Kim Chance

Kim Chance

Minister for Agriculture and Food; Forestry; the Mid West and Wheatbelt; Great Southern

    State Government creates pathway for ex-APB workers' compensation claims to be formally assessed

    27/02/2004 11:45 AM
     
    27/2/04

    Former Agriculture Protection Board spray workers in the Kimberley will be formally considered for workers’ compensation.

    All workers’ compensation claims currently on hold for the workers who were materially exposed to 2,4,5-T will now be expedited.

    Agriculture Minister Kim Chance said where eligible former workers had died of cancer, their dependents would also be eligible to apply for compensation.

    “Cases will be assessed individually and amounts of compensation received will vary, depending on factors such as the type of cancer and when a diagnosis was made,” Mr Chance said.

    “Former workers who do not currently have cancer, but are suffering from ill-health that they believe resulted from exposure to herbicides during the spraying program, will also now be able to have their workers compensation claims processed.”

    Cabinet made its decision after receiving the report of an expert medical panel, which examined the association between chemical spraying and long-term illness among former Agriculture Protection Board workers in the Kimberley.

    The Minister travelled to Derby today to address former workers and their relatives on the outcome of the report and the Government’s response.

    The panel, headed by world-renowned cancer epidemiologist Professor Bruce Armstrong, was unable to conclude beyond doubt that a causal link existed between the spraying program and the ill health of former workers.

    But it did conclude that APB workers might suffer or might already have suffered an increased risk of cancer.

    “Field officers from WorkCover will travel to the Kimberley next week to help workers understand their entitlements and the workers’ compensation process,” Mr Chance said.

    “Help will also be provided for those needing assistance in completing the application documents.”

    The Minister said Cabinet would continue funding the Derby Aboriginal Health Service to provide a specialist nurse support service and medical care for former workers and other people who felt their health had been affected by exposure to the chemicals.

    The nurse support service has been enhanced to provide a counselling and advisory role to meet the needs of APB workers who may be anxious about their cancer risk.

    Medical advice on cancer risk factors and effective risk reduction strategies is available for each individual who accesses the service.

    Agencies such as the Departments of Health and Agriculture that are involved in the control of use of pesticides in Western Australia are moving to improve the level of co-ordination across Government departments. The Pesticides Advisory Committee will have a stronger role in developing a strategic whole-of-government approach to pesticide control.

    In his address to former workers and their families this morning, Mr Chance apologised on behalf of successive State Governments for the delay in addressing their health concerns.

    “While in Opposition, I promised that if I ever became the Minister we would investigate this matter fully and I am now satisfied that we have done that,” he said.

    “I want to acknowledge formally the active group of former workers, led by Carl Drysdale, for their efforts over many years to keep this issue in the public arena as well as the local Member, Carol Martin and my Cabinet colleague, Tom Stephens.

    “The complex process of preparing a pathway to assess claims has now been achieved and we will move forward to ensure that people are provided with appropriate support.”

    Mr Chance said the panel conducted a thorough and wide-ranging scientific evaluation of health concerns by reviewing information world-wide and analysing APB workers’ health status and their herbicide exposure as previously documented by Dr Andrew Harper.

    The panel reached three main conclusions:
    • APB workers may suffer or may have suffered already an increase in the risk of cancer due to their exposure to herbicides containing the dioxin TCDD in the spray program;
    • symptoms of ill health other than cancer that the APB workers reported to Dr Harper do not form a pattern such as to suggest that they were directly caused by their exposure to herbicides. Symptoms of anxiety and depression reported by APB workers are unlikely to be due to their employment in the spray program; and
    • little evidence was available to determine whether or not the APB workers had experienced increased rates of a number of other conditions that might possibly have been caused by exposure to chlorphenoxy herbicides containing dioxins.
    A copy of the full report and the Government response to the report is available from Mr Chance’s website found at http://www.ministers.wa.gov.au

    There are two contacts points for former workers: the specialist nursing support service on 1300 722 060 and WorkCover’s InfoLine on 1800 670 055.

    Minister's Office - 9213 6700