COAG Chemicals Consultancy

About chemical regulation

Chemicals and plastics regulation in Australia is complex. Regulation involves multiple agencies across all levels of government. There are three levels of government in Australia - Commonwealth, state/territory, and local - each with its own responsibilities, although in some cases these responsibilities overlap. In general, different agencies/levels of government are responsible for different aspects of the chemical lifecycle.

Chemicals and chemical products have their risks assessed in five broad categories at a national level, depending on their use in industrial, agricultural and veterinary, therapeutic, cosmetic or food applications. These different regulatory requirements are administered by various agencies. Currently the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS), the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA), the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) all perform some risk assessment for chemicals and there are complementary regulatory and administrative functions where synergies could be leveraged.

The consultancy

The Department of Industry and Science, on behalf of COAG, has appointed a consultant (Sironis Pty Ltd) to review Commonwealth chemicals assessment functions.

It will:

  • identify the costs and benefits of structural change to Commonwealth chemical assessment functions and any subsequent impacts on the chemicals regulatory framework;
  • investigate how to improve responsiveness of agencies at all levels of government in setting appropriate controls on the use, transport and storage of chemicals following their assessment;
  • explore opportunities to improve interactions between regulators across jurisdictions; and
  • identify opportunities for greater efficiency and cost savings in the operation of the framework

This work is expected to be completed in the second half of 2015. The final report to the Commonwealth Government will guide future decision-making.

Why is a consultancy necessary?

The regulation of chemicals is complicated because it is a divided by the use of the chemicals, as noted above, and further it is divided over the three levels of government (Commonwealth, states and territories, and local). The 2008 Productivity Commission Research Report: Chemicals and Plastics Regulation (PC Report) found that the sector could benefit from greater national consistency in its regulation and a governance framework that enhances national uniformity. This report formed the basis of previous reform efforts.

In October 2014, COAG agreed to consider changes to the regulatory framework governing chemicals to improve its efficiency under its standing item on deregulation. The Commonwealth Department of Industry and Science is managing the consultancy in 2015 to assist develop options for reform pathways for COAG consideration. This will include a cost-benefit analysis to inform serious consideration of merging Commonwealth chemical assessment functions, and will also look into how greater efficiencies can be achieved to minimise red tape and regulatory burden for industry and bring safe and effective products to consumers sooner.

Related Work

To ensure that ongoing work within the regulators is taken into account during the COAG Chemicals Consultancy, the current initiative is being guided by a reference group comprised of ex officio representatives from the Departments of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Health, Agriculture, Employment, Environment, the Treasury, and two State departments.

Opportunity to contribute to the consultancy

This project is not a public review as it deals with administrative arrangements within government. However, consultations with stakeholders are being held at different stages of the project. Initial consultations have taken place. Further opportunities for input are expected and those stakeholders expressing an interest in the project will be kept informed of its progress.

Contact

For more information on the COAG Chemicals Consultancy please contact ChemicalsDereg@industry.gov.au

For more information on the Portfolio’s Regulation Reform Agenda please contact deregulation@industry.gov.au

Further Information

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