Monthly Archives: July 2021

Update 4: Australian ratification of the Minamata Convention on Mercury

Committee Secretary
Joint Standing Committee on Treaties
PO Box 6021
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

e: [email protected]

Dear Committee

RE: Submission to the Minamata Convention on Mercury Inquiry

I write to you as a former Senior Policy Adviser to Rebekha Sharkie MP who had carriage of the environment portfolio for Centre Alliance.

Australia is to be congratulated for signing the Minamata Convention on Mercury in October 2013.

The Convention is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury. Mercury is a heavy metal that cycles between the atmosphere, ocean and land, and can be toxic to humans and wildlife. According to the booklet of the Convention, “[m]ercury is recognised as a substance producing significant adverse neurological and other health effects, with particular concerns expressed about its harmful effects on infants and unborn children.[1]

Australia is one of the few developed nations yet to ratify this important treaty.

The Convention is named after Minamata disease, itself named for the poisoning of the Japanese community in Minamata Bay that resulted from eating shellfish and fish containing methylmercury (an organic mercury compound) accumulated from industrial wastewater. Signs and symptoms of Minamata disease include ataxia, numbness in the hands and feet, general muscle weakness, loss of peripheral vision, and damage to hearing and speech. In extreme cases, insanity, paralysis, coma, and death follow within weeks of the onset of symptoms. Whilst conventional mercury poisoning is less severe, it can lead to serious burns; skin-shedding; kidney dysfunction; itching; hair, teeth and nail loss; hypertension, and more besides.

Whilst Australia’s mercury emissions have reduced greatly in recent years due to the deployment of mercury emission reduction technology in key gold-mining processing plants, Australia’s per capita mercury emissions remain higher than the global average[2] as they are insufficiently regulated.  More still needs to be done across other sectors, including the production of other metals, fossil fuel combustion, and intentional use and waste.

It is excellent news that the Government has now published its Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) on the Ratification of the Minamata Convention on Mercury[3] and has now referred the ratification of the Convention to the Committee. The RIS found that there will be no regulatory burden on business or the community, as existing regulatory frameworks broadly align with international obligations under the Convention. Ratification was calculated to provide a net benefit of over $5.9 million over 20 years, and this direct economic benefit will be accompanied by a range of additional social and environmental qualitative benefits.

Furthering the case for ratification, the National Interest Analysis provided to the Committee summarises several compelling reasons for rapid ratification that are worth highlighting, specifically:

10. Collective global action under the Minamata Convention is the most effective means of protecting Australians from the harmful effects of mercury pollution…

  1. Due to the widespread adoption of the Convention… ratification would have a low impact on Australian business and industry…
  2. …several rounds of public and targeted consultation have confirmed broad [domestic] support for ratification and have not identified any significant risks or disadvantages.
  3. The impetus to ratify now is strong, with business and industry keen for certainty about mercury controls in Australia and for alignment with trading partners…
  4. Australia is currently unable to fully engage in or guide the direction of the associated scientific and technical bodies to the Convention, and cannot vote on decisions regarding future global controls. Ratification will provide Australia with a seat at the negotiating table, enabling us the opportunity to influence the future direction of the Convention.[4]

Importantly, the procedural barriers to ratification are also minimal, with the National Interest Analysis concluding that “…ratification can proceed with only minor legislative and policy amendments across all jurisdictions[5].

In conclusion, I provide two recommendations to the Committee, namely:

Recommendation 1: That the Committee recommend the ratification of the Minamata Convention on Mercury.

Recommendation 2: That the Federal Government finalise the minor legislative changes required to effect ratification by no later than the end of 2021.

Thank you for your time and consideration of my submission.

Yours sincerely,

Michael Cornish

16 / 7 / 2021

[1] UN Environment Programme, Minamata Convention on Mercury – Text and Annexes, September 2017,

[2] UN Environment Programme, Technical Background Report for the Global Mercury Assessment, 2013,

[3] See:

[4] p2, National Interest Analysis: Category 1 Treaty, Minamata Convention on Mercury, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 2021

[5] Ibid.

