1. The Environment and Public Affairs Committee (Committee), was ordered by the Legislative Council, on motion by Hon Robin Chapple, MLC, to inquire into and report on Chemical Use by the Agriculture Protection Board (APB) from 1970-1985.
2. The Committee’s terms of reference related to accountability in relation to the sources of supply, the purchasing arrangements for the supply of chemicals, particularly 2,4,5-T to the APB in the period 1970-85. The Committee was also charged with inquiring into the accountability in terms of the tracking of quantities and location of chemicals supplied to the APB.
3. The Committee’s inquiry took place in the wake of the tabling of two significant reports by the Western Australian Government into the health-related aspects of the use of 2,4,5-T by APB spray workers in the Kimberley in the mid-1970s-1980s, the Kimberley Chemical Use Review (Harper Report) and the Report of the Expert Medical Panel on the Recommendations of the Kimberley Chemical Use Review (Armstrong Report). The Committee has drawn on the work of those investigations in the conduct of its own inquiry.
4. The safety of 2,4,5-T has been a source of concern since the mid- to late 1970s. The Committee notes that 2,4,5-T was a subject of interest and inquiry, particularly in the late 1970s and early 1980s, for both State and Federal governments, the media and the public.
5. The Committee set out to examine what processes were in place in relation to the supply of chemicals to the APB in the 1970s and 1980s. The Committee identified that in the period 1970-1985 legislative measures and departmental practices and policies to regulate the tendering, supply and purchase of chemicals, existed and appear to have been adhered to. These measures included requiring that both suppliers and government agencies operate in accordance with State Tender Board policies. In the case of the supply of 2,4,5-T to the State Government, tendering requirements included the provision of random analytical testing results for dioxins.
6. Similarly, the Committee discovered that departmental policies existed at the APB in relation to the tracking of chemical stocks. The Committee found that manual accountability and record keeping systems existed and appear to have been adhered to. Physical stocktakes occurred regularly and were reconciled against a central record. The Committee acknowledges that there are significant gaps in information due in part to the passage of time. The Committee is not aware of any evidence to indicate any flagrant breaches of these systems.
7. The Committee was particularly concerned about the destination of a batch of fire-damaged chemicals, imported from Singapore by Chemical Industries (Kwinana) Pty Ltd by invoice dated April 23 1971 and hoped that its investigations would provide answers to questions raised by Governments over twenty years ago.
8. The Committee is frustrated that it has not been able to shed any further light on the fate or whereabouts of the fire-damaged chemicals imported by CIK in the early 1970s. In this respect, the Committee was particularly disappointed that former National Manager of CIK Australia Pty Ltd, and son of the late founder, Mr (Robert) John Telford had no recollection of the company’s importation of fire-damaged chemicals from Singapore. The Committee notes Mr (Robert) John Telford did not “believe” that CIK had ever imported such materials.
9. Documentary evidence supports the Committee’s view that there was considerable consternation by various federal and state government agencies around 1981 in seeking to determine the contents and final destination of the batch of fire-damaged chemicals imported to Australia from Singapore by CIK by invoice dated April 23 1971. These agencies sought to sort out the whereabouts of the ‘rogue batch’ of chemicals, requesting the assistance of CIK, while the company was still a going concern, operating under the direction of its founder.
10. Importantly, the Committee has reviewed the current legislative measures, departmental policies and procedures relating to the procurement and use of these sorts of chemicals by the Department of Agriculture. The Committee considers that current regulatory mechanisms, procurement policies and accountability systems are appropriate and, if adhered to, ought to be adequate to ensure the safety of workers, the community and the environment.
11. The Committees notes that 2,4,5-T is no longer registered for use in Australia and that the registration of 2,4-D is currently under review by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority.
12. The Committee notes that accountability occupies a much higher profile in 2004 than it did in 1970 and even 1985. The Committee expects that technological advances together with higher standards of accountability will also ensure that the pesticide pathway is carefully managed and systematically audited. The Committee trusts that the Department of Agriculture is committed to all facets of accountability in relation to its use of chemicals.
Recommendation 1: The Committee recommends that the Government regularly review legislation and regulatory standards in relation to the manufacture, importation, distribution, storage and usage of chemicals with a view to ensuring effective enforcement and compliance.