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Thursday, 14 May 1987
Page: 3289

Mr MAHER(10.55) —An answer to a question which I put to the Government dealing with dioxin buried in various parts of Sydney appears in Hansard of 6 May. Dioxin is a waste product from a popular herbicide that was used in the 1940s and 1950s to kill blackberries. Between 1949 and 1976 vast quantities of dioxin as a waste product were produced at a factory in Rhodes which ultimately was owned by Union Carbide. Unfortunately, my question which was directed to the Minister for Arts, Heritage and Environment (Mr Cohen) did not elicit the answers that I sought. The Minister literally said that the matter was a State responsibility. However, it has been revealed that large quantities of dioxin waste have been taken out for disposal and destruction overseas. There is surely a direct Commonwealth involvement. At this time experts in Sydney are trying to identify areas where dioxin has been found. They want to examine the areas concerned. An article on this topic in the Sydney Morning Herald in the last few days contains a photograph of Mr John Wicklund who is an expert in the field.

Mr purpose in speaking in this debate is to ensure that the citizens of Lowe are safe from dioxin contact, and that the present inquiry will not finish until the people are sure that the sites where dioxin was dumped are clearly identified. The Sydney Morning Herald of 11 March featured a prominent article with maps showing two sites in the Lowe electorate-one a Concord in an area adjoining Concord golf club and another at a former tip at Homebush Bay where dioxin has been buried or dumped over the years.

A paper which I obtained from the Parliamentary Library points out that five other sites have been investigated over the years and have been found to be cleared. However, I have had no assurance that all the land-filled areas around the bays on both sides of the Parramatta River have been checked. I refer to those areas in the electorates of Bennelong, which is held by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Howard), Lowe, Dundas which take in the Parramatta River. Parks were created after the Second World War in areas which were used as municipal rubbish tips. It appears that some contractors were slipshod when they dumped dioxin waste and contaminated dioxin material in municipal rubbish tips. When I was a State member of parliament I was approached by a doctor who told me that a constituent had just died of cancer. The man claimed that when he was working for the local council some years before and was digging a trench in a park in a land-fill areas and came upon some drums that were buried deep down, he broke open the drums and was splashed with the liquid in them. I asked the doctor to give me more details. He would not even give me the man's name, which is understandable, but said that he would try to get the man's family to see me. That did not happen.

I have done a certain amount of research in the Parliamentary Library, and came up with an article in Scientific American of February 1986, which infers that dioxin is not as harmful to health as is supposed. In Italy, at Seveso, many people were exposed to dioxin poisoning after an accident, but there has been no evidence of serious effects. There was burning of the skin and other effects and possible evidence of miscarriages. Furthermore, in Vietnam American scientists have examined 40,000 families who were exposed to Agent Orange, which is a byproduct of this chemical. The article contains the inference that a lot of people have been exposed to dioxin poisoning, but there is no evidence of fatalities and no strong evidence of what the chemical does. I want to be sure that before Union Carbide sends back its officials, the areas around Sydney in my electorate and in adjoining electorates can be declared free of dioxin and that, if it exists, those areas must be declared safe. If it is to be left in the ground, people must know. I support the local councils which are doing what they can to make these areas of Sydney safe for constituents for both active and passive recreation.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar) —Order! It being 11 p.m. the debate is concluded. The House stands adjourned until Tuesday, 26 May 1987, at 2 p.m. in accordance with the resolution agreed to this day.

House adjourned at 11 p.m.