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Tuesday, 30 August 1994
Page: 616

(Question No. 1478)

Senator Ian Macdonald asked the Minister for Primary Industries and Energy, upon notice, on 21 June 1994:

  (1) On what basis was the decision by the Agriculture and Resource Management Council of Australia and New Zealand to phase-out the use of heptachlor and chlordane for termite control made.

  (2) Why has the use of these chemicals in the Northern Territory been allowed to continue.

  (3) Why has the use of these chemicals as insecticides not been extended for users in north Queensland.

  (4) Why didn't the council decide on more stringent rules for the use of the product rather than banning usage.

  (5) What alternative chemicals or additives can pesticide companies use to control termites.

  (6) What is the cost for a pest control company to convert from using organochlorines to these alternative resources.

  (7) What is the difference in price between organochlorines and the alternatives.

  (8) What is the residual life of termite control methods involving organochlorines.

  (9) What is the residual life of termite control involving the alternatives.

Senator Collins —The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

  (1) The Agriculture and Resource Management Council of Australia and New Zealand (ARMCANZ) decision to phase out the use of heptachlor and chlordane for termite control was based on the conclusions of the National Registration Authority for Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals (NRA) "Inquiry into the use of the Organochlorine Insecticides for Termite Control", and the conclusions of the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) report entitled "Cyclodiene insecticide use in Australia".

  (2) ARMCANZ agreed to a Northern Territory proposal to extend by two years the phase out period in the Northern Territory in recognition of particular termite problems experienced in the Northern Territory. The extension of time is subject to the implementation of a strengthened audit of organochlorine sales and use, improved training and regulation of pest control operators, consumer choice of treatment methods, increased environmental monitoring and implementation of a new building code which includes alternatives to organochlorines.

  (3) The Queensland Government felt that the termite problem in north Queensland could be dealt with using a combination of improved building practices, physical barrier methods (eg stainless steel mesh or a bed of tightly packed granite chips) and alternative chemical treatments combined with under-slab reticulation systems.

  (4) In light of the compelling evidence from both the NHMRC and NRA reports, ARMCANZ agreed to the phasing out of the use of organochlorine chemicals as the most appropriate action.

  (5) The alternatives to organochlorines that are currently available are chemical treatment with chlorpyrifos, and physical barriers such as crushed granite and stainless steel mesh. Improved methods of building are also available to facilitate easier and more efficient retreatment, such as the incorporation of reticulation systems into the concrete slab. Combinations of chemical treatment, physical barriers and improved building practices could also be used to achieve integrated termite management using a range of complementary control measures.

  (6) Pest control companies can apply alternative chemical treatments at little or no additional cost to the company. These companies will generally not be involved in the installation of physical barrier alternatives which are installed by specialist franchisees in the case of "Granitgard", the commercially available granite chip barrier and "Termimesh", the commercially available stainless steel mesh barrier.

  (7) The NRA, has estimated that the alternative chemical treatment, chlorpyrifos, is around $200-250 more expensive than organochlorines in a new building. The physical barrier treatments also involve more expense than organochlorines in new construction (an added $250-300 for partial steel mesh, $2500-3500 for full slab underlay, and about $500 for crushed stone).

  (8) The residual life of organochlorines is estimated to be 20-30 years under ideal conditions.

  (9) CSIRO research has confirmed that chlorpyrifos may provide 4-15 years protection depending on soil and environmental conditions. The granite chip and stainless steel mesh barrier methods are expected to last for the life of the building, generally estimated as 50 years.