tasmania’s building industry for 50 years, would have certainly been exposed to asbestos.
A government spokesperson said the Asbestos Compensation Commissioner and the Asbestos Compensation Tribunal remained independent of the government and followed the processes set out in the Asbestos-Related Diseases (Occupational Exposure) Compensation Act 2011.
“In 2019, the Tasmanian Government endorsed the National Strategic Plan for Asbestos Awareness and Management 2019-2023 and is now working on actions to support the implementation of the NSP,” they said.
“Amongst these actions is the establishment of a cross-agency coordination group who will be responsible for developing the local action plan for asbestos awareness and management, comprised of relevant state agencies with responsibility for asbestos safety, as well as local government.”
However, Mr Cocker said AFTF had been lobbying the state government for years.
“At the moment there is no clear government responsibility,” he said.
“There’s not an agency that people can go to and say ‘I’ve got this problem’.
“We want the government to bring all asbestos related activities, that includes disposal, compensation scheme, the capacity to issue orders to landowners … all that stuff we want it to fall into one central location.”
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