Customs Tariff Amendment
(Paraquat Dichloride) Bill 2004
19 February 2004
House: House of Representatives
Portfolio: Justice and Customs
24 March 2003
(commencement is retrospective)
The purpose of
the Bill is to remove the current five per cent import duty on the
chemical herbicide paraquat dichloride, imported in a form that
contains a safety feature of an emetic (to cause vomiting if the
herbicide is accidentally ingested).
Paraquat dichloride (paraquat) is a contact
herbicide that is used to control broad-leaved weeds and grasses.
It is highly toxic to humans if accidentally ingested orally.
Technical data on paraquat and its use can be viewed on the web
site provided by the International Programme on Chemical Safety,
Because of its toxicity, the use of paraquat
requires safety precautions. Some of these precautions include the
incorporation within the herbicide of anti-dusting, colouring or
stenching agents. In the 2003-04 Budget Statements for the
Attorney-General's Department, it was noted that imported paraquat
with the safety features mentioned above is given duty-free
treatment while paraquat with an emetic attracts a five per cent
import duty. The Government announced that it would remove the
anomaly of the five percent duty on imported paraquat with an
emetic as a safety feature, retrospectively from 1
The loss of revenue from removal of the 5%
import tariff is estimated at $0.5 million per annum.
There is little press coverage on the domestic
tariff issue. Press commentary, as such, is directed at the
international debate over the use of paraquat. Views are divided on
the use of paraquat and, given that this Bill is technically a
minor tariff measure, the background comments in this Bills Digest
simply note some aspects of the debate.
The European Union (EU) has recently renewed
its approval for the use of paraquat in the face of objections from
a range of EU environmental groups.(3) Environmentalists
have long campaigned for the complete removal of paraquat from the
EU. It is authorised as a weedkiller in 10 EU member states but
banned in Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Austria. Germany restricts
its use.(4) It is reported that paraquat was used as a
defoliant in Latin American marijuana fields in the
1970s.(5) Those who advocate the banning of paraquat
have pointed out that paraquat has been misused in some developing
countries as a suicide agent leading to the introduction of
restrictions on sales and additional safety
It has also been asserted that the use of
genetically modified crops is resulting in a reversion to the use
of 'older, more toxic' herbicides such as
The use of paraquat is regulated in Australia,
including the registration of brand and trade names under the
Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Code.
Items 1 and
2 amend Schedule 3 (Classification of goods and
general and special rates of duty) of the Customs Tariff Act
1995 to insert in Chapter 29 (Organic chemicals) a specific
reference to paraquat dichloride, including the form with an emetic
added for safety reasons, as 'Free' of duty. The eight digit tariff
number is 2933.39.00.
International Programme on Chemical Safety IPCS INCHEM, at:
at paragraph 2.1.1.
2003-04 Commonwealth Budget Budget Paper No. 2, at:
It is noted that there appears to be an inconsistency between the
retrospective date specified in the Budget Paper (i.e. 1 April
2003) and the commencement date for this amending legislation (24
Joe Kirwin, 'European Union Draws Fire for Banning Two
Herbicides, Approving Use of Paraquat', International
Environment Reporter, Vol 26, No. 22) at:
Jeremy Smith, 'EU under attack over plan to legalise paraquat',
Reuters News Service, 17 February 2003, at:
PAN Germany, 'Paraquat and Suicide', Fact Sheet 2003.
Andy Rowell, 'GM Crops', The Ecologist, Volume 33(6),
July-August 2003, Part 4 p. 38 at:
This paper has been prepared for general distribution to
Senators and Members of the Australian Parliament. While great care
is taken to ensure that the paper is accurate and balanced, the
paper is written using information publicly available at the time
of production. The views expressed are those of the author and
should not be attributed to the Information and Research Services
(IRS). Advice on legislation or legal policy issues contained in
this paper is provided for use in parliamentary debate and for
related parliamentary purposes. This paper is not professional
legal opinion. Readers are reminded that the paper is not an
official parliamentary or Australian government document.
Published by the Parliamentary Library, 2004.