Publications archive - International Activities and Commitments
Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.
Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.
Implementation of Agenda 21
Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories, 1994
ISBN 0 6422 0152 8
Environmentally sound management of toxic chemicals and hazardous waste - Chapters 19, 20, 21 and 22 of Agenda 21
3.4.1 Progress achieved
3.4.2 Main activities
3.4.3 Experience gained
3.4.4 Problems and constraints
3.4.5 Capacity building
By establishing a framework to fulfil many of the requirements of Agenda 21, Australia is well on track to achieving the waste management measures. The management of hazardous waste is increasingly considered part of an integrated approach to the whole life-cycle management of products and processes - an approach which is emphasised in Agenda 21 and in the Basel Convention, where States are required to 'ensure that the generation of hazardous and other wastes within (them) is reduced to a minimum, taking into account social, technological and economic aspects'.
Key aims of policies on hazardous waste in Australia are to prevent the generation of hazardous waste, to minimise and re use wastes, to rehabilitate contaminated sites, to manage hazardous wastes appropriately, to protect health and the environment and to prevent illegal traffic in waste.
The effective management of solid and liquid waste is an important issue for Australia. Each year, more than 14 million tonnes of solid domestic, commercial and industrial waste are disposed of in Australian landfills.
Australia already has a substantial number of processes in place regarding the environmentally sound management of chemicals.
National level assessment schemes address industrial chemicals, therapeutic goods, agricultural and veterinary chemicals and food additives and other national approaches for example through the adoption of uniform standards and codes of practice on exposure standards for atmospheric contaminants ensure a uniform basis for the control of chemicals at the State and Territory level. Nationally uniform regulations are important in reducing costs, ensuring a consistent approach to hazard management, safeguarding health, safety and the environment and facilitating trade and regulatory reform.
Through the 1992 National Strategy on Ecologically Sustainable Development governments agreed to develop arrangements to streamline and increase the effectiveness of these and other existing arrangements for the regulation and management of chemicals. As far as possible these arrangements are to conform with UNCED outcomes.
The agreement of a National Strategy for the Management of Chemicals Used at Work has been instrumental in facilitating significant regulatory reform in the area of chemicals management in the workplace. This strategy focuses on information transfer, assessment and control of chemicals and is consistent with many of the priorities expressed in UNCED.
Australia participates in domestic and international activities aimed at developing risk assessment methods (e.g. OECD Test Guidelines and Chemicals and Pesticides Programs). Australia promotes the appropriate use and conduct of ecotoxicological studies. Regulatory agencies have built on work undertaken through domestic and international programs, which have set priorities for assessment of chemicals of domestic and international concern.
Australia has programs for the assessment of chemicals under Federal statutory assessment schemes, including the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS), the National Registration Scheme for agricultural and veterinary chemicals (NRS), the Therapeutic Goods Act and the National Food Authority (NFA) Act. The NFA provides a cooperative, national focus for the regulation of chemicals in food and the establishment of Maximum Residue Limit standards. Considerable work has been done by Australian governments through the Hazardous Industries Planning Taskforce and Worksafe Australia's draft Regulations on Major Hazard Facilities. Australia has commenced its involvement in the OECD High Production Chemicals Program. Government agencies monitor chemicals for bioaccumulation, persistence and unacceptable toxicity. Federal regulatory agencies have worked through NICNAS, NRS, and OECD/IPCS Chemicals Programs to set priorities for assessment of chemicals of domestic and international concern.
Australia has taken the lead on the exchange of assessment reports on new industrial chemicals through the OECD Chemicals Program and, since 1992, has participated in the OECD pilot pesticides project to compare toxicity data reviews for human health and environmental hazard assessment. Exchange programs for assessment reports on therapeutics also exist between Australia and Canada, Sweden and New Zealand.
Australia participates in the UN London Guidelines, the ILO information exchange scheme, the OECD Complementary Information Exchange Procedure, the OECD EXICHEM database (and other relevant international schemes) providing information on regulatory developments. Australia is also involved in the OECD High Production Volume Chemicals Program.
Australia has participated in the IPCS Environmental Health Criteria program and is a lead country for a number of international risk assessment and risk reduction activities (e.g. on lead, mercury and cadmium). Australia has also contributed to the WHO Regional Program on Chemical Safety by providing chemicals policy advice, chemicals hazard assessments, advice on chemicals management and training activities. Exchange of information on risks occurs through NICNAS and will occur as part of the NRS through public release summaries.
