But lawyer Roger Singh, Shine Lawyers’ national special counsel for dust disease, said that was too far off to help hundreds of workers who were suffering with the disease.
“I think the time for talk, research, investigation and debate is over, and immediate action is now required,” Mr Singh said.
“We’ve already had over 100 cases diagnosed in Queensland, which have all emerged due to the Queensland government’s health screening program.
“You can bet if a similar health screening initiative was rolled out in other states, you’d see the same number of diagnoses, so the issue is alarming and needs to be dealt with with a greater degree of urgency.”
Mr Singh has been advocating since the scale of the issue came to light in Queensland last year for vigorous regulation of the stonecutting industry on a national level.
Silicosis is caused by tiny particles of silica dust being inhaled, causing irreversible damage to the lung tissues.
Manufactured stone, which is used extensively in modern interior design such as kitchen and bathroom benchtops, can be up to 90 per cent silica, meaning unskilled stonecutters are most at risk, especially if they have not been given basic safety precautions such as a mask and goggles.
Earlier this year Gold Coast stonemason Anthony White died from the disease, and his brother Shane Parata was diagnosed with silicosis a few days later.
A handful of the cases diagnosed in Queensland are considered serious, however all cases are irreversible, with the only cure being a lung transplant.
A group of medical organisations on Tuesday formally called for more to be done federally about the crisis, with Royal Australasian College of Physicians fellow and occupational physician Graeme Edwards saying individual states could only do so much.
“It is a national issue, and while we’re seeing the main game at the moment in Queensland, there have been cases appearing in other jurisdictions,” Dr Edwards said.
“In the high-risk groups we’re looking at an order of magnitude of one-in-four workers who had significant exposure are coming up positive for silicosis.
“We still don’t even know if we should be banning engineered stone altogether; and that would be a federal responsibility to stop it at our borders.”
The group, which also includes the Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand and the Lung Foundation, are calling for both major parties to outline clear policies around silicosis and related diseases.
The federal Labor Party made a resolution at its national conference late last year to “develop a national strategy on industrial disease focusing on reform to the regulatory environment for prevention, monitoring and response to industrial diseases.”
However it has not yet made any funding commitments or election promises towards the issue.
Mr Singh said something needed to happen before the end of this year to try to deal with the unfolding crisis.
“For me it’s a bit of a no-brainer; we’re seeing workers whose lives have been destroyed, what more do we need to research and investigate?” he said.
Stuart Layt covers health, science and technology for the Brisbane Times. He was formerly the Queensland political reporter for AAP.