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Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage
The Hon Dr David Kemp, MP
Wednesday, 8 May 2002
Earlier on today we mentioned that toxic waste from China is being imported into Australia and this stuff has been spread around on farms and all that sort of thing. That's the report in the paper. The Greens people are absolutely outraged about all of this sort of thing, and they think that the Government should be doing something about it.
On the line I've got the Federal Environment Minister, Dr David Kemp. Good morning Minister, how are you?
Good morning Howard, it's nice to be with you.
No doubt you have been alerted to this story. Now, the Federal Environment Department has confirmed that they checked out two shipments and they said they were toxic. So what are you going to do about it?
That's right, they impounded two containers of fertiliser and because excess cadmium was discovered in that, it really meant it wasn't fertiliser at all, it was hazardous waste. What am I going to do about it? I'm going to be signing an order to send this load back to China. The hazardous waste being sent out illegally to Australia on illegal documentation as fertiliser is completely unacceptable. And I will be exercising my powers under the Hazardous Waste Import and Export legislation to send it back.
We might never have known about this if this company Hardman Australia hadn't placed an ad in the paper. I've had a chat off air with Mr Bradley from that company and he is concerned that those two shipments are two of but many.
Well, the Department monitors this very closely. It works very closely with Customs, with the Environment Protection Authorities and with the Fertiliser Federation. It's not a large industry. It's possible for them to see if there is any change in the pattern of shipments or flows.
They held up three containers last year, they checked those out, they met the standards. This year, as a result of this particular information that they received, they looked at these two containers and they didn't meet the standards. So they do keep a very close watch on this.
And I think it's important to make the general point, as a matter of context Howard, that we have got a very clean and green agricultural sector. There are regular surveys done by the Australian and New Zealand Food Authority to make sure that the food is pure and it meets the highest standards and if anything the standards of our food are improving, not declining. So people needn't be worried by that.
Your people would have to check every container of this stuff, wouldn't you? You couldn't do that you wouldn't have the resources.
It's a matter of knowing who are the responsible importers who are importing in a regular way that they have been doing for a long time and those who are trying to take advantage of the fact that we want to recycle our waste and are bringing in imports from suspicious sources. What's clearly been detected here is that there are illegal documents; this source is obviously now going to be subjected to great scrutiny and as I say as soon as it is detected it's going to be sent back.
But there is very intensive supervision of this in what is a very small industry. So people can be quite confident that the food they're getting is clean food.
The other thing Minister, are you going to get on to the Chinese diplomatic people here and question them about the certification system they're running up there and get that sorted out?
Well this is more a matter of the commercial arrangements. We want to make absolutely sure that where contracts are written, that if the recycled waste that comes to Australia does not meet standards and is hazardous waste, that it can be properly sent back.
I just wanted to make the point that I do think one important issue has been raised and that is whether or not there are national standards that are satisfactory. The answer to that is that at the moment there are not.
There are potential loopholes in the standards that the states apply individually. We do want to make sure that we do protect the whole community. So I'll be having a very close look at this issue of national standards and I want to make the point that Warren Truss is currently working with the States and Territories to make sure that the labelling of fertilisers is standardised nationally.
I don't want to turn green after I eat my first brunch of broccoli if you don't mind.
I'm sure you can have confidence in your broccoli Howard.
It's already green. Thanks for your time today.
OK, thank you.
That's the Federal Minister.