Australia's National Poisons Information Centre (PIC) collates information on a large number of chemical-based products on the Australian market which is made available to State and Territory Poisons Information Centres.
The Federal Government has supported public availability of information on risks presented by industrial, agricultural and veterinary chemicals and participates fully in the UN PIC scheme. Public information will be an integral part of programs being developed, such as the strategy to manage scheduled wastes and the National Pollutant Inventory. A community right-to-know program is expected to be incorporated in the Inventory. The chemical industry has also initiated a voluntary program. Australian governments have programs aimed at educating workers on chemical safety issues.
Australia seeks to promote increased collaboration among governments, industry, academia and NGOs involved in risk assessment of chemicals and related processes. Policies will be directed to promote and coordinate research activities to improve understanding of the mechanisms of the action of toxic chemicals, review domestic environmental monitoring activities and continue to develop exposure assessment strategies in response to international developments.
The Government supports study of alternative methods that reduce the use of animals in testing. It also encourages sponsors of new industrial, agricultural and veterinary chemicals and therapeutic food additives to submit 'alternative' data, where appropriate, and encourage the development of domestic classification systems that are compatible with international systems and with each other.
The Government will continue to examine the desirability of developing domestic policies aimed at replacing toxic chemicals with less toxic substances, explore how existing regulatory schemes could be used to implement this activity and seek to increase the application of non-regulatory mechanisms and measures to reduce risks. This activity would need to recognise the central role of industry in providing data for the assessment of health and environmental risks and, in particular, its Responsible Care program, and take into account work already undertaken through the 'National Strategy for the Management of Chemicals Used at Work'.
Australian development cooperation focuses on risk reduction programs in developing countries, particularly through reducing the need for chemical pesticides and fertilisers. This includes promotion of integrated pest and weed management systems and the improvement of crop species and research into alternatives. The Federal Government provides regional technical training through the WHO Program on Chemical Safety and has assisted developing countries in our region to develop administrative arrangements to implement PIC effectively.
The Federal Government aims to improve the quality of Australian participation, enhance consultation and discuss possible further activities with relevant State agencies and industry. Direction of information to the public will also be an integral part of the programs being developed, such as the strategy to manage scheduled wastes and the National Pollutant Inventory.
The Federal Government has a pollution avoidance approach to waste issues and is developing programs to promote this approach in preference to end-of-pipe solutions for disposing of waste. This cleaner production approach is seen as both reducing industry costs and protecting the environment.
Pollution avoidance programs are being pursued at Federal and State levels. These aim to foster cleaner production, to promote the redesign of products from an environmental, life cycle perspective, and to demonstrate to industry the environmental and economic advantages of minimising the production of waste and pollution.
The Federal Government has conducted a series of cleaner production workshops. Federal funding is assisting four to six Australian companies to redesign individual products from an environmental as well as functional perspective. The Australian Chamber of Manufactures, under a grant from the Federal Government, is producing environmental management handbooks providing a self assessment procedure for small industry. There will be a cleaner production demonstration program (based on the successful Dutch 'Prisma' project) to assist approximately ten companies to review their production processes in order to move towards cleaner production. A Best Practice Environmental Management Program aims to encourage small and medium sized enterprises to use raw materials more efficiently, reduce solid and liquid waste discharges and increase recycling. This focuses upon assisting firms to reduce their running costs, increase production efficiency and to reduce the environmental impact of their activities.
The Australian Federal Hazardous Waste (Regulation of Exports and Imports) Act, 1989, (the Act) has been effective from 17 July 1990. This Act was developed to enable the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal to be implemented in Australia. Australia is reviewing its policy on import and export of valuable hazardous recyclables not covered by the Act.
Australia's relatively small population and large distances between population centres present problems for the local handling of some hazardous wastes. A national policy is being developed to encourage the development of appropriate technologies and facilities to dispose of certain highly chlorinated, persistent and hazardous (Schedule X) wastes within Australia and as close as possible to the point of generation. For the recovery of resources from valuable hazardous wastes, economies of scale may mean trading with other countries. The Basel Convention provides a basis for supporting the Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes to countries which have appropriate recovery technologies but are not self-sufficient in certain hazardous recyclable streams.
