Page 777 - Week 03 - Wednesday, 9 March 2005

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the former executive director, office of strategy and public administration, executive level 3.8; the former executive director, business development and tourism; and the chief executive of the Canberra Hospital.

MR SMYTH: I have a supplementary question, Mr Speaker. Chief Minister, I appreciate that you do not have it with you, but will you table the current performance agreement for the special adviser in the Assembly by close of business today?

MR STANHOPE: I will take the question on notice, Mr Speaker.

ACT Forests—use of pesticides

MS MacDONALD: My question is directed to the Chief Minister. I refer to the Canberra Times report of Tuesday 8 March regarding water. Can the Chief Minister reassure the Canberra community that the Canberra Times report of Tuesday 8 March about the likely presence of 2,4-D in the herbicide Crossbow used by ACT Forests was utterly wrong and needlessly alarmist?

MR STANHOPE: It is a very important question. Yesterday the Canberra Times carried a story that stated precisely that: that it was likely that 2,4-D was in herbicides being used by ACT Forests. I am incontrovertibly assured by Dow, the Australian manufacturer, that the Australian version of Crossbow does not contain 2,4-D.

I am also assured by Dow that the statement included in the Canberra Times is a nonsense statement. It is nonsense to say, as the Canberra Times did, that 2,4-D was likely to be present in the product in the form of another chemical. I am assured that one chemical cannot be present in the form of another entirely different chemical, as claimed by the Canberra Times.

I am also told that yesterday the Canberra Times was informed by Dow that the herbicide used by ACT Forests categorically did not contain 2,4-D. Yesterday Dow advised the Canberra Times that the herbicide used by ACT Forests categorically did not contain 2,4-D and that the report of the possible use of 2,4-D in the catchment was wrong.

Unfortunately, no correction was carried in today’s paper. There was no attempt to alleviate any unfounded fears or anxieties the newspaper may have generated in the community. There was no attempt to set the record straight, as a journal of record ought to do when it finds it has planted a seed that ought not to have been planted in the public mind.

That does not surprise us. The Canberra Times coverage of the catchment in recent days has hardly been exemplary. The scientists quoted by the Canberra Times are—I am sure you have all noticed—invariably “leading scientists”. The government’s responses are always “claims”. So leading scientists say one thing, and the government claims another. Objective reporting?

Who are these leading scientists? Most of the time they have remained conveniently anonymous. But sometimes they are named, such as the leading water quality scientist. I understand that again today the Canberra Times described him as the “leading urban

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