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Opening Speech 20th April

Update from 20th April
Opening Speech 20th April

20th April 2001 – Public Meeting – Speech by Suzi Tooke, Narangba resident


Background – why we are here, how we got here. 

In the mid 1980s a proposal was developed for a food irradiation plant for Rocklea, near the fruit & produce markets – with the likely partner being Steritech. This was shelved because of public protest. Also around that time, Steritech tried to establish an irradiation plant in Auckland – again that project was abandoned because of public protest and on environmental grounds. 

1983 Caboolture declared a NFZ – policy decision, but never incorporated into any planning documents. 

1989                                Federal Government ban on food irradiation in Australia. Nick Bolkus (Shadow Env Min) was then Min of Consumer Affairs and maintained, quite rightly, that this would destroy Australia’s image overseas for good, clean, nutritious food – and that many of our overseas markets would not accept IF. 

Then 10 years on, the FI spectre returned to haunt us once more. 

1998 George West, Gen Man of Steritech made a speech in which he said (and I quote) “Unfortunately for Steritech, the medical manufacturing industry went into severe decline in the early nineties, with most of the medical manufacturers relocating off shore. Consequently, we had to find other things to irradiate … Currently only 45% of all throughput is medical related.” 

Early 99                                   The then State Development Minister, the now disgraced, Jim Elder invited Steritech to Qld.

A Labor Govt invited a nuclear industry to our state! 

April 99                                    Steritech did a presentation to CSC – at their budget meeting which is not open to the public, nor are the minutes publicly available. 

July 99 Article in Northern Times “Plant Hot For Jobs” - !

Steritech advertise Notice of Development Application for a “sterilisation & decontamination plant for medical, cosmetic, pharmaceutical & OTHER products”. It has long been realised that other = food. Had Steritech been honest & open & advertised a FI plant and misled Council and us – we would not need to be here tonight, as common sense would have prevailed 2 years ago. 

Aug 99 A busy month – objections to Steritech’s application, presentations to Council, letters to Councillors, much research – and sharing of info with Councillors (largely – with the exception of Cllr Devereaux - ignored). Also the Fed ban on FI was quietly lifted  - reported only (as far as I am aware) on ABC Rural News.

Steritech made a submission in favour of this.

Steritech had a meeting with myself, 2 other residents, Spence Grubby & their PR consultant. G. West said (& again I quote) “food irradiation was more trouble than it was worth”. NCPA also request that Council hold a public meeting before they made a decision – refused. Council then approved Steritech’s application, despite a motion from 2 Councillors to conduct environmental & hazardous operations studies & hold a public meeting and the objections outweighing the support by 7:1. Tom McLoughlin (then Mayor) disregarded other letters as “mere form letters” in the Council meeting and was also on ABC radio – benefits for FOOD. 

Sept 99                                    We held our own public meeting in this hall, to inform the community of this plan for a nuclear irradiation plant in our midst. An appeal was also lodged in the P&E Court. 

Jan 2000                                  Rally in Caboolture. Dems & Greens, Dr. Helen Caldicott spoke. Over 500 people attended & voiced their concerns & opposition to the plant. Mayor again in press saying how good Steritech could be for growers & producers of FOOD. 

Feb 2000                                 Silent protest at opening of Heritage Gardens – to which someone called the police! 

Feb 2000 CSC refuse to update CDRP (Counter Disaster Recovery Plan) to cater for radioactive risks.  

April 2000                                Steritech apply to ANZFA for a licence to irradiate herbs, spices, teas, oilseeds and nuts – Application A413. Also in April, the P&E Court hearing started. It was stated then that the plant would start with 150,000 curies of Cobalt 60, increasing to 350,000 over 5 years, with a design capacity of 3.5 million. (1 curie =         x-rays)

Also that the plant would cost $5m – a lot of money for beehives & bandages!

Plant would be operating 96% of the time – that is over 23 hours a day – when Co60 rods would be OUT of their containment pond, emitting their radioactivity. That’s a lot of products – hardly adds up to the projected 20 truck movements a day declared by Steritech! 

Nov 2000                                ANZFA call for public submissions to Application A413 – the 1st the public had heard of this. 

Dec 2000                                 EA involvement – new act – EBPC Act – requires approval for controlled actions – which this is – and nuclear actions – which this is. Submissions made to Sen Rob Hill, Env Min to apply strictest conditions of assessment. 

Mar 2000                                 Sen Hill takes the decision to assess Steritech’s nuclear action on preliminary documents ONLY – the easiest, weakest option he could have chosen. This sets a dangerous precedent for the next nuclear action application – not only in Qld, but also anywhere else in Australia. 

April 2000 Steritech advertise in Courier Mail & Caboolture Herald that preliminary documents can be inspected at Cab Library & State Library. They declined to send copies, make them available on their website or even email them to the public. 

On the food front:

Jan 2000                                  ANZFA defer the 2nd round of public consultation for A413 due to the large number of submissions it had received – nearly 300 – from members of the public, food producers, growers & consumer associations. 

Currently Steritech operate an ethylene oxide gassing facility to disinfest food and other products. EtO is being banned in September - another chunk of Steritech’s business gone, in the same way as medical products. 

So we are here to encourage all of you who care to urge Sen. Hill not to approve this nuclear action; to urge him to set a very different precedent to forbid the establishment of any more NIPs in our country. We would encourage all of you to protest loudly at all levels of government against food irradiation and to call for the reinstatement of the ban. 

Tonight you will hear about the nuclear industry that Steritech is a part of, the dangers posed by this proposal, the huge problems with irradiated food and the environmental reasons why this plant should not go ahead. I hope that what you hear disturbs you as it does me and that you will support this campaign – for the health of yourselves, your environment, your children, our farmers and our country’s food.


Suzi Tooke



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