Queensland’s interim report into black lung disease has heard of deliberate underfunding and under-resourcing of medical testing for miners over the past 30 years.
The claims of neglect were revealed to state parliament on Wednesday as the report into the disease, also known as pneumoconiosis recommended it also be allowed to look at the cases of tunnel workers.
Coal Workers’ Pneumoconiosis Select Committee chair Jo-Ann Miller said it had heard testimony indicating there had been “deliberate underfunding” of medical testing for coal miners.
“This report exemplifies the human tragedy that occurs when public administration is corrupted by illusion and false beliefs that black lung was eradicated in this state,” Ms Miller told parliament as she tabled the interim report.
“We will right the wrongs, and tell the truth no matter where it lands, politically, administratively, medically and industrially.”
The report identifies a lack of communication between departments led to a belief that the disease had been eliminated for 30 years.
The report highlighted a case where a mine worker was diagnosed with black lung in 2004, and successfully applied for a WorkCover claim using that diagnosis in 2006, but the case was not reported to the mines department.
It follows evidence given to the committee that thousands of X-rays of coal workers’ lungs had been stored in a shipping container next to a Queensland Health facility at Ipswich, while others were kept in a broom closet.
Measures flagged by the interim report as likely to be recommended in the final document include greater dust monitoring of coal mines, real-time dust monitors for miners, and long-term health monitoring of current and retired miners.
The report also recommends its terms of reference be expanded to include workers on Brisbane’s numerous tunnel projects, who may be suffering from silicosis, a similar disease to black lung.
Ms Miller said the evidence they had seen suggested more former miners would be diagnosed with black lung in the future.
“Men are dying because of this, and we expect more men and women to be diagnosed with this preventable disease, resulting in calamitous effects on their families.”
“It is wrong on every level.”