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Tuesday, 10 May 1988
Page: 2402

(Question No. 471)

Mr Scott asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Arts, Sport, the Environment, Tourism and Territories, upon notice, on 18 November 1987:

(1) Does the Minister have responsibility for the Australian Environment Council

(a) Advisory Committee on Chemicals in the Environment

(b) Chemicals Consultative Committee and

(c) Chemicals Review Sub Committee.

(2) Do those committees meet regularly; if so, how often do they meet.

(3) Who are the members of these committees.

(4) What are the titles and qualifications of the members of these committees.

(5) Are the members of these committees elected or appointed.

(6) What is their tenure on these committees.

(7) Have these committees submitted

(a) reports on the impact of,

(b) findings as a result of investigations into,

(c) conclusions on evidence submitted on, and

(d) recommendations

as a result of examinations of

(i) organochlorine pesticides, including aldrin, dieldrin, chlordane, heptachlor and

(ii) polychlorinated biphenyls in the environment; if so, when were they completed.

(8) Will the Minister present that information to the Parliament; if not, why not.

(9) What action has been taken on any reports, findings, conclusions and recommendations from these committees.

Mr Punch —Senator Richardson has provided the following answer to the honourable member's question:

(1) The Minister for the Arts, Sport, the Environment, Tourism and Territories is a member of the Australian Environment Council (AEC), the other members of which are the State and Territory Ministers for the Environment. The chairmanship of the Council, which is taken by each member in turn, is held this year by Queensland. The Secretariat of the Council is provided by the Commonwealth in the Department of the Arts, Sport, the Environment, Tourism and Territories. The Council provides a forum for inter-government co-operation and consultation on national environmental matters. The Advisory Committee on Chemicals in the Environment (ACCE), the Chemicals Consultative Committee (CCC) and the Chemicals Review Sub-Committee (CRSC) are sub-committees reporting to the Standing Committee of AEC.

(2) ACCE meets regularly, usually two or three times a year. CCC and CRSC meet less frequently, as necessary to deal with the business at hand.

(3) to (6) The members of the ACCE are nominated by the Commonwealth, State and Territory member agencies of AEC, and by the National Health and Medical Research Council, Australian Agricultural Council, and the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission.

CCC comprises some of the members of ACCE and representatives nominated by three chemical industry associations, the Australian Conservation Foundation, and the Royal Australian Chemical Institute.

CRSC comprises members with expertise relevant to the performance of assessments of the potential environmental hazards of industrial chemicals. The membership has been recommended by ACCE and approved by the AEC Standing Committee.

Because of the volume of the material, the details on individual committee members and other information about the committees are being provided separately to the honourable member. Details of the academic qualifications of members are not readily obtainable. The tenure of members is indefinite, but the AEC committee structure and the make-up of the membership of committees is kept under review by the AEC Standing Committee.

(7) and (9) In relation to 7 (i), ACCE, CRSC and CCC have not submitted reports on organochlorine pesticides; nor have they been requested to do so. The Australian Agricultural Council (AAC) has the primary role in national consultations on and clearance of the use of pesticides, and State and Territory authorities are responsible for registration and control of these substances. The Australian Environment Council is represented on the relevant technical committees of AAC.

Concerning 7 (ii), a consultant report on `Environmental behaviour of PCBs' was provided to AEC by the Australian Mineral Development Laboratories in 1975. ACCE has periodically addressed the issue of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in the environment, most recently in connection with a Decision of the OECD Council (adopted in 1987) which would increase constraints upon the use of PCBs. ACCE recommended Australia should become party to the Decision.

Since 1973 the Commonwealth has controlled the importation of PCBs; in practice importation ceased several years ago. PCBs are being removed progressively from electrical equipment. State and Territory authorities strictly regulate the storage and disposal of PCB wastes.

In large part through the efforts of ACCE, AEC has been focusing upon means for disposal of organochlorine chemical wastes, including PCBs and pesticides. The relevant reports issued by AEC have been:

`Management and disposal of hazardous industrial wastes', 1983;

`Discussion paper on disposal of stable organo-chlorine and related chemical wastes', 1985; and

`National guidelines for the management of hazardous wastes', 1986.

AEC has strongly supported the joint sponsorship by the Commonwealth, NSW and Victorian Governments of an independent taskforce on disposal of intractable chemical wastes.

(8) The AEC reports on hazardous wastes are available from the Parliamentary Library. The 1975 AEC report on PCBs is obtainable from my Department's library.