Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 9 Hansard (22 November) . . Page.. 2281 ..
MR DE DOMENICO: When three organisations, Mr Speaker, come to my office and allege that officers under my control are doing something illegal, it would be remiss of me as a Minister, or any other Minister, not to make sure that those officers' actions were protected. I then asked a member of my staff to advise me whether the officers concerned were acting legally. He did so and we had no further involvement; nor will we have any further involvement.
MR BERRY: Minister, did you take any advice from your departmental officers? If so, would you tell us whom you took advice from, and are you prepared to table that advice?
MR DE DOMENICO: Mr Speaker, as I said, I asked Mr Clarke to go down and tell me whether those officers were acting legally. Mr Clarke did so, and we took no further action, and we will continue to take no further action.
MS HORODNY: My question is to the Minister for Health, Mrs Carnell. The Minister was given notice of this question. Minister, concern has been raised that, following the outbreak of the papaya fruit fly in Queensland, fruit from that State has been sold in the ACT which has organophosphate pesticide residue on the skins exceeding national health standards. Is the Minister aware of the tests which have been conducted on produce originating from Queensland and sold in the ACT which have been shown to have more than three to four times the accepted level of organophosphate pesticide residue? If so, what action does the Minister propose to take?
MRS CARNELL: Thank you for the question and thank you for giving me some notice of that. It appears that there was a complaint received from a woman at Rivett, I understand, at about noon on 30 October 1995. It was alleged that bananas on sale at a particular Woolworths supermarket were covered with a white residue. A sample was purchased on 2 November by Public Health and submitted to ACTGAL for analysis. There was evidence that the white coating had originated from a grower of bananas obviously, in Queensland - not on the Kingston foreshore, so we are all right.
On 16 November the results came back and it turned out that the skin of the bananas had 0.334 parts per million of chlorpyrifos, which is an organophosphate widely used in agriculture. The flesh had no chlorpyrifos. The weight of the skin was 243 grams, and the weight of the flesh was 317 grams. The calculation of chlorpyrifos for the whole banana was 0.15 parts per million. The food standard for chlorpyrifos residue is 0.1 parts per million. The level calculated is slightly above standard but substantially below levels that would be regarded as dangerous. Apparently, as you said, and from radio reports today, Queensland has employed an extra 200 people spraying fruit because of the fruit fly problem that they are currently experiencing there. What is being suggested - a press release is going out - is that fruit be washed and the skins handled with care. In this case, unless you eat the skin, you are pretty safe; but I think it is important that people know that they have to wash fruit that comes from Queensland at this stage.