Mercury falling: Treaties Committee examines Minamata Convention
Issue date: Monday, 9 August 2021
Mercury is a highly toxic heavy metal that poses a global threat to human health and the environment. The Minamata Convention creates a common platform for global action to reduce mercury’s use and impact, committing Parties to address the full lifecycle of mercury, including its safe disposal.
In the 1950s an industrial company in the Japanese seaside city of Minamata was found to have released untreated mercury waste into the adjoining saltwater bay for decades. The mercury contaminated the fish and shellfish stocks, and caused the death and poisoning of thousands of local residents. This environmental and public health catastrophe led to improved Japanese regulations and, importantly, the establishment of the Minamata Convention.
Australia’s Joint Standing Committee on Treaties will be hearing expert evidence and reviewing Australia’s potential ratification of the Minamata Convention at a public hearing on 9 August.
Committee Chair Mr Dave Sharma MP said “Ratifying the Minamata Convention would address an important global public health risk, align Australia with our major trading partners, and provide regulatory certainty for Australian businesses”.
At its 9 August hearing the Committee will also examine the Framework Agreement between the Government of Australia and the Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation, known as OCCAR. OCCAR is a European organisation that facilitates international cooperation in the development and procurement of defence equipment. The proposed Agreement would allow Australia to participate in OCCAR managed programmes.