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Friday, 20 March 1987
Page: 1095

Senator BUTTON —At Question Time yesterday Senator Mason asked me a question about the depletion of the world's ozone layer. The answer is somewhat lengthy and complex and I ask that it be incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The answer read as follows-

Yes; I refer the honourable Senator to an answer to a question without notice on this subject to the Minister for Science on 11 November 1986 (Hansard pp. 2717-2718). I should point out that this startling depletion of the world's ozone layer, as he terms it, has been observed only over Antarctica, and that it occurs for a few weeks each year, during Spring.

I understand Department of Health figures for deaths due to melanoma and development of skin cancers are far lower than those quoted by the honourable Senator. I also understand that the incidence of both fatal and non-fatal skin cancers is strongly associated with lifestyle, latitude and skin colouring (eg. the incidence is higher in Queensland than anywhere else in the world) and that any current depletion of the ozone layer is considered far less significant.

Australia is active in international efforts to protect the ozone layer from damage by man made products such as chlorofluorocarbons. We are presently finalising our position prior to becoming a party to the Vienna Convention on the Protection of the Ozone Layer (the USA is already a party to the Convention). Australia is also active on a United Nations Environment Program ad hoc working group of legal and technical experts for the elaboration of a Protocol to the Convention on the control of chlorofluorocarbons. The working group met in February 1986 and will meet again in April. The Government gives a high priority to reaching an agreement on the Protocol.

The honourable Senator may be aware that chlorofluorocarbons, which can break down ozone, are commonly used in many applications, notably in refrigeration, as blowing agents for plastic foams, and as propellants for spray cans. The significance of this has been recognised for many years and the Government has encouraged Australian Industry to reduce its use of chlorofluorocarbons in aerosol propellants, with a consequent reduction by about 70 per cent over a ten year period.