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Thursday, 17 October 2002
Page: 5430

Senator STOTT DESPOJA (5:14 PM) —May I ask that, again, the Democrats sole support for that amendment be recorded. Hence, I will not be calling a division. I move Democrats amendment (R6) on sheet 2599:

(R6) Schedule 1, page 5 (after line 17), after item 15, insert:

15A At the end of section 26


(5) The Minister must not grant a launch permit to a person if the payload that is the subject of an application for a permit includes radioactive material or a toxic chemical, unless all of the following conditions are satisfied:

(a) the Minister has caused to be prepared a risk and hazard assessment in relation to the material or the chemical;

(b) the Minister has caused a copy of the risk and hazard assessment to be tabled in each House of the Parliament;

(c) the Minister has specifically authorised the inclusion of radioactive material or a toxic chemical in the payload.

(6) In this section:

radioactive material means material that has an activity of more than 35 becquerels per gram.

toxic chemical is a chemical that can cause acute health or significant adverse environmental impacts. This includes:

(a) any chemical known to cause, or reasonably anticipated or expected to cause, significant adverse acute human health effects at concentration levels likely to exist beyond facility site boundaries as a result of continuous, or frequently recurring, releases;

(b) any chemical known to cause, or reasonably anticipated or expected to cause, either:

(i) cancer or teratogenic effects; or

(ii) serious or irreversible reproductive dysfunctions, neurological disorders, heritable genetic mutations, or other chronic health effects; or

(c) any chemical known to cause (or reasonably anticipated or expected to cause), because of its toxicity, persistence in the environment, or tendency to bioaccumulate, a significant adverse effect on the environment.

This is an updated version of the amendment that had been circulated earlier. The original amendment also related to special assessment and approval provisions applying to launches that involved radioactive and toxic materials. We had a very interesting and enjoyable debate about this back in 1998—a few science ministers ago. I will not repeat those debates here because I suspect there is not the same level of interest and certainly not the same level, however, of support. I think it is self-evident. Most senators should have a reasonable understanding and, I hope, a level of concern and acknowledgment that, when you are dealing with radioactive materials or toxic chemicals, for example, you are dealing with quite serious matters.

The rationale behind the changed amendments—in fact, improved amendments—is that the original wording was problematic in terms of the definition of `toxic materials' specifically and also the use of the terminology `space object' as opposed to a `payload'. I have made those alterations and refer to the NASA definition, which I think is an appropriate one. If anyone has any questions about some of the interesting wording in that amendment, I would be happy to answer them. There is no doubt that when talking about radioactive or toxic chemicals involved in such payloads you are obviously dealing with potentially hazardous outcomes, for example, if something should go wrong.

I mentioned in the second reading debate that if you have space debris travelling at extraordinary speeds, at 15 kilometres a second, it is potentially an extraordinary projectile. Bearing that in mind and add to that the consequences of radioactive or toxic materials being involved, it is quite extraordinary. I do not know how many people remember the Cassini debate that took place in the community, and to a lesser extent in this chamber. I think it is appropriate when talking about those kinds of materials that we do make special provisions. This amendment is an attempt to make special provisions, and I appeal to the government, and more particularly the opposition, to consider this change. I think that it is an improvement to the bill. I would hope we will get some support for that. Failing that, I am curious to hear why it would not get support, particularly from the opposition.