NATIONAL AIR POLLUTION SUMMIT
MELBOURNE, 1-3 AUGUST 2014
STATEMENT BY PARTICIPANTS
Statement by air pollution experts, civil society organisations and air pollution- affected
communities on the need for new air pollution laws.
Air pollution causes the death of over 3000 Australians each year.1 The serious health consequences
from exposure to the different sources of air pollution are now well established. There is consensus
that there is no ‘safe’ level of exposure for many pollutants, and that there are harmful effects from
exposure at levels well below the current air quality standards.2
In many Australian communities, measured air pollution levels frequently exceed the current national
standards without meaningful consequences for polluters. Whilst we know that the current standards
are frequently exceeded, the lack of adequate monitoring in many locations means that we often don’t
know by how much or how often many communities are exposed to the very serious health risks from
air pollution. Without changes in the monitoring and enforcement of standards for current polluters
and improved assessment and licensing of proposed new developments many communities will
continue to be put at risk.
The Australian Medical Association has said that, “Current air quality standards in Australia lag behind
international standards and have failed to keep pace with scientific evidence.”3 Last year a Senate
Committee inquiry concluded air quality is a significant problem in many parts of Australia and
recommended several new policies and programs.4
Political delay and inaction
The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) has recognised that current air quality laws are
deficient and in 2011 committed to developing and adopting a National Plan for Clean Air by the
end of 2014. Despite COAG working on this reform since 2011, the Commonwealth
Environment Minister recently announced that development of the Plan would be delayed for
another two years, until July 2016.5 This is a cause of significant concern to the medical
profession and to the community. Commonwealth and State and Territory Governments are not
treating air pollution with the seriousness and urgency it deserves.
This delay reflects a broader pattern of inaction on air pollution by State and Commonwealth
Governments, including a failure to implement the recommendations of the 2011 Ambient Air Quality
National Environment Protection Measure (NEPM) review,6 and the 2013 Senate Inquiry into Impacts
on Health of Air Quality in Australia.7
What is needed?
The current regulatory system for air pollution is failing to protect Australian communities from the
harmful effects of air pollution. Sixteen years after Australia adopted our first national air quality
standards, the continuing lack of a compliance standard for PM2.5 places Australia far behind world’s
best practice in air quality regulation. The current arrangements for coordinated action by the States
and Territories have many fundamental problems and have failed to ensure a strong and consistent
national approach. Implementing the recommendations of the NEPM review and the 2013 Senate
Committee would go some way towards improving regulation of air quality in Australia. However a
more significant reappraisal of Australia's approach to air pollution regulation is needed.
Ø The State, Territory and Federal Governments should implement the NEPM
review recommendations immediately.
Ø A compliance standard for PM2.5 (fine particles) should be adopted immediately.
Ø The Commonwealth Government should legislate a National Air Pollution Prevention Act that
is binding on all States and Territories, and establish a National Air Pollution Regulator to
ensure that air pollution is effectively regulated. The National Regulator should have a
responsibility to implement standards that prioritise the protection of human health and reduce
the exposure of Australian communities to hazardous air pollutants.
1 Begg, Vos, Barker, Stevenson, Stanley & Lopez, The burden of disease and injury in Australia
2003, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Canberra (2007), p234,
2 Doctors for the Environment Australia, Submission to Senate Community Affairs References
Committee, Parliament of Australia, Impacts on Health of Air Quality in Australia, 2013, pp5,8;
World Health Organization, Health Aspects of Air Pollution with Particulate Matter, Ozone and
Nitrogen Dioxide, Report on WHO Working Group (2003) pp5-6.
3 Australian Medical Association, submission to Senate Community Affairs References
Committee, Parliament of Australia, Impacts on health of air quality in Australia, 2013, p2.
4 Senate Community Affairs References Committee, Parliament of Australia, Impacts on Health of Air
Quality in Australia, 2013, p3.
5 The Hon Greg Hunt MP, Inaugral Alan Hunt Oration, Speech to the Urban Development
Institute of Australia 7 March 2014
6 National Environment Protection Council (NEPC) 2011, National Environment Protection (Ambient
Air) Measure Review Report HYPERLINK "http://www.scew.gov.au/resource/national-environment-protection-ambient-air-"<http://www.scew.gov.au/resource/national-environment-protection-
7 Senate Community Affairs References Committee, Parliament of Australia, Impacts on Health of
Air Quality in Australia, 2013.
ENDORSED BY THE FOLLOWING ORGANISATIONS AND INDIVIDUALS
Environmental Justice Australia
Doctors for the Environment Australia
Nature Conservation Council of New South Wales