Despite their emphasis on building public trust in nanotechnology oversight, Labor, Liberals and the National Party have failed to answer an election policy questionnaire regarding their nanotechnology policy, sent by Friends of the Earth Australia. Friends of the Earth surveyed the 13 parties who received more than 5,000 votes in the 2007 election and received responses from only the Australian Greens and One Nation.

“Nanotechnology, the ‘science of the small’, has received generous funding from the past Coalition and current Labor governments alike,” said Friends of the Earth nanotechnology spokesperson Georgia Miller.

“Yet in this election campaign the major parties have avoided public scrutiny of their views on managing nanotechnology’s new health and environment risks, ensuring the right of workers and the public to know whether they face nano-exposure, and tackling nanotechnology’s social challenges”.

“The world’s oldest scientific institution, the Royal Kingdom’s Royal Society, called in 2004 for government action to close legal loopholes that leave people and the environment exposed to nanotoxicity risks.”

“A 2007 review conducted by researchers at Monash University identified 6 major gaps in Australia’s capacity to use existing laws to regulate nano-products.”

“A report released this June by Safe Work Australia found that 84% of Material Safety Data Sheets issued to workers did not provide reliable information about nanotechnology’s risks, even when it comes to carbon nanotubes, some forms of which have been demonstrated to cause mesothelioma.”

“Yet both Labor and Liberal governments have consistently rejected calls to reform Australia’s regulation of nano-products and to give the public a say in whether and how nanotechnology should be developed in this country.”

“Both Labor and the Coalition have emphasised their commitment to building public acceptance of nanotechnology. Yet when they fail to answer key questions regarding their approach to regulating this powerful new technology, it makes a mockery of claims to ‘responsible’ governance.”

“Friends of the Earth is pleased to see that both the Australian Greens and One Nation support measures such as requiring nanomaterials to be assessed by regulators as new chemicals, ensuring mandatory labelling of nano-ingredients, providing greater funding for social research and supporting a greater role for the public in nanotechnology decision making.”

“However we are extremely disappointed that the major parties are missing in action on nanotechnology policy.”