One limited category of wastes in Australia for which Australia is developing disposal facilities is 'intractable' or 'scheduled' waste, comprising stable and persistent organochlorine materials such as PCBs, organochlorine pesticides and industrial by-products such as hexachlorobenzene. In 1992, an independent panel on intractable waste reported on the scheduled waste problem. After public consultation, the panel recommended that Australia not establish a centralised waste treatment facility (such as a high temperature incinerator) but that it look to emerging technologies and use smaller, possibly mobile, facilities to treat the different categories of hazardous wastes.
Drawing on the work of the panel and on a 1992 draft strategy for the management of such wastes, a management regime was developed to ensure a consistent national approach. Australian governments are presently considering this proposed regime, a key feature of which is that it has been designed to facilitate the development of new technologies. Also, the regime recognises that separate risk-based management plans, covering storage, handling, transport and phase-out programs, will be needed for each category of scheduled waste. Management plans for each category of waste will be developed with public consultation and will take into consideration relevant socio-economic aspects.
In 1994, Australia will put in place a national system for tracking the movement of hazardous wastes within Australia (contained in draft National Hazardous Waste Management Guidelines). The system involves a mechanism for prior notification, classification of hazardous wastes and transport documents and will enable governments to collect information on the production of hazardous wastes. This information will be used by the National Waste Database Project for developing reduction targets under the National Waste Minimisation Strategy.
The planned National Pollutant Inventory will be a Federal/State undertaking to bring together, into a common data-base management system, information on different types of pollutants entering the Australian environment, such as emissions to air, land and water, and waste disposal to land. The core module will cover releases of hazardous or toxic materials from facilities handling or processing significant amounts of such materials. The system will enable Australia to monitor emissions and, through increasing awareness of emissions, minimise pollution.
Contaminated land is recognised as an environmental, health, economic and social issue in Australia. Former industrial land in the inner city areas is being redeveloped for residential land, as is agricultural land which may be contaminated as a result of past agricultural practices. The States bear the major responsibility for legislating on contaminated sites. Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales have legislation to address the issue but other States have a variety of regulations that could impact on the management of contaminated sites.
At the national level, guidelines have been developed for the assessment and management of contaminated sites and issues of financial liability have been considered.
Australia has expertise in all aspects of the assessment and management of contaminated sites, and in hazardous waste management. This leaves it well placed to promote the prevention and minimisation of hazardous waste and to strengthen institutional capacities in hazardous waste management through the aid program. Australia is at present considering where and how it can most effectively make its expertise available to other countries, particularly in Asia.
Examples of development cooperation projects include the Mine Waste Management Project in China, involving a study of the rehabilitation of tailing reservoirs, and the environmental monitoring of the Fly River in Papua New Guinea, which aims to assess the management strategy for the OK Tedi mine waste discharge. Together these projects involve expenditure of approximately $A6 million.
Australia's Interim Policy on ESD (in the Development Assistance Program) states, amongst other things, that Australia will not support activities in developing countries which do not provide for adequate management of wastes and hazardous chemicals, including waste minimisation, inventory, storage, monitoring, recycling and disposal. Australia will not support activities involving substances not permitted in Australia or which produce ambient concentrations of toxic substances not acceptable under international guidelines. The Interim Policy recognises that, as most developing countries do not have the technical capability to assess fully the risks associated with the transport, storage or disposal of hazardous wastes, there is a need to assist them to improve local expertise.
Australia has been active in working with countries in the SPREP region on the development of a regional convention on hazardous wastes. The convention is likely to be linked to the Basel Convention. The detail of the convention and the range of countries which will become signatories are still being discussed. Australia has also spoken to the Basel Secretariat about the problems encountered by some small Pacific Island countries which lack the capacity to administer the Basel Convention and how these problems might be solved through regional cooperation. Some of these countries have not become Parties to the Basel Convention because they lack the appropriate infrastructure.
Australia has also begun discussions with ASEAN and other Asian countries on how countries in this region, including Australia, might set up agreements on the environmentally sound trade in hazardous recyclables. Australia considers that, under appropriate conditions, such trade can be environmentally and economically beneficial and understands that this view may be shared by a number of Asian countries.
