Bill Murray - Honours stack up for clean grain champion

GroundCover™ Issue: 118 | 31 Aug 2015 | Author: Catherine Norwood

The seeds of Bill Murray’s efforts to protect Australian grain during his 40-year career continue to provide golden returns to growers through ongoing pest control and market access.

Australia’s reputation for clean, safe, high-quality grain is a legacy of more than four decades of dedication from entomologist and international grains ambassador William (Bill) Murray. His efforts have been recognised with several accolades as Mr Murray prepares to retire from the industry.

These include his inclusion in the Queen’s Birthday Honours with a Medal of the Order of Australia in the General Division for “significant service to primary industry, particularly through the development of grain-storage, export and quality-assurance programs”.

He has also been presented with the GRDC’s Seed of Gold award – only the third awarded in the GRDC’s 25-year history. The Seed of Gold presentation was made on the eve of Mr Murray’s retirement as chair of the National Working Party on Grain Protection (NWPGP), a position he has held for the past 16 years.

William (Bill) Murray

Caption: GRDC’s Southern Panel chair, Keith Pengilley, presents the Seed of Gold award to Bill Murray during the Australian Grain Storage and Protection Conference in Melbourne in June. Photo: Brad Collis

Mr Murray has been a member of the NWPGP for 42 consecutive years. Colleague and friend Phillip Clamp, from GrainCorp, describes Mr Murray as the “architect, builder and maintainer” of the working group that provides an internationally envied forum for the discussion of technical and regulatory issues among disparate stakeholders. Mr Clamp says it is through the working group that 15 chemicals were developed to protect the quality of Australia’s stored grain, with many still in use today.

Originally from Belfast in Northern Ireland, Mr Murray moved to Australia with his wife Irene in 1970, when he took up a role as an entomologist at the Australian Wheat Board (AWB). With AWB he built a distinguished career in grain protection, food safety, regulatory affairs, technical and scientific services and market access and support, becoming the AWB’s director of technical services. In 1991 he established his own consultancy, which has included ongoing work with the GRDC through the NWPGP and the National Residue Survey.

Chair of GRDC’s Southern Panel Keith Pengilley presented the Seed of Gold award to Mr Murray during the Australian Grain Storage and Protection Conference in Melbourne in June.

Mr Pengilley said Mr Murray’s expertise, from his initial role as a hands-on entomologist through to his current efforts as a statesman for Australian grain at the international Codex Committee on Pesticide Residues (CCPR), helped to ensure market access for Australian grains, free of insects and without unacceptable chemical residues.

The CCPR provides international recommendations about maximum limits for pesticide residues for specific food items or groups of food that should ensure these foods are acceptable and safe for human consumption.

Since 1998, Mr Murray has continuously represented the Australian grains industry at the CCPR. At the committee he has championed and secured ongoing access to protectant and fumigation chemistry such as fenitrothion, chlorpyrifos methyl and dichlorvos, and has just begun the battle to retain acceptance of the fumigant phosphine, which is scheduled for review in 2020.

Mr Murray will continue to assist with the preparation of submissions for fumigants and grain protectants, helping to identify information and research gaps that need to be addressed to support the use of protectants and fumigants.

Mr Clamp said Mr Murray was also the instigator of the National Residue Survey Grains Program, convincing industry in the 1990s to establish a levy to fund a residue-monitoring program for export and domestic grain. The survey has provided a valuable tool in quickly identifying any chemical use and residue issues.

“Bill has an extraordinary ability to bring together stakeholders such as industry, regulators, suppliers, growers, processors and marketers when needed; for example, in chemical reviews, in changes to maximum residue limits, in submissions or market access.

“He has also educated and mentored the next generation of grains specialists who are now senior leaders in their own right. This has ensured succession, continuity and stability in a constantly changing and competitive environment,” Mr Clamp said.

Mr Murray said he was honoured by the Seed of Gold award, while recognising that many others supported and contributed to the work that he has undertaken. He said for him, this work was about not just selling Australian grains in a good, clean, hygienic condition, but “in keeping it in good condition for the consumers that are using our product – I think that is what’s most important”.