National asbestos management: What it means for LG

The National Strategic Plan for Asbestos Awareness and Management 2019-23 establishes a framework for all levels of government to work together to effectively deal with the harmful legacy of asbestos in homes, workplaces, and the environment.

The plan aims to eliminate asbestos-related diseases in Australia by preventing exposure to asbestos fibres. 

This article by the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (ASEA) explains the roles and responsibilities of each level of government under the Asbestos National Strategic Plan (NSP).

ASEA oversees and coordinates the implementation of the NSP at a national level. The Commonwealth and all state and territory governments have agreed to implement the plan, and in doing so, have committed to developing jurisdictional action plans aligned with the national priorities which include:

  • improving asbestos awareness;
  • effective identification and management of legacy asbestos; and 
  • safe prioritised removal and effective waste management.  

State and territory governments are also responsible for collecting data from various sources within their jurisdiction to measure progress against a set of NSP targets and providing this information annually to ASEA so that national progress can be reported.   

Most jurisdictions have established interagency coordination groups with a lead agency to facilitate Asbestos National Strategic Plan implementation and reporting within the jurisdiction. 

Local government councils are a critical part of the asbestos management system and are therefore a potential source of data for the state/territory governments. The type of information governments may request from councils that relate to the national targets include: 

  • Asbestos awareness-raising activities conducted by local councils 
  • How asbestos in publicly owned and controlled assets is identified, assessed and managed, including any proactive, risk-based asbestos removal programs  
  • Compliance and enforcement action under public health and environmental laws 
  • Incidence of illegal dumping of asbestos waste and action taken to combat this, including initiatives to make asbestos waste disposal easier and cheaper. 

Interagency coordination groups are expected to analyse this information before providing it to ASEA, to assist state and territory governments decide what improvements and resources are needed for managing asbestos within their jurisdiction, including at local government level.  

It is important to clarify that local government councils do not report directly to ASEA. 

However, ASEA is focussing on working with local government, with a dedicated Project Officer recently joining the agency to manage our relationship with local government.

The aim of the Project Officer will be to work in collaboration with the local government sector to improve the level of awareness of the risks of asbestos within local council staff, and the communities they represent, which will lead to positive behaviour change.

To read more, visit the NSP page on the agency’s website: ASEA National Strategic Plan 2019-2023