Australia attaches importance to the prevention of illegal traffic in hazardous wastes. As regulatory regimes develop, it is essential that they discourage illegal traffic and monitor imports and exports of hazardous waste effectively. As an isolated continent, Australia has developed significant expertise and skills in regulating transboundary movements and is well placed to take a leading role in managing hazardous wastes.
The Australian Government is at present reviewing its policy on trade in hazardous wastes for recovery. To counter illegal dumping of wastes, some developing countries are proposing a ban on the movement of hazardous wastes for recovery from developed to developing countries. Other countries oppose a ban because it would lock hazardous wastes inside national borders and block their movement to places where they could be disposed of under more environmentally sound conditions. If Australia wishes to continue to trade in wastes for recovery, it will need to ensure that illegal traffic is properly controlled. The review being undertaken will take full account of the views and experiences of other countries, particularly in the Asia Pacific region.
Safe storage, transportation and disposal of radioactive wastes is promoted within Australia through codes of practice promulgated in State and Territory regulations. These follow standards and guidelines developed by the IAEA. The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) released its Code of Practice for the Near-Surface Disposal of Australia's Radioactive Waste in 1992.
Spent fuel from the HIFAR reactor is stored in accordance with international safeguards obligations pending a decision as to its future treatment. Return to the supplier of spent radiation sources from medical and industrial uses is encouraged.
Australia is party to the London Convention (1992) which was recently amended to ban the dumping of radioactive waste at sea. This amendment had Australia's full support.
Australia enforces the Convention through the Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Amendment Act, 1986, which prohibits the dumping into the sea and the incineration at sea of radioactive material. In 1986, Australia ratified the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty which prohibits the dumping of radioactive waste at sea anywhere within the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone and by anyone within the territorial sea of signatories to the Treaty.
Australia's plans for the clean up of the former British nuclear test sites in South Australia are well advanced.
Radioactive waste management is addressed under Objective 19.2 of the NSESD which states, 'Governments will: Undertake a siting study to identify a short list of suitable sites for a repository for low-level and short-lived intermediate level radioactive waste'. The Federal Government has assembled an expert group to undertake an Australia-wide study to select a suitable site for a near-surface repository for the disposal of Australia's low level and short-lived intermediate level wastes recognised under IAEA guidelines as suitable for near-surface disposal. Consistent with Australian policy, which prohibits the storage/disposal in Australia of other countries' nuclear waste, the repository would be for wastes generated in Australia. The study commenced in 1992 and, in consultation with State Governments and the public, involves the application of internationally accepted site selection criteria to identify potentially suitable sites.
The cost of waste disposal in a national repository will be high by international standards because of the relatively small volume of wastes generated in Australia and will act as a disincentive for excessive waste generation.
Australia will not store or dispose of radioactive waste near the marine environment and fully supports the appropriate use of the concept of the precautionary approach in considering disposal options.
Australia respects those international agreements and individual decisions by countries which prohibit import of radioactive wastes and deal with aspects of safe and environmentally sound management of radioactive wastes.
Australia supports efforts within the IAEA to introduce international radioactive waste safety standards, guidelines and codes of practice.
Australia supports research and development into radioactive waste management by participating in activities undertaken by such organisations as the NEA and IAEA and in international forums on radioactive waste management. This allows work in Australia on radioactive waste management to proceed based on a full knowledge of international experience.
Australia is involved in research and development of methods for the safe and environmentally sound treatment, processing and disposal of radioactive waste. Australia is a major participant in the Alligator Rivers Analogue Project, an aim of which is to develop and test models for radionuclide migration relevant to the assessment of the safety of radioactive waste repositories.
The report of the Research Reactor Review recommended the identification and establishment of a high level radioactive waste repository. The Government will consider the Review's findings and recommendations relating to radioactive waste management, including the implications for future management of spent fuel arising from research reactor operations. Options for spent fuel management will be examined in light of the Review's findings and international developments.
Australia has developed the SYNROC waste management technique for disposal of high level waste. SYNROC has reached a stage in its development where acceptance by the international community depends on the technology being demonstrated in an active plant. The technique requires commercialisation overseas because Australia does not have a nuclear power industry. Australia is pursuing the commercial application of SYNROC technology overseas.
Australia provides funds ($A1.3 million in 1993-94) to the Technical Assistance Cooperation Fund (TACF) of the IAEA. The TACF provides technical assistance and training to developing countries in the use of nuclear technology for power generation, for scientific, resource, agricultural, medical, environmental and industrial applications and for activities relating to radiation protection, safety of nuclear installations and waste management.
Australia has adopted a waste minimisation approach as a means of generating less waste and re-using and recycling more of those materials currently disposed of as wastes. The National Waste Minimisation and Recycling Strategy includes recycling targets and national packaging guidelines, sets the target of a 50% reduction in rubbish to landfill by 2000 and has national recycling targets to be achieved by 1995.
The Strategy complements comprehensive waste minimisation and recycling programs being implemented throughout Australia at all levels of government. The Strategy incorporates the waste management hierarchy (in order of preference) of waste avoidance, waste reduction, waste recycling or reclamation, waste treatment and waste disposal.
Other waste and water quality management issues are being pursued through, for example, the National Water Quality Management Strategy (see Section 3.3.2), involving the following principles:
ANZECC has released the National Kerbside Recycling Strategy and the National Packaging Guidelines which outline industry agreed plans to achieve set targets.
In Australia, waste management has traditionally been one of local government's major functions. The Federal Government has in place programs to assist local governments to deal with waste issues, including funding assistance through the Local Government Development Program and waste minimisation manuals to assist local governments to develop waste minimisation and recycling plans.
The use of economic instruments to deal with solid waste and water issues is currently being widely investigated and/or implemented by the various levels of government within Australia. Trade waste charges have been proposed and are being implemented by several State governments. Local authorities are reviewing charging systems for water.
Improving Australia's information base is a critical issue which is being addressed. The continuing development of a National Waste Database and a National Solid Waste Classification System will improve Australia's knowledge about waste disposal and waste streams in Australia. This work involves a cooperative approach between all levels of Government and with NGOs.
Australia is initiating programs to develop and strengthen national capabilities in research and design of environmentally sound technologies, as well as programs designed to reduce industrial waste processes through cleaner production technologies and 'good housekeeping' practices. The EcoRedesign project aims to redesign a number of household products from an environmental and total life cycle perspective. The Federal Government is also running a project demonstrating to industry the environmental and economic benefits of implementing cleaner processes.
Australia funds a number of projects with sanitation components through the development cooperation program including: UNICEF Water/Sanitation project in Malawi, Waste Management Technology in India, East Timor Water Supply and Sanitation project, Visayas Water and Sanitation in the Philippines, Tarawa Sanitation in Kiribati, South Pacific Sanitation project and the Wei Hai Sewerage Treatment Plant in China. These projects include elements of technology transfer, institutional strengthening and training.
Australia has benefited from participating in international assessment activities in conjunction with domestic ones. For example, Australia is assessing glutaraldehyde under the OECD High Production Volume Chemicals program and under domestic Priority Existing Chemicals provisions. Australia has participated in IPCS, OECD and other relevant chemicals programs on assessment activities, and in the development of exchange programs for assessment reports on therapeutics between Australia and other countries. In addition, international risk assessments, such as those of the IPCS (e.g. lead), play an important role in developing public policy. Australia supports the recommendations of the new Pesticide Forum of the OECD to strengthen information exchange mechanisms.
Australia is represented on the IPCS Coordinating Group on the Harmonisation of Chemical Classification Systems, has conducted a national consultation process involving governments, unions, industry, NGOs and consumers on classification systems and labelling and has responded to recent surveys on harmonisation of classification of reproductive toxicity and carcinogenicity. Australia supports the harmonisation of classification systems and labelling wherever appropriate. National harmonisation of classification and labelling for workplace substances is advanced, with the proposed system also being largely harmonised with the EC system.
As Australia is a federation, national harmonisation has not always occurred automatically. This experience has highlighted the importance of attempting to harmonise classification and labelling at the earliest opportunity.
Australia has taken action to phase out or ban chemicals of high concern, such as organochlorines, lead, cadmium, mercury and methyl bromide. National guidelines in the OHS sector are facilitated through the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission, which has a national uniformity program. This has enabled significant advances in uniform management of workplace hazardous substances.
National schemes for the assessment of industrial, therapeutics, agricultural and veterinary chemicals and food additives have allowed national uniformity in many aspects of chemicals control. Federal agencies responsible for chemicals regulation are currently considering appropriate mechanisms for harmonisation of chemicals' management which will link to the soon-to-be-established Inter-governmental Forum on Chemicals Safety. This should strengthen Australia's national chemicals management.
In general, uniform labelling has been achieved for agricultural, veterinary and domestic chemicals and drugs via NHMRC scheduling in the standard for the uniform scheduling of drugs and poisons (SUSDP). Issues of domestic versus international harmonisation provide a greater challenge and are best achieved when commonality appears greatest, e.g. acute toxicity.
Provision of information on chemicals is a first step. Education is often needed to enable proper use of the information. Language differences may complicate information exchange at a regional level. Recent developments in Australia, such as the move to accelerate the removal of lead from petrol via pricing structures, have highlighted the need for the comprehensive analysis of the social, economic and health implications associated with the process of risk reduction.
In administering the Basel Convention Australia has encountered practical difficulties in determining what is a waste, and in preventing illegal trade. Australia is addressing these problems through its current review of policy on trade in hazardous wastes, and will work with other countries to introduce effective and efficient measures to regulate this trade.
Australia supports the use of regional centres and other information and technology dissemination processes being created under the Basel Convention.
There is an opportunity for Australia to become internationally competitive by developing new environmental technologies that could be adapted to overseas markets to minimise the production of hazardous and non-hazardous waste. Australia is currently holding discussions with some Asian countries on running cleaner production workshops for industries in those countries.
The process of refining a methodology for selecting a national radioactive waste repository, involving establishment of site selection criteria and their application using geographic information system technology, will serve as a useful model for siting similar facilities on a national and international level.
The Australian Government funds a program for monitoring the effectiveness of a rehabilitation project at the former Rum Jungle uranium mine site in the Northern Territory. The Rum Jungle mine site represents a unique case study in mine rehabilitation and there is continuing international interest in the monitoring and maintenance at the site. The research has implications for management of wastes arising from the mining and milling of radioactive ores in Australia and overseas, e.g. ANSTO is addressing rehabilitation of uranium mine sites overseas.
Australia has extensive expertise in waste minimisation strategy development as well as the development and application of waste technologies. For example, the Cooperative Research Centre for Waste Management and Pollution Control (at Sydney, Melbourne, Newcastle and Perth) will focus on waste reduction and minimisation, sewerage and water quality, site remediation, instrumentation and monitoring, disposal of wastes from intensive rural industries, on-site treatment of liquid wastes, disposal of wastes as solids, odours and atmospheric emissions and social ecology. Research underway includes waste audit protocols and their application.
Australia is about to embark upon the development of specific waste minimisation strategies for its external territories (for example, Cocos (Keeling) and Christmas Islands, and Norfolk Island) which will have relevance to strategy development by small island nations. This strategy development will be based upon a consultative process to ensure the needs of individual communities are met.
Australia has experienced some problems with the exchange of assessment information on new industrial chemicals. Barriers include commercial confidentiality and differing levels of government documentation of assessment results. There is concern that chemicals assessment can be used as a non-tariff trade barrier. Australia has some difficulty participating in, and interpreting, international ecotoxicological tests because of the prevalent use of northern hemisphere species. This problem would also affect many developing countries.
Australia has experienced difficulty in harmonising environmental management (including chemicals) between the States and Territories. Largely as a result, the National Environment Protection Authority will be established to set key national guidelines and encourage further harmonisation. Duplication of activity at the national and international level compromises national capabilities as resources are limited.
In encouraging a cleaner production approach, Australia has been constrained by the difficulty in reaching numerous small to medium sized businesses. However, industry associations are becoming increasingly aware of the economic benefits of cleaner production and are beginning to take this message to their members.
Issues on which further work is required include the following:
Work is still required:
Coordination of radioactive waste disposal facilities in Australia is desirable because separate disposal facilities in each State and Territory would be uneconomic given the relatively small quantity of stored low and intermediate level wastes and low annual arisings and the necessary specific occupational, health and safety training and safeguards for workers associated with the management of such facilities. The Federal Government has been working with the States for several years to establish a national facility for radioactive wastes suitable for near surface disposal. Although all State and Territory Governments support establishment of such a facility, a site has not yet been determined.
The development of national approaches to waste management including sewage-related issues in Australia is a complex one given the wide spectrum of circumstances confronting the different communities, which range from large urban centres to small isolated communities. The issues are being addressed under the aegis of the NWQMS (see Section 3.3.2) through the development of Guidelines for Sewerage Systems which address Effluent Management, Acceptance of Trade Wastes (Industrial Wastes), Sewerage Systems-Overflows, Sludge Management and the Use of Reclaimed Water. The development of effluent guidelines for specific industries, such as dairy, wool scouring and piggeries, is also to be undertaken in the context of the Strategy. Common to all these activities will be an attention to minimising any adverse health implications; reduction of product for disposal; safe means of disposal with minimal impact on land and water resources and the maximum re-use of products and material used in the production processes.
All major areas of assessment in public health are now concerned with consumer issues and are committed to open and transparent decision-making processes, including increasing the availability of assessment reports and other information. Such changes reflect the need for consultation at domestic and international levels.
Australian governments intend further development of appropriate consultative arrangements, including with industry, to ensure that Australia can effectively participate in international discussions and respond to developments. For example, processes for regulation of drugs, poisons and food now incorporate public consultation.
Australia has several educational programs, including the 'Understanding Science and Your Environment' Program, directed at schools, community groups and workplaces. A public information scheme makes available to the public summary assessment reports for agricultural and veterinary chemicals. The Federal Government also has a public information program in the area of chemicals safety. Communication guidelines may need to be addressed through community right-to-know legislation which is envisaged as an integral part of the National Pollutant Inventory.
Through the NRS, Australia has developed a scheme for the review of existing agricultural and veterinary chemicals. The Federal Government supports further development of voluntary (e.g. responsible care) and regulatory arrangements relating to community right-to-know. Australian governments have substantially increased staffing and program funds for work on lead risk reduction.
Australia has initiated or is developing programs to ensure that its objectives to avoid, reduce and manage hazardous wastes are appropriately met. Stakeholders in any given policy, including governments, and conservation, industry and community groups, are consulted.
The National Radioactive Waste Repository Site Selection Study Group comprises members of Federal Government agencies with relevant expertise. Participation of State and Territory governments in the process is through consultative meetings while public participation is facilitated through issue of discussion papers for public comment.
Chapter 22 calls on governments to strengthen their efforts to implement the Code of Practice for International Transboundary Movement of Radioactive Wastes. Australia's radioactive waste policy and practice are consistent with the Code's basic principles. The OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) and the IAEA activities and projects have been effective in promoting international cooperation on radioactive waste management matters. The IAEA's principles and standards for the safe management and disposal of radioactive waste have provided a valuable basis for development of codes of practice for dealing with radioactive waste in Australia.
Australia needs to continue to build upon knowledge and experience in the field of radioactive waste management, in particular disposal of radioactive wastes, through participation in cooperative research and development programs and attendance at international forums on radioactive waste management.
Australia sees Agenda 21, Chapter 19 implementation as an opportunity to make resource use as efficient as possible, by the coordination of international activities. As such, Australia has committed resources to international activities (OECD, IPCS) and sees such efforts as directly influencing domestic programs.
While the issue of resource limitations is ongoing and more financial resources would result in more activity in the area of chemical assessment, the efficiency gains obtained by working across classes of chemicals may offset some of the resource limitations. Australia considers it has adequate human resources and expertise for chemical assessment at the currently identified level.
The development of a regional focus for chemical management may help the most efficient use of existing resources. Funding for chemicals work continues on a project by project and agency by agency basis.
Australia's national programs for assessment of chemicals (except food) have moved to cost recovery systems. Internationally, Australia supports major agencies and coordinating organisations in the field of chemical safety and considers this to be an efficient way to achieve the objectives of UNCED. With increased harmonisation of assessments comes increased efficiency and Australia encourages and supports the continued activity of the IPCS central unit in this area.
Industry contributes to the cost of chemical assessments in Australia. It may be cost and time efficient for companies producing industrial, agricultural and veterinary chemicals to contribute to the cost of international assessments. Industry may benefit from greater domestic use of internationally accepted assessments. Australia expects international organisations to continue to encourage and participate in the exchange of information on risk reduction.
It is expected that support for NEA and the IAEA activities and projects aimed at promoting international cooperation on radioactive waste management matters will continue.