GIS data for SA nature park outlines

NatureMaps Support
Enviro Data SA
SA Department for Environment and Water
e: [email protected]


Dear NatureMaps Support,

Re: GIS data for Nature Parks and Wildlife SA (NPWSA) Reserves outlines

Thank you in advance for your time and consideration of my correspondence and for maintaining the NatureMaps application and website.

I am writing in my personal capacity with a keen interest in environmental conservation and in public accessibility to – and enjoyment of – our natural environment.

Google Maps is widely used by South Australians and visitors to our state to navigate to sites of public interest, including NPWSA Reserves, especially National Parks, Conservation Parks, and Recreation Parks. Currently, Google Maps is missing the outlines of several significant South Australian NPWSA sites, including Para Wirra Conservation Park, Anstey Hill Recreation Park, Cobbler Creek Recreation Park, Glenthorne National Park, and Sturt Gorge Recreation Park, to name but a few. I note that mapping of the NPWSA Reserves (outlines) data layer is available via the NatureMaps application.

For example, since providing GIS coordinates for Lawari CP to Google Maps a few years ago, there have been 50,000 public views of the photos assigned in Google Maps to the Park. Hopefully this demonstrates the public value, and especially tourism value, in having NPWSA sites properly shown on public mapping applications.

May I kindly request, can Enviro Data SA provide me with the GIS data – or instructions on how to access that data – for the NPWSA Reserves (outlines), noting my intention to provide this data to Google Maps?

If not, would Enviro Data SA be willing to provide the data directly to Google Maps?

Would it be possible to set up a process by which the data could regularly be made available (for example, annually) to publicly accessible mapping providers such as Google Maps?

Thank you again for your time and consideration of my correspondence.

Yours sincerely,

Michael Cornish

4 / 7 / 2021

Submission to the Australian aquaculture inquiry

Standing Committee on Agriculture and Water Resources
PO Box 6021
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600
e: [email protected]


Dear Committee

RE: Submission to the Australian aquaculture sector inquiry

I write to the Committee as a former Senior Policy Adviser to Ms Rebekha Sharkie MP with carriage of the environment portfolio at the adviser-level for Centre Alliance. This submission is being made wholly in my personal capacity.


Recommendation 1: Pollution from aquaculture urgently needs to be accounted for in the National Pollution Inventory

 Aquaculture has a valuable role to play in Australia’s economy; however, like all private industry, it still needs to operate within a reasonable social licence. The fact that aquaculture has been exempted from providing account to the National Pollution Inventory has no basis in public policy, and a complete basis in politics. This exemption for aquaculture needs to be removed as a matter of priority.

Recommendation 2: Establish a moratorium on aquaculture in Fitzgerald Bay, SA

The Giant Australian Cuttlefish that aggregates in the breeding season in significant numbers at Point Lowly near Whyalla is a major South Australian ecotourism drawcard. Aquaculture used to operate in Fitzgerald Bay (directly to the north of Point Lowly) and created significant nitrogenous pollution, leading to the rapid decline of Cuttlefish population numbers. Since the closure of those aquaculture operations, the Cuttlefish population has experienced recovery.

There are currently plans to restart aquaculture operations in Fitzgerald Bay without regard to the expected significant impact upon the Cuttlefish and destruction of its ecotourism benefits. It may well be possible for aquaculture – properly monitored for nitrogenous (and other) pollution and operating within strict limits – to operate in coexistence with the Cuttlefish.

However, until there is a requirement for such aquaculture pollution to be properly measured (and therefore properly regulated and limits properly enforced), there should be a moratorium on aquaculture in Fitzgerald Bay.

My thanks to the Committee for their consideration of my submission.

Yours sincerely,

Mr Michael Cornish

2 / 7 / 21