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Tuesday, 8 November 1977
Page: 3137

Mr Bungey asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 2 June 1 977:

(1)   What procedures have been established to ensure that water imported into Australia for religious and other purposes does not constitute a quarantine risk to Australia.

(2)   Is all water tested or sampled; if not, on what basis are tests made.

(3)   Do current instructions to quarantine staff require only visual examination of certain importations of water; if so, when is visual examination considered adequate.

(4)   When were the procedures concerning quarantine checking of importations of water to Australia last comprehensively reviewed.

(5)   What quantities of water have been imported into Australia during the last two years, and what proportion of consignments has been fully sampled and tested.

Mr Hunt - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:


(a)   Potable drinking waters, including mineral and spa waters:

Before importation is permitted certification is required as follows: an up-to-date certificate of potability from the health authority of the country of origin. a recent certificate of a full mineral and bacteriological analysis by a recognised public analyst detailed information as to the source of the water.

If claims are made on the label, approval may be required before sale from State and Territory health authorities and from authorities controlling trade practices and labelling.

(b)   Holy water

Such water may be released to travellers at the ports of entry at the discretion of the Commonwealth hector of Health for the State concerned without requiring written application to import. This approval refers strictly to consignments of water imported for the personal use of the traveller and his family and does not extend to consignments which may, by virtue of quantities or for other reasons, be considered as being for commercial purposes. In the latter case of course normal quarantine procedures apply.

(c)   Water imported with aquarium fish:

Procedures provide that if the water is clear and free from sand, soil, plants or other extraneous matter, and if within a clear plastic bag it is to be treated by the importer before disposal. An approved treatment must be employed, usually addition of copper sulphate, and treatments are monitored by an ad hoc on-the-spot checks by quarantine officers. Under any


other circumstances appropriate quarantine procedures are to be completed under quarantine supervision.

(d)   Water samples brought in for testing, usually for industrial requirements:

Such waters are entered under quarantine import permits. While conditions of handling laid down in these permits vary according to the source and nature of the material it is usual that they contain appropriate conditions to prevent the possible dissemination of disease such as the use of secure approved containers, and restriction to in-vitro laboratory studies.

(2)   No; ad hoc sampling and tests are carried out. In relation to water intended for consumption, the certification requirements are regarded as sufficient for safety purposes.

(3)   Samples of water for industrial testing and aquarium water may be imported following visual examination. In the case of holy water, visual examination is considered adequate only in the case of small lots accompanying travellers entering the country. In any other case normal quarantine procedures apply.

(4)   May 1976.

(5)   No record is kept of the quantities of water imported into Australia and permits are frequently issued subject to the requirements (1) (a) above for unspecified amounts of spa and other mineral waters intended for drinking purposes.

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