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

27 January 2000


Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill says the ALP has rejected the best international scientific advice in its cheap and ill-judged attack on the sale of surplus halon 1301 to the United States.

The latest report by the key advisory panel to the Montreal Protocol clearly states that

"It is important [that halon 1301] finds its way to the critical users. Until there is a clear surplus of halon 1301 worldwide, widespread destruction cannot be recommended."
Senator Hill says Shadow spokesman Nick Bolkus has embarrassed himself and the ALP with a string of errors in his hysterical claims about the sale.

Bolkus claim: "Government policy consistently over eight years has been not to export, not to import, not to sell, and not to use [halon 1301]."

WRONG - The Montreal Protocol, signed in 1988 and ratified in 1989 by the former ALP government, specifically allows for the sale of halon for essential use applications.

The ALP in government also clearly supported such trading. In his 1992 Statement on the Environment, the then Prime Minister Paul Keating stated:

"In accordance with the Montreal Protocol, new halon will not be provided in developed countries from 1994. The halon bank can then be used to supply essential uses in Australia and overseas and to help meet the needs of developing countries. Stocks not recycled will be destroyed."
In light of this, Senator Bolkus's claim is breathtaking hypocrisy.

Bolkus claim: "we are exporting these gases for use overseas in a manner that we would not use and do not use in Australia."

WRONG - The Halon 1301 sold to the US Defence Force will be used in fire suppression and as an explosion retardant in enclosed spaces where human evacuation is impracticable - eg tanks, planes, submarines. Environment Australia advises that the Australian Defence Force uses it for similar purposes. In addition, all commercial aircraft in Australia use Halon 1301 for this purpose. Its use in planes is mandated by national safety authorities such as CASA.

Bolkus claim: "the government is quietly attempting to sell stocks of the gas held by the Halon Bank to the US."

WRONG - Environment Australia advises that it notified the Ozone Protection Consultative Committee (which include State and Territory government representatives, green group Friends of the Earth and some industry representatives) verbally on 14 October 1999. Obviously none of the Labor State Governments or Friends of the Earth bother talking to Senator Bolkus. The details of the sale were also entered into the EA Portfolio Additional Estimates Statement end 1999.

Senator Hill says the latest advice received from his department confirms that:

Importantly, the proceeds from the sale and other operations of the Halon Bank will be directed to ozone protection activities. Australia is regarded as a world leader in this field.

Halon is not covered by the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gas and the sale to the US will not affect Australia's ability to meets its Kyoto commitments.

Media contact: Rod Bruem: (02) 6277 7640 or 0419 258 364

Commonwealth of Australia