The Hon. IAN WEST: My question without notice is addressed to the Minister for Industrial Relations. Will the Minister outline the latest research to assist New South Wales workers who suffer from dust diseases?
The Hon. JOHN DELLA BOSCA: Honourable members would be familiar with the role of the Dust Diseases Board. This year marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of the board, making it one of the oldest bodies of its type in the world. Eighty years ago the Hon. George Cann, Minister for Labour and Industry in the Storey Labor Government, introduced the Workers Compensation (Silicosis) Act 1920. For the first time, it recognised the need to compensate workers whose health had been affected by their work in dust-related industries. The Carr Labor Government continues this proud tradition. New South Wales workers who have contracted asbestos-related diseases as a result of their employment receive every support possible, including medical treatment, hospitalisation and nursing care in the home—all critical factors in reducing worry for the families of those suffering from a serious illness.
The Dust Diseases Board ensures that affected workers are assigned a dedicated case manager, someone they can turn to for support and assistance in times of need and who can arrange services such as oxygen in the home and so on. In the past three years the Dust Diseases Board's grants scheme has contributed $2.5 million to research designed to improve the treatment for sufferers and to unlock the secrets of diseases like mesothelioma. Yesterday the Dust Diseases Board hosted a major international conference reporting on groundbreaking research into occupational respiratory illnesses. The Frontiers of Research conference allowed physicians to inform their patients and their peers of the latest developments in treatment options and research directions.
I was able to inform participants in the conference of the Dust Diseases Board's latest grants totalling just under $700,000. The first grant of $600,000 was to Dr Kwun M. Fong from the department of thoracic medicine at Prince Charles Hospital in Brisbane. Dr Fong will lead a team of colleagues in researching molecular damage in lung cancer. They will examine genes that suppress tumours. The second grant, of $96,000, was to Professor Jiri Neuzil of the school of health sciences at Griffith University. Professor Neuzil and two associates at the University of Ancona in Italy will examine efficient ways of killing cancer and mesothelioma cells. In particular, they will examine a technique using vitamin E. It is hoped that the research will have major clinical and public health implications for the prevention and treatment of lung disease in New South Wales workers.
In accepting the Deputy Leader of the Opposition's invitation to comment about asbestos exposure in a variety of industries, not excluding the electricity industry, let me say that the lung bus initiative that I launched recently on behalf of the Dust Diseases Board is one outstanding initiative. It will practically assist a wide variety of employees in both the private and public sectors who might have reason to be concerned about past exposure, current exposure or even potential exposure to asbestos and who might therefore be at risk of asbestos-related diseases. The lung bus has completed some service with the State Rail Authority, and it is also available to a variety of electricity employees. I am happy to keep the Deputy Leader of the Opposition advised about progress in this matter.