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Wednesday, 23 June 2010
Page: 6444

Ms OWENS (11:24 AM) —I rise to speak on the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Code Amendment Bill 2010. I probably will not speak for long, as I am awaiting the arrival of my colleagues the members for Moreton and Makin, who have significant things to say on this bill. This is an interesting bill because it effectively is about reducing unnecessary regulation in two particular areas relating to the code. There are two measures which seek to improve efficiencies in the way chemicals are registered with the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority without jeopardising human health or the environment.

There are very good reasons, as the member for Wills has outlined, for reviewing regulation and even increasing regulation where it relates to environmental and health outcomes. But there are some aspects of the current regulation which make things difficult for the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority to operate that do not actually contribute any positive benefits; they are in fact regulation that slows down what should be quite a simple process. As I said, there are two particular areas. The first one concerns the general prohibition on using confidential information. At the moment, when an application for registering a product is made, everything concerning that application is considered to be confidential commercial information, including the fact that there was an application at all. That means that the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority has to ask the applicant’s permission even to seek information from the product manufacturer. What this amendment does is simplify that process considerably. It allows the APVMA to determine which aspects of the application are commercial information and to use the other information to engage in the process of reviewing the application.

The second aspect involves trade issues and the adequacy of product labels. Currently, the APVMA are required to consider trade as a decision criterion when they determine whether or not to grant or refuse an application but not when approving a label. The instructions specified on the product label ensure that proper use of the product will not adversely affect Australia’s exports. However, over time issues may arise that require changes to a label. Such issues may, for example, arise where an importing country reduces its maximum residue limit or establishes a zero tolerance. Again, this does not affect the nature of the product itself, but simply the information contained on the label. This sort of trade concern can be