Wednesday, 15 August 2018
I seek leave to amend general business notice of motion No. 959 standing in my name for today, relating to glyphosate, before asking that it be taken as a formal motion.
I move the motion as amended:
That the Senate:
(a) notes that:
(ii) a Californian Superior Court jury has ordered Monsanto pay $39 million in compensatory damages, and $250 million in punitive damages to former grounds keeper, Mr DeWayne Johnson on the grounds that their glyphosate product, Roundup, contributed to his non-Hodgkin's lymphoma,
(iii) this follows a review by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) of glyphosate, following the IARC finding, which "found no grounds to place it under formal reconsideration", and
(iv) glyphosate is still widely-used in Australian agricultural, gardening, grounds-keeping and land management environments; and
(b) calls on the Federal Government to immediately request the APVMA to conduct a formal review of glyphosate, and request Monsanto (now Bayer AG) to make all internal scientific documentation, relating to the carcinogenicity of glyphosate, publically available.
In 2016 the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority considered glyphosate and found no grounds to place it under formal reconsideration. The objective scientific facts show that glyphosate, when used in accordance with label instructions and with the personal protective equipment recommended, can be used safely. This finding has been established repeatedly in the last few years by chemical regulators worldwide, including here in Australia by the APVMA. The APVMA's regulatory position on glyphosate is available on their website.
In my view, a review is definitely in order. As this motion highlights, there are potentially serious issues because this product is liberally used in Australia. The reason I say that is that I have repeatedly asked in estimates for regulators to provide a copy of the research they rely on to determine the acceptable daily intake of glyphosate in food. Food Standards Australia New Zealand don't possess this research, and they directed me recently to the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority. The APVMA also tell me they don't have it either. It appears that our regulators have taken a set-and-forget attitude on this particular product. So now is definitely an appropriate time for a formal review.
Labor acknowledges that the new concerns over the use of glyphosate in Australia highlight the crucial importance of an effective and independent chemicals regulator. The regulator in Australia is the APVMA. Its job is to protect our health and safety. Unfortunately, public confidence in the APVMA is already in decline because of the Turnbull government's decision to forcibly relocate it from Canberra to Armidale. Labor sees no merit in further undermining the community's confidence in the APVMA by challenging its independence. That's Labor's problem with this motion and it's why we can't support it in its current form. That doesn't mean we do not share the concerns raised in the motion. We do. The best way to keep our community safe is to maintain the regulator's independence and to rebuild its capacity to do its work in the most effective and timely manner. There are a number of things that the Turnbull government can do. Firstly, it should respond to community concern and provide some reassurance. Its silence has been deafening. Secondly, it should reverse the damaging relocation of the APVMA.
I'm really disappointed that it appears that neither Labor nor the government are going to support this motion. Calling for our chemicals regulator, the APVMA, to do its job, is pretty moderate. It's not calling for a ban, which many people already are calling for. The US court finding is a massive wake-up call for Australia, given the widespread use of glyphosate across the country, applied by people who trust that it's safe. It's quite appropriate for the government to request the APVMA to do a formal review to take into account information that became public during the US court case—in particular, the actions that led to the Californian jury declaring that Monsanto were operating with malice or oppression. It's also completely appropriate for all of Monsanto's scientific data and findings to be public so that the people can see for themselves whether theirs and the APVMA's trust in glyphosate as a safe product is indeed warranted.