Assistant Minister Kearney – doorstop in Canberra – 21 June 2023

Read the transcript of Assistant Minister Kearney's doorstop in Parliament House about the National Occupational Respiratory Disease Registry and Housing Australia Future Fund.

The Hon Ged Kearney MP
Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care

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GED KEARNEY: I'm Ged Kearney, the Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care. And I'm very pleased to announce that today I will be tabling legislation that will establish a national register where the incidence of occupation dust diseases will be recorded.

We know that one in four people who work with engineered stone in this country develop a terrible disease called silicosis. This is an incurable disease. It is a tragic disease that is contracted at work, and nobody should go to work and get diseases that kill them. So this register will make sure that everybody who contracts an occupational dust related disease will have that recorded on this register. But importantly, if you have silicosis, that recording will be absolutely mandatory. Everybody that contracts silicosis will have that incidence of that disease recorded on the register. This will enable us to get information that will help us manage workplaces and that hopefully will make sure that people don't go to work contracting this terrible disease.

This a very important first step in the armoury against combating occupational dust related diseases. We have heard tragic stories from people, we had a delegation come to Parliament House recently, where a woman who worked in admin office. She didn't even do anything hands on with the engineered stone, she was simply covered in dust from the beginning of the day to the end of the day by sitting in the office, and she herself had contracted silicosis. This is a tragic disease. And I'm very proud that we are taking this first step in combatting what is a tragedy. I think you should not go to work and get diseases that unfortunately see their demise. 

I'd also like to make a comment about the housing affordability fund and the Greens stance on this. There are many people I think, particularly in my electorate, who are scratching their heads right now at the position that the Greens have taken. It's incredibly disappointing that we can't start right now to build affordable social housing for people who desperately need it. So many people who work in the housing industry live in my electorate, whether it be in homeless organisations or social housing organisations, and they are desperately upset that this bill is being held up in this house. We've heard state governments right around the country also saying what on earth is happening.

I am putting out a plea to the Greens to please reconsider the situation. We know that people are doing it tough with high rental costs at the moment. We know that that needs action and a lot of state governments are working on that right now. But we can do both. We can have the housing affordability bill passed right now. And we can start building those houses right now as well as working with the states and territories on the rental issue.

So, I am putting a plea to the Greens Party to please reconsider their position and pass the bill, allow us to get the bill through the upper house so that we can start right now building social and affordable houses for people right across this country, including in my electorate, who desperately need them.

Thank you. 

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