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    Major asbestos scare sparks call for national investigation and senate inquiry

    Nathan Johnson

    Asbestos discoveries at Perth's new children's hospital and a new government tower in Brisbane have reignited concerns that contaminated building products are slipping into Australia from China.

    The Australian construction union has called for a full investigation into all projects that have used products from Chinese company, Yuanda Australia, the fa├žade component manufacturer linked to the contaminations in Perth and Brisbane.

    Yuanda Australia is a subsidiary of Yuanda China Holdings, one of the world's biggest manufacturers of construction industry products, and has provided building materials for nearly 70 major buildings and construction sites across the country.

    Yuanda was found to have unknowingly used asbestos-tainted gaskets sourced from China on the QLD Government's new Executive Building and is also linked to the discovery of asbestos in roof panels in Perth's new children's hospital.

    In light of these scares, the CFMEU has requested an investigation into the company’s role in all of its Australian projects, completed and uncompleted, including the Queensland Children’s Hospital in Brisbane, the Gold Coast University Hospital, Fiona Stanley Hospital in Perth, the Perth Stadium, the Royal ­Adelaide Hospital, ANZ Bank’s headquarters in Melbourne, Lend Lease’s Barangaroo development in Sydney and James Packer’s new Crown Towers.

    ASBESTOS FREE NOT ASBESTOS FREE

    In February 2015 Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency CEO Peter Tighe told the ABC that he was aware of 64 sites across the nation that had suspected asbestos contamination from China.

    He said the deadly substance is slipping into the country illegally from places like China, in products often certified as "asbestos free".

    But as Erin Dale, Australian Border Force (ABF) Commander, explains, in China, “asbestos free” doesn’t actually mean asbestos free.

    "In China… a product can be asbestos-free even if it contains five per cent asbestos material," she told the ABC.

    Asbestos is also not illegal in China.

    CALL FOR ANOTHER SENATE INQUIRY

    South Australian senator Nick Xenophon wants to set up another Senate inquiry, just weeks after the year-long senate inquiry into non-conforming building products was shut down before it made its final report due to the double dissolution federal election.

    He questioned the targeted regime tactic currently used by the Australian Border Force when it comes to assessing the risk of shipments, suggesting that the selection process for whether or not products were tested for asbestos was not good enough.

    "When Border Force talks about having a targeted regime of enforcement, I'm pretty sceptical,” he says.

    “It seems that their target is an increasingly shrinking one and that's not good enough."

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