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

AUSTRALIA SIGNS UP TO REDUCE OCEAN POLLUTION


5 April 1998
(31/98)

Australia has signed a new international Protocol which will protect the marine environment by significantly reducing the amount of waste which can be dumped at sea.

Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill says the signing reflects the Howard government's commitment to Australia's marine environment and the International Year of the Ocean.

"These new measures will further protect Australia's marine environment as the amount of waste dumped at sea will be significantly reduced.

'The Protocol incorporates the precautionary principle - if there is any concern that a substance may harm the marine environment, it will not be dumped until testing has proven otherwise.

"Under the Protocol, nothing can be dumped at sea except for seven specified substances and dumping can only occur when alternative waste management options are exhausted.

"Parties to the Protocol must make every attempt to reuse, recycle, destroy or treat waste as an alternative to disposing of it at sea."

Individuals and organisations affected by the signing were consulted and the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties has analysed the implications for Australia of being a Party to the Protocol.

Subject to approval from Environment Australia, the only substances which could be dumped at sea are:

Under the Protocol, there is provision to trigger an environmental impact statement if there is concern that the waste dumped could adversely affect the marine environment. Affected organisations and other government agencies are consulted before approval for dumping waste at sea is granted.

The Protocol takes into account developments in international environmental law and the law of the sea, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

When 26 countries have agreed to be bound by the Protocol to the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter, 1972 (London Convention), it will supersede the present London Convention.

The London Convention promotes effective control of pollution sources from sea dumping which are hazardous to human health, could harm marine life, or could interfere with other uses of the sea.

The Commonwealth's Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Act 1981 will be amended to take account of the new Protocol.

For more information about the changes to the London Convention and Australia's response, telephone Environment Australia on (02) 6274 1412.

April 5, 1998 (31/98)

Media enquiries:
Matt Brown (Senator Hill) (02) 6277 7640 or 0419 693 515
Jim Cannon (Environment Australia) (02) 6274 1074

Commonwealth of Australia