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Tuesday, 3 May 1994
Page: 114

(Question No. 1104)

Senator Chamarette asked the Minister for Primary Industries and Energy, upon notice, on 1 March 1994:

  (1) Has the National Registration Authority for Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals (NRA) claimed that it found the National Health and Medical Research Council's report Cyclodiene Insecticide Use in Australia (1993) `to be ambiguous and self contradictory' in part; if so, please quote which parts the NRA found to be ambiguous and which parts self contradictory.

  (2) For each of the quotes referred to in (1), why and in what way did the NRA find the quote ambiguous and in what way, contradictory.

  (3) What are the qualifications of the NRA board members in the fields of public health and/or toxicology.

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

  (1) & (2) The quote comes from the report Inquiry into the Use of the Organochlorine Insecticides for Termite Control prepared by the NRA for the Agriculture and Resource Management Council of Australia and New Zealand. The NRA has provided the following comments concerning the issues raised in the above question.

  The NRA considers the NHMRC report to be a significant contribution to the continuing debate over the possible health implications of the continued use of organochlorine insecticides for termite control.

  The NRA accepts the recommendations of the NHMRC report. The NRA's role has not been to reassess the health issues associated with continued organochlorine use but to review the status of possible alternative measures of control which, if effective, might lead to a phasing out of organochlorine use thereby further reducing or eliminating human exposure. In this regard, the work of the NHMRC and NRA are complementary.

  The NHMRC report has, however, been used by both sides of the organochlorine debate to support their views. The Chairman of the NHMRC Working Group which prepared the NHMRC report, Dr Geoffrey Duggin, acknowledged this during the NRA public hearing when he said that `both sides have used my report to justify their statements'.

  That the report is being misquoted may, in the opinion of the NRA, result from ambiguity in parts and some apparent contradiction between the report and public statements by those who were closely associated with it.

  For example, in the public hearing organised by the NRA, Dr Duggin stated that in respect to the organochlorine insecticides, `there are major human health concerns'. The NHMRC report, however, states that `they (organochlorine insecticides) appear to be free of serious health effects in humans at current levels of exposure'.

  (3) The Directors of the NRA are chosen for their experience in the following areas: the regulation of chemical products under the law of a State or Territory; the agricultural and veterinary chemicals industry; the protection of the interests of consumers; primary production and occupational health and safety.

  When advice on public health and toxicology is required the NRA is advised by the Chemical Safety Unit with the Department of Human Services and Health. Similarly, when advice is required on other scientific matters outside of the expertise held within the NRA it is drawn from appropriate experts within government agencies or academia.