Author Archives: Michael

Update 7: Australian ratification of the Minamata Convention on Mercury

The Joint Standing Committee on Treaties released their report today:

Relevant recommendations from the report reproduced below:

Recommendation 2
3.122 The Committee supports the Minamata Convention on Mercury and
recommends that binding treaty action be taken.

Recommendation 3
3.123 The Committee recommends the Government reassess the need to seek an
exemption to allow for the continued importation of High Pressure Mercury
Vapour (HPMV) lamps into Australia, considering such an exemption to be
reputationally damaging and of limited practical benefit.

City of West Torrens – Net zero emissions target

Mayor Michael Coxon
City of West Torrens
165 Sir Donald Bradman Drive
Hilton SA 5033


Dear Mayor Coxon,

RE: City of West Torrens – Net zero emissions target

Thank you in advance for your time in considering my correspondence.

I write to you as a resident of the City of West Torrens who, like so many other residents, have deep concerns regarding how slowly Australia is responding to the threats posed by climate change and the lasting costs that this delay – let alone the delay of other countries – will have upon our local community, Australia, and the world.

I recognise that the Council’s role in this global issue is small, but its decision to act can still be important. Indeed, the Council is to be commended for all its work to date on mitigating and adapting to climate change.

However, I could not locate any evidence of a Council commitment to a net zero emissions target. It is widely understood that there will need to be a global net zero emissions target by at least 2050 – and ideally much sooner – if we are to stave off the very worst impacts from climate change.

May I kindly inquire, has the Council adopted a net zero emissions target, and if so, by what year has that target been set, and what plans have been adopted to reach that target?

If no target has been set, why not, and will you be pursuing the adoption of a net zero emissions target for the City of West Torrens as soon as possible?

Thank you again for your consideration of my correspondence.

Kind regards,


Mr Michael Cornish

30 / 8 / 21

Cc Chief Executive Officer, Mr Terry Buss PSM

Update 6: Australian ratification of the Minamata Convention on Mercury

The transcript of the hearing of the Joint Committee Inquiry into the Convention’s ratification became available within the last few days, see:

Mr Dave Sharma MP
Joint Standing Committee on Treaties
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600
e: [email protected]; [email protected]


Dear Mr Sharma

Re: Inquiry into the Minamata Convention on Mercury, vapour lamps exemption

I write to you as a submitter to the Inquiry into the Minamata Convention on Mercury. For additional context, I was a former Senior Adviser to the Federal Member for Mayo, Ms Rebekha Sharkie MP, with carriage at the adviser level for Centre Alliance’s environment portfolio (amongst other portfolios).

I read the transcript of the inquiry hearing of 9 August 2021 with great interest. I wholeheartedly agree with your analysis and concern for the exemption to the Convention being sought by Australia until December 2023, namely, an exemption to import restrictions for high-pressure mercury vapour lamps for general lighting purposes.

This concern would no doubt be shared by the environmental NGOs who made submissions to the Committee.

I too see no good need to delay the inevitable transition away from mercury vapour lights that is, according to the account provided in the hearing, already complete or underway in all Australian State and Territory jurisdictions.

Additionally, as you and fellow Committee Members collectively noted in the hearing:

  • The exemption would deny Australia “a benefit of $17.3 million from energy savings and around $4.4 million from carbon savings”, i.e. an estimated opportunity cost to Australia of $21.7 million;
  • Australia would be the only OECD country to seek an exemption to the treaty, alongside small group of countries – China, India, Thailand, and a cluster of sub-Saharan African countries;
  • Australia is already an international laggard in its ratification of the treaty, with (“approximately”) 120 of 128 original signatories having already ratified;
  • Seeking an unnecessary exemption may undermine Australia’s negotiating position in the future direction of the Convention, a key interest that was identified in most industry submissions to the Inquiry; and
  • The Lighting Council of Australia did not evidence sufficient concern on the matter to make a submission to the Inquiry.

Further, the serious underlying health and environmental concerns that drive the impetus of the Convention – and Australia’s ratification of it – can only be undermined by any exemption.

In conclusion, I strongly urge that the Committee recommend that there be no exemption for mercury vapour lighting sought in Australia’s ratification of the Minamata Convention on Mercury.

Thank you again for your time in considering my correspondence.

Yours sincerely,

Michael Cornish

25 / 8 / 2021

Cc Doctors for the Environment Australia
Cc Environmental Justice Australia
Cc Conservation Council of SA

Update 1: GIS data for SA nature park outlines

24 August 2021

Good Afternoon Michael,

Thanks for your query to NatureMaps Support and our apologies for the length of time it has taken to get back to you.

In case you weren’t aware, the Department for Environment and Water makes some of its key spatial data layers openly accessible through the Data SA web site – Data.SA.  You can find a version of the NPWSA Reserves layer (ie South Australian reserves dedicated under the National Parks and Wildlife Act, Wilderness Protection Act and reserves for conservation purposes under the Crown Land Management Act) in the following location – Conservation Reserve Boundaries – Dataset –  This version of the data is equivalent to the NPWSA Reserves layer in NatureMaps – see screenshot below














The procedure for supplying data to Google has changed over the years.  Previously, Google acquired a series of Australia-wide foundation data sets (including parks and reserves) from a National mapping distributor.  These National mapping data sets were updated on a regular basis from authoritative data supplied from State and Territory mapping agencies.  Under this approach, there was a clear pathway to provide updated mapping data to national and broader mapping initiatives.

Google has since stopped acquiring Australia-wide data from this National mapping distributor and now seems to favour a different approach for updating data.

Looking at information online, Google now promotes a Google Maps Content Providers program – Google Maps Content Partners – Content Providers – Google Maps.  Map Content Partners can provide their own data to improve information displayed on Google Maps – it looks like Parks and Protected Areas are part of the data that Google will accept.

In order to submit mapping data under this partner program, Google has published some guidelines defining the required format and structure of the mapping data to be provided – Geo Data Upload Content Requirements – Map Content Partners Help (  For mapping data representing Parks and Protected Areas, partner data will need to adhere to the following guidelines.

Based on these guidelines, the South Australian NPWSA Reserves layer displayed in NatureMaps will require some “translation” to a data structure that will comply with the Google mapping requirements.  For this reason, it is probably best that this work is done by the department so that consistent routines can be established as part of a regular supply mechanism for Google mapping purposes.

We’ll coordinate with the department’s Parks and Communications teams to determine a way forward.

Thanks again for your interest.  Please let us know if you have any further questions.

Regards, NatureMaps Support

DEW Online Mapping

Science and Information Branch | Strategy Science and Corporate Services Division
Department for Environment and Water
81 – 95 Waymouth Street Adelaide, SA 5000
GPO Box 1047, Adelaide, SA 5001

Update 5: Australian ratification of the Minamata Convention on Mercury

Media release reproduced from:

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.

Wilberforce Walk

Mr Peter Tsokas
Chief Executive Officer
City of Unley
PO Box 1
Unley SA 5061


Dear Mr Tsokas

RE: Wilberforce Walk shared-use pathway

Firstly, please accept my thanks to the council for undertaking and completing the excellent shared-use pathway and accompanying environmental improvements atop Brownhill Creek along Wilberforce Walk between Anzac Highway and Third Avenue in Forestville.

The shared use pathway has been complete for several months but is still not open to the public.

May I please kindly inquire as to the source of the delay in opening the pathway to the public?

Further, may I inquire as to the Council’s plans – if any – to extend the shared-use pathway and accompanying environmental upgrades alongside the full length of Wilberforce Walk and potentially beyond atop Brownhill Creek to Forestville Reserve?

Might this be something the Council would contemplate as a costed project idea it would furnish to the major political parties in the lead up to the State election, noting that such a project would sit within the marginal State electorate of Badcoe?

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Kind regards,

Mr Michael Cornish

6 / 8 / 21

Cc Cr Emma Wright, Goodwood Ward

Cc Cr Nicole Sheehan, Goodwood Ward

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.