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Thursday, 22 May 1980
Page: 3220

Dr Cass asked the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, upon notice, on 1 April 1980:

(l)   Has his Department taken any action to alert immigrants to the dangers of using products which contain (a) poisonous substances, (b) explosives, (c) asbestos and (d) dangerous mixtures, and any other dangerous substances; if so, what action.

(2)   Has his Department taken any steps to make other Departments aware of the need for bi- or multi-lingual warnings on packages.

Mr Macphee - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows: 1. (a) and (d) In past years the Department has issued warnings to immigrants about posionous and dangerous substances. These have included recorded talks on safety for radio and information for publication in the ethnic press. Aspects of safety, including warnings about poisons, are covered in initial settlement program courses for newly arrived immigrants. In the near future, my Department will publish an orientation/information manual for immigrants attending English courses under the Adult Migrant Education Program. This manual has 20 sections on aspects of life in Australia. In one section, on safety, it gives information on poisonous products, including poisons found in and around the home, important rules to remember concerning poisonous products and what to do in a poisons emergency. The manual has been translated into 10 languages and will be available at migrant education centres in hostels and community centres.

(b)   Advice on industrial safety is included in the new orientation/information manual provided under the Adult Migrant Education Program. This, in part, tells immigrants to make sure that they know and understand safety warning signs in work areas and to contact the safety officer or union if they have any problems or questions about the signs they see.

(c)   Immigrants have not been alerted directly by my Department to the dangers of using products containing asbestos. However, the wide publicity given to the reported harmful effects of contact with asbestos in ethnic newspapers and the media in general should ensure that the Australian public is informed.

2.   My Department has been in communication with other Departments on matters relating to toxic substances: on specific proposals about labelling and in general discussion about the main issues.

3.   In particular, discussions have been held between my Department and the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs about the possibility of introducing multi-lingual warnings and instructions for consumer products.

4.   It is anticipated that more use ofthe ethnic media (including radio and television) will be made in the future to inform the migrant community about toxic substances. In this activity my Department would be influenced by the Poisons Schedule (Standing) Committee of the National Health and Medical Research Council which has as its terms of reference . . . to enquire into scheduling, labelling, packaging and advertising in the public media, of drugs, poisons and other substances hazardous to human health in the States and Territories and to make recommendations to the Council through the Public Health Advisory Committee. My Department has already formulated certain proposals about bilingual labelling of prescribed medicines dispensed in Australia.

5.   My Department is ready to advise industry and assist wherever possible in the preparation and translation of instructions concerning the safe use of toxic and other dangerous chemical substances.

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