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'Management of ag & vet chemicals: a national strategy', Parliament House, Canberra, 20 July 1998: address at the launch.



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Australian Department of Primary Industries & Energy

 

Senator The Hon Judith Troeth

Parliamentary Secretary for Primary Industries and Energy

 

Address at the launch of 'Management of Ag & Vet Chemicals: A National Strategy',

Parliament House, Canberra, 2 0 July 1998

 

Thank you all for coming along today for the launch of the National Strategy for Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals.

 

On behalf of John Anderson , Commonwealth Minister for Primary Industries and Energy and Chair of the Agricultural and Resource Management Council of Australia and New Zealand - ARMCANZ - I am pleased to launch this important initiative. (A downloadable PDF file providing information on the Strategy can also be accessed at the ARMCANZ website.)

 

As Parliamentary Secretary with portfolio responsibility for ag and vet chemicals, I will also be taking a keen interest during the implementation phase of the Strategy.

 

This Strategy represents a new, broader phase of national cooperation in deciding how we use and manage our ag and vet chemicals. It provides a planning framework for action for a wide range of stakeholders directly affected by their use.

 

Developed cooperatively by industry, government and public interest groups, the Strategy represents a move to a bigger canvas - a step beyond the confines of government activity.

 

The Strategy is based on a vision - that we use our ag and vet chemicals in a way that:

 

• minimises the risks to public health, the environment and trade;

• encourages the long-term sustainability of our agricultural sector; and

• contributes to national prosperity.

 

As a consumer, I want to be sure that the food and fibre products I purchase do not contain harmful chemical residues. I also want to be sure ag and vet chemicals will not damage our environ ment or harm people's health. This Strategy responds to these important and widely held concerns.

 

Specifically, it will look at issues such as:

 

• integrated crop and pest management;

• environmental contamination;

• worker safety;

• spraydrift;

• tra de and market access;

• safe disposal of unwanted chemicals, and

• the safety of the food supply.

 

Many of the Strategy's components were already in place, but there was a real need to bring them together under a long term, coordinated national framewor k to ensure they receive the priority they deserve.

 

The impetus to the get a national strategy in place came from a number of quarters. One particularly significant event happened at the 1990 Premiers' Conference when NSW proposed the establishment of a national registration scheme for ag and vet chemicals.

 

At the time, each State and Territory had its own registration system. That's eight different systems for one country. Hardly a situation that would inspire the confidence of consumers or overseas customers.

 

Therefore, in the interests of increased national coordination and microeconomic reform, the Commonwealth, States and Territories entered into an agreement to establish a single registration scheme for all of Australia.

 

We now have one national re gulatory system for ag and vet chemicals up to the point of retail sale - the National Registration Authority .

 

The 1990s have also seen a dramatic increase in consumer concerns over the risks associated with these of ag and vet chemicals - risks to both health and the environment. This concern has prompted many Governments to focus more closely on the possible presence of chemical residues in our agricultural products .

 

I don't need to remind you that Australia has experienced a number of incidents that have been very damaging commercially as well as harming our international reputation.

 

The case that immediately springs to mind is Helix contamination in beef destined to the US market a couple of years ago. The costs to the industry from that single incident are likely to exceed $100 million. That is an experience we have to learn from to prevent it happening again.

 

Australia is not alone in wanting to address concerns associated with the management of ag and vet chemicals. The outcome of the Uruguay Round of GATT, especially the agricultural, sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS), and non-tariff trade barriers agreements, also increased attention on the use of chemicals and the integrity of food and fibre exports.

 

These developments led to the realisation that Australia needed a nationally consistent approach to managing its ag and vet chemicals. An approach which addressed the concerns, both within Australia and overseas, of regulatory authorities and consumers. T his in turn has led to the development of the Strategy I am launching today.

 

The Strategy was prepared by a Working Party of the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Policy Committee (AVCPC) under the auspices of ARMCANZ. And I would like to thank everyone who contributed to that effort.

 

A key milestone along the way was the National Pesticide Risk Reduction workshop convened by the Bureau of Resource Sciences in April 1997. This well-attended workshop considered an early draft of the Strategy.

 

A key outcome of the workshop was the establishment of an advisory group to assist the AVCPC working party.

 

Mr Claude Gauchat, Executive Director of AVCARE, a peak chemical industry body, was the convenor of the advisory group. I would like to thank the advisory group for the integral work it performed. With out doubt, it has played a key role in the development process.

 

The advisory group's members brought depth and perspective to the work of the Government-based Working Party, greatly enhancing the final product.

 

In terms of where to from here, the Strategy does not seek to be prescriptive. Rather, it is designed to provide a planning framework for stakeholders and also to demonstrate how their activities are interrelated.

 

The Working Party is to develop an implementation program over the coming year and I urge all participants to progress this initiative with vigour.

 

The challenge is to ensure that an effective implementation program is undertaken. Individual organisations must take responsibility for the key elements of the Strategy identified in the implementation program.

 

National strategies will only remain relevant and be useful if the key players commit themselves to agreed courses of action. I therefore urge the Working Party to continue to demonstrate leadership in pursuing this goal.

 

I commend this National Strategy to you all and encourage you to place your full support behind its successful implementation.

 

 

 

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