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Proposed laws will give Tasmanian asbestos workers more rights

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Media Release

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Leading asbestos litigation law firm Slater and Gordon has welcomed the changes to occupational asbestos compensation arrangements in new laws drafted by the Tasmanian Government.  

Slater and Gordon lodged a submission with Workplace Standards Tasmania on Friday last week as part of the consultation process for the proposed Asbestos Related Diseases (Occupational Exposure) Compensation Bill.

Leigh Harper from Slater and Gordon Lawyers Hobart office said any reform that made it easier for Tasmanians affected by asbestos exposure to access compensation was supported.

“For too long, Tasmanian asbestos disease sufferers have had to struggle against laws that have not been designed to take into account the severity of the disease and the often short life expectancies given to sufferers,” Mr Harper said.

“Access to fair and reasonable compensation has previously been hindered by legal arguments simply designed to avoid paying compensation.”

Mr Harper said the new laws meant that workers affected by asbestos exposure had more options in pursuing financial compensation.

“The current proposal greatly improves compensation access for those people who worked with asbestos and who today are suffering the disastrous consequences to their health and well-being.

“However there are a number of Tasmanians both now and into the future who were and will be exposed to asbestos outside of the workplace, who won’t benefit from the new scheme.

“We would like to see improvements to the common law system too, for the benefit of those people exposed to asbestos in non occupational settings and for those workers who choose to bring common law claims.”

Mr Harper said that the bill could also go further by giving the proposed Asbestos Compensation Board the ability to pursue the manufacturers and distributors of asbestos products for the recovery of compensation paid, as opposed to just the employers where the actual exposure to asbestos occurred.

“In its current form, this legislation allows the board to recover money from the employers with whom a worker was exposed to asbestos. However that leaves open the possibility that asbestos product manufacturers like James Hardie and Goliath are immune from cost recovery,” Mr Harper said.

Slater and Gordon submitted a series of recommendations to the Tasmanian Government when a review of this legislation was originally announced in 2010.

The law firm also objected strongly to suggestions from the Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry that common law access rights should be removed for those people wishing to pursue asbestos manufacturers through the courts.