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Wednesday, 6 July 2011
Page: 7722


Ms KING (BallaratParliamentary Secretary for Infrastructure and Transport and Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Ageing) (10:38): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I am pleased to introduce the Industrial Chemicals (Notification and Assessment) Amendment (Inventory) Bill 2011 which amends the Industrial Chemicals (Notific­ation and Assessment) Act 1989. The Industrial Chemicals(Notification and Assessment) Act established a national system of notification and assessment of industrial chemicals used in Australia to aid in the protection of human health and safety and the environment, to provide for registration of certain persons proposing to introduce industrial chemicals and to enable making of national standards for cosmetics manufactured or imported into Australia. The National Industrial Chemicals Notific­ation and Assessment Scheme—NICNAS—administers this act. The activities of NICNAS therefore underpin essential advice to other government agencies which collectively make up Australia's regulatory system for industrial chemicals

The bill presents amendments that continue to deliver on the government's commitment to decreasing regulatory burden and efficiently using resources while maintaining health and environmental safety.

The bill does this by implementing important parts of NICNAS's continuing reform program—namely, the completion of the reforms to the cosmetic therapeutic interface and making technical, but no less important changes, to enhance the admin­istration and efficiency of the scheme's assessment processes.

The bill underpins completion of the cosmetic regulatory reforms largely implem­ented through the amendment of the act in 2007 as part of the Low Regulatory Concern Chemicals reform initiative.

In 2007, in order to facilitate the transfer of regulatory responsibility for certain low-risk products at the therapeutic cosmetic interface from the Therapeutic Goods Administration to NICNAS, changes to the act resulted in the introduction of the NICNAS Cosmetics Standard. The standard enabled NICNAS to regulate certain cosmetics by prescribing minimum standards for these products in Australia and imposed penalties for noncompliance. However, a mechanism to transfer the chemicals in these cosmetic products from the TGA onto the Australian Inventory of Chemical Substances had not been developed at that time.

In the absence of the transfer mechanism, some introducers of the chemicals have to meet the requirements of the new chemicals framework with the associated notification and assessment costs or reporting oblig­ations.

The proposed bill will make the necessary changes to the act to address this regulatory gap in the protection of public health and enable proper regulation of chemicals in these cosmetics products through entry of the chemicals on the national inventory.

This regulatory mechanism used to transfer chemicals in cosmetics, which have been transferred from the TGA to NICNAS, can also be used for other chemicals. This means that chemicals in products previously regulated by other Commonwealth agencies can be smoothly transferred to NICNAS.

The power to place chemicals that have been transferred to NICNAS onto the Australian chemical registry will be open and transparent. As some chemicals to be transferred to NICNAS may not have been assessed by other Commonwealth agency, the transfer procedure will allow public submissions on a proposal to include or not include a transferred chemical on the inventory. The director's decision to include or not include a transferred chemical on the inventory is also reviewable by the AAT.

In cases where transferred chemicals have been assessed and controls have been implemented by the other agency, the controls will be able to be maintained, ensuring that legal obligations to comply with pre-existing controls are preserved.

For example, the cosmetic reforms in 2007 included the transfer of regulatory responsibility for secondary sunscreen products which are applied to the skin, for example, moisturisers containing a sunscreening chemical. Currently, NICNAS assesses the UV filter chemicals in these products by requesting, on a case-by-case basis, the additional data required for sunscreens under the TGA.

The bill addresses the more efficient collection of this data by creating a new section in the schedule of data requirements to include those requirements that are specific to UV filters.

The intent of this amendment to the schedule is to formalise current arrangements and maintain a consistent approach to the assessment of these chemicals across regulatory schemes.

The bill also makes technical amendments to the schedule to the act to improve clarity and consistency to other data requirements for new chemical assessments. These proposed technical amendments will not place any significant additional requirements on the industrial chemicals industry.

One technical amendment removes the current requirement for NICNAS to publish summary assessment reports.

The need to publish summary reports was originally included in the act at the time when NICNAS assessment reports were only available in hard copy and had to be purchased. As a result, a summary report was made available free of charge. With the advent of the internet, the NICNAS assessment reports are now freely available on the NICNAS website, rendering the publication of summary reports obsolete. However, to facilitate public access to these reports, NICNAS will publish a short notice outlining the key content of new assessment reports in the Chemical Gazette, with a link to those reports.

These amendments have been developed in response to industry and community concerns and in close consultation with industry, government and the community. The proposed amendments enable NICNAS to properly regulate chemicals used in cosmetics—and in other chemicals trans­ferred from other Commonwealth regulatory schemes—and to improve current data requirements and administrative processes to provide a more efficient process and make more information available to stakeholders. The bill does this while, of course, maintaining existing levels of worker safety, public health and environmental standards. These amendments therefore represent an important step in improving the operation of Australia's framework for regulating chemic­als and reflect the government's commitment to ensure the most efficient regulatory system is in place for industrial chemicals, including those in cosmetics.

Debate adjourned.