The Australian Nano Business Forum (ANBF) released its commentary today on the National Nanotechnology Strategy Taskforce paper on “Options for a National Nanotechnology Strategy”. “The ANBF believes the Taskforce has delivered a good result, although it could have gone further” stated ANBF Chairperson Brian Power. “They have identified the critical role of government in addressing immediate issues of OH&S, community awareness, metrology and standards, and international cooperation. They also identified an opportunity for new national mechanisms – specifically a Federal/State coordination function – to optimise the uptake of nanotechnology in Australia. The ANBF supports the notion that closer cooperation and integration between the different forms of Government is critical to establishing a national position.”
The most important aspect of the Taskforce paper was that it clearly stated that “the time is right for a national nanotechnology strategy and that a strategy is necessary”. The paper outlined the alternative “do nothing” scenario, in which the Commonwealth takes no new action and current State and industry initiatives continue to drive Australian nanotechnology in an uncoordinated manner. The Taskforce is clearly stating that this is a critical time for Australian nanotechnology, and that failure by the Federal Government to play a role leaves Australia falling behind in technology and industry development, ability to handle health, safety, and environmental impacts and public concerns, and Australia’s international engagement with its main trading partners.
“There are two important omissions in the Taskforce paper” Mr Power continued. “Firstly, nanotechnology is a global market with multinational added value chains, and Australia requires a strong and proactive approach to commercialising our nanotechnology in overseas markets. Incentives to export our nanotechnology manufactures will be critical”.
“Secondly, support for the development of skills, particularly in the sciences, mathematics and engineering that will equip Australia's industry with the personnel to meet industry's challenges is an important role of both State and Federal Governments.”
“The ANBF therefore calls upon the Minister for Industry, Tourism and Resources, the Honourable Ian Macfarlane MP, to adopt the major recommendations of the Taskforce, and to play a role in communicating Australia’s position both locally and to our international partners” emphasized Mr Power.
The ANBF also notes the position taken by Friends of the Earth (FoE) in their analysis of the Taskforce report. While the ANBF does not endorse the FoE call for an immediate moratorium, it does support the need for both greater emphasis on addressing understanding of toxicology of nanomaterials, and for public participation in the development of a national position.
“The ANBF believes the Federal Government has a vital role both in the analysis of potential health and environmental issues and in public engagement, which neither industry nor the States are equipped to perform” said Mr Power.
“The ANBF, like FoE, believes these issues must be addressed urgently. It is important that Australia’s adoption of nanotechnology must include a safe working environment for all Australians.