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Thursday, 17 October 2002
Page: 5431


Senator ABETZ (Special Minister of State) (5:17 PM) —The amending of the amendment has spoilt some considerable fun that we otherwise would have had given the original wording of the proposed amendment because, as I understand it, it would have covered virtually any substance that might have been on the craft. But the Democrats, to their credit, observed the difficulty with the original proposed amendment and now we have a revised amendment before us. Whilst the government does not agree with, and in fact opposes, the proposed amendment, the Democrats are here arguing the cause, undoubtedly on environmental grounds, and I cannot help but note the absence of any Green senator in the chamber to seek to champion these causes. I am sure that, if there is a media interview to be had, they will be the first ones out there condemning what the parliament has passed. But, of course, they have refused to do the hard yards yet again—


Senator Carr —You'd turn down a media interview. All the years I've known you, you've always turned them down!


Senator ABETZ —Isn't it amazing that we have got Senator Kim Carr here seeking to defend the Green senators. Why would he do that, especially in circumstances where, as I understand it, the Greens might be beating the Labor Party on Saturday? I would not have thought you would be so defensive of them. The government opposes the Democrats amendment. The granting of a launch permit is already subject to rigorous safety and environmental assessment. A risk-hazard analysis of the launch must be performed and an adequate environmental plan is required. In addition, the Space Activities Act 1998 already states that a space object must not include fissionable material unless approved by the minister. Further detailed requirements for a launch permit are identified in the Space Activities Regulations 2001 and the related flight safety code.

Accordingly, it is not appropriate or necessary to insert additional specific provisions in the act in relation to radioactive and toxic material, nor is it appropriate to table such analyses. Information relating to launch vehicles and spacecraft, including information contained in risk-hazard analyses, may be subject to national security classification, technology safeguard arrangements, international missile non-proliferation commitments, export controls or to other binding confidentiality provisions. Furthermore, the details of risk-hazard analyses are likely to be commercially sensitive to a launch proponent, a spacecraft owner and the suppliers of the related technologies. In such cases, it is appropriate that the risk-hazard analyses remain confidential and not be subject to public release through tabling in parliament.

In relation to the wording in paragraph (a) under `toxic chemical', can I ask Senator Stott Despoja—seeing that we were invited to—how the word `adverse' in the phrase `significant adverse acute human health effects' adds anything to the word `acute' or the other way round. If it is going to have an acute human health effect, I suppose it could have a positive acute human health effect, but to me it is just an interesting use of language.