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Tuesday, 7 June 1994
Page: 1422

Senator PANIZZA (6.41 p.m.) —The Agricultural and Veterinary Chemical Products (Collection of Interim Levy) Bill 1994 and associated bills seek to amend legislation that was passed some years ago after a very important inquiry into agricultural and veterinary chemicals in Australia. You may remember, Mr Acting Deputy President, that that inquiry resulted from a controversy about pesticides in beef. There was also a big problem with a lot of DDT in the potato growing areas around the bottom half of Western Australia. I would like to know what Senator Sherry is laughing about.

Senator Sherry —I'll come and help you out.

Senator PANIZZA —I do not think Senator Sherry was around at the time. But this major problem, which was on top of the kangaroo meat scandal, was picked up as a result of pesticide being found in beef exported to the United States. This inquiry was held because of the pesticide build-up due to the excessive use of DDT in the south of Western Australia and, to a certain extent, in the eastern states. The inquiry resulted in the introduction of agricultural and veterinary chemical bills to control the situation in Australia. Since then, additional legislation has been dealt with. The legislation now before the Senate is concerned with levies and associated measures. I cannot tell the Senate too much more about these measures except—

Senator Sherry —We are really interested. Go on.

Senator PANIZZA —Senator Tambling, who is not in the chamber at the moment, will be leading for the opposition in the debate on this very important legislation. It is no use the parliamentary secretary summing up until after Senator Tambling makes his contribution. In the meantime, I have given the history, as I know it, of this legislation.

  Turning to the benefit of agricultural chemicals in Australia, we are presently in the middle of sowing in Western Australia. I know the value of these chemicals—we use mostly agriculture chemicals as pre-emergents.

Senator Vanstone —What are pre-emergents?

Senator PANIZZA —It means the chemical is put on the crop before it comes out of the ground. The biggest criticism I have of agricultural chemicals in Australia is their price. We are using the chemical Avadex for pre-emergent control of wild oats. The chemical is between 27 and 35 years old—I cannot remember the exact figure—and yet the price per 20-litre drum is twice as much now as it was about four years ago. It is a chemical that has virtually run out of patent, and it is open to anyone to manufacture. It has become reasonably popular for the control of wild oats. Obviously the manufacturers, who I will not name—although I have mentioned the trade name Avadex—have certainly found opportunistic prices.

Senator Vanstone —It's a Labor government; what do you expect?

Senator PANIZZA —I cannot really blame that on the government. We are using other various pre-emergent chemicals, such as logran and gleen, which have been very successful and have turned around weed control in wheat crops in Australia.

Senator Sherry —He's here.

Senator PANIZZA —I know he is here. It has allowed that very important aspect of minimal cultivation. Honourable senators will remember the big dust storms in South Australia and Western Australia in the last few weeks. With the use of minimal cultivation, the conservation of Australia is certainly enhanced. My good friend Senator Tambling has now arrived, and I will give way to him.