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
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, <http://www.aihw.gov.au/publication-detail/ <http://www.aihw.gov.au/publication-detail/>?id=6442467990>.
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
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