Image for ‘Shipping methyl bromide offshore is no solution’

The Tasmanian Greens today described the announcement that the controversial fumigation of export logs out of Burnie will now occur on board the Black Sea vessel out at sea as an “outrageous cop-out”.

Greens Member for Braddon, Paul O’Halloran MP, who raised health and safety questions during Budget Estimates Committee hearings, said he was appalled that Labor could consider it acceptable to expose ship workers to a methyl bromide fumigation process that is not contained in a closed-loop situation.

“Utilising a methyl bromide fumigation process, that involves venting, onboard ship out at sea is not an acceptable option, but instead is an outrageous cop-out,” Mr O’Halloran said.

“Shipping this problem offshore is no solution.”

“Only two days ago the deputy Director of Public Health recommended that the planned buffer zone be doubled from 50 metres to 100 metres, which is an indication that there are serious health risks to be considered from the proposed methyl bromide fumigation process.”

“Yet apparently it is OK to expose ship workers and our marine environment to methyl bromide gasses.”

“This is not OK in the Greens’ opinion, and we reiterate our demand that any fumigation occurs within a sealed work environment and that the toxic gases are collected.”

“There are serious occupational health and safety considerations which are just being glossed over.  The responses I obtained during the Health Budget Estimates Committee hearings were most unsatisfactory in this regard.”

Senator Christine Milne

Thursday 1 July 2010

Milne calls on Burke Not to License Methyl Bromide

Australian Greens Deputy Leader, Christine Milne has called on Minister Tony Burke not to license the use of methyl bromide for use in the Port of Burnie.

Senator Milne last week asked Minister Burke why the federal government was granting an in-ship fumigation licence to TasPorts when safer alternatives are available.

“It’s wrong for the government to ignore alternatives to this deadly and environmentally destructive gas and issue a licence to use it a mere stone’s throw away from a major population centre.

“More so, it is a gross dereliction of duty when a federal minister puts the easy option above and beyond the welfare of port workers and the people of Burnie.

“Put bluntly, methyl bromide is suspected to be the cause of death in port workers who have used it in ways similar to those proposed for Burnie Port.

“At Nelson port in New Zealand, a cluster of 6 deaths from motor neurone disease is reported to be 25 times the international average, and a respected toxicologist says methyl bromide may be to blame.

“Is this a risk we want to take? The people of Burnie say no, the Burnie City Council says no and the Greens say no.”

“I contacted Minister Burke’s office last week to ask him why alternatives will not be used, and why the Australian government is not following the lead of the European Union and banning all use of methyl bromide on health grounds.

“Tasmanians need to know if Federal Minister Burke and State minister Green knew of the deaths in New Zealand when granting TasPorts their licence.

“If the ministers knew they should have immediately suspended all licences pending a review of safety concerns, environmental implications and the use of alternatives.

“The government’s own website provides the alternatives of heat treatment, irradiation, or the simple removal of bark.

“Allowing this fumigation to go ahead will set a dangerous precedent. I urge Ministers Burke and Green to consider the port workers, the people of Burnie and the environment by immediately withdrawing the license and reviewing the Government’s position on the use of this deadly gas.

A copy of Senator Milne’s questions sent to Minister Burke on June 24th are provided below.

Dear Minister,

I write to ask whether the Commonwealth has granted a license for the use of methyl bromide to fumigate Forestry Tasmania’s shipments of whole logs from the Burnie Port in northern Tasmania.

I understand 1.5 tonnes will be used of this ozone depleting chemical. I understand it is highly toxic to humans as well.

Is this use a breach of Australia’s obligations under the Montreal Protocol?

Has the Commonwealth assessed the environmental and health impacts of permitting this use?

What are the health impacts and risks associated with releasing this toxic gas in the middle of the city of Burnie?

Has the Commonwealth considered alternatives to this chemical? Why weren’t these alternatives used?

Since it is banned in the European Union, why is Australia still using it in fumigation?

Please do not issue a license for this use.

Paul O’Halloran ...

Fumigation Just One of Many Problems
Paul ‘Basil’ O’Halloran MP
Greens Member for Braddon

The Tasmanian Greens today called for full disclosure from Forestry Tasmania about the much-discussed and amended plan to send ship loads of whole pine logs to China after first fumigating them with the toxic fumigant Methyl Bromide.

Greens Member for Braddon, Paul ‘Basil’ O’Halloran MP, said Forestry Tasmania’s export plan is symptomatic of a fire sale and serious questions remain about the decision to fumigate the logs at sea, the profit (if any) on the sale, and the amount of taxpayer’s money that has been spent subsidising the logs and their transport.

“The Director of Public Health declared a 100-metre exclusion zone around any in-port fumigation, so why is it now safe to now conduct this fumigation at sea and expose the ship’s crew?,” said Mr O’Halloran.

“Why are Forestry Tasmania trying to use the cheapest and most environmentally damaging alternative to getting these logs processed here in Tasmania?”

“The people of Burnie quite rightly objected to having this fumigation occur within hundreds of metres of their city centre, but what about the health of the ship’s crew who will be far closer than the 100-metre exclusion zone. Exposing crewmen to risks that we quite rightly refuse to take ourselves is unacceptable.”

“There are serious unanswered questions about the economics of this fire sale, and the Greens are calling on Forestry Tasmania to reveal:

·      How much is being paid by China for each shipload of logs?;

·      What were the full costs involved in planting, growing, harvesting, transporting to port, and fumigating the logs?;

·      How many taxpayer subsidies went towards planting, growing, harvesting, transporting to port, and fumigating the logs?;

·      How many shiploads are being exported? (Labor MP Doug Parkinson says nine while Forestry Tasmania says three – who is correct?);

·      How many jobs would be created in Tasmania if these Tasmanian-grown logs were processed by Tasmanians?; and,

·      Most importantly, how can China process these logs into value-added products when Tasmania cannot?”