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Media Release
Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment

Hazardous waste controls come into force

13 December 1996

The Federal Minister for the Environment, Robert Hill, has welcomed amendments to the Hazardous Waste (Regulations of Exports and Imports) Act 1989 which significantly strengthen controls on the export and import of hazardous waste.

The legislation amending the Hazardous Waste Act was the first legislation passed by the Coalition Government.

The amendments to the Act extend the scope of the Act and provide for appropriately strict penalties.

Penalties for the unlawful export and import of waste now include up to five years in jail for individuals and a fine of up to $1 million for companies.

Senator Hill says that the new laws demonstrate the Governments commitment to preventing the illegal export of toxic waste.

"Prior to these amendments, Australia's legislation did not fully implement our obligation under the Basel Convention. The export of hazardous waste intended for recycling, for example, was not regulated.

"These amendments ensure that Australia is now fully meeting its international obligations."

Under the new laws, the export of hazardous waste for final disposal is prohibited, except in exceptional circumstances. Export of hazardous waste for recycling, reclamation or recovery operations can occur only in accordance with a permit. Permits allowing such exports will only be granted if the receiving country gives consent to the export and if the waste will be dealt with in the receiving country in accordance with environmental sound management.

The Act will now ensure there is no shipment of waste from Australia to overseas facilities unless those facilities are environmentally sound.

The Act has also been structured to provide certainty for industry through the provision of evidentiary certificates, the publication of lists of hazardous wastes and the involvement of a Technical Working Group.

"This Government is committed to the development of international environmental law. Australia is playing a key role in the development of the Basel Convention, which regulates the transboundary movement of hazardous waste. In particular, we are working to ensure that the categories of material regulated by the Convention are clearly and appropriately defined."

A booklet providing further information on the amended legislation is available from the Environment Protection Group, Environment Australia, 40 Blackall Street, BARTON, ACT, 2601. Telephone 06 274 1411.

Media inquiries:
Matt Brown, 06 277 7640; 0419 693 515

Commonwealth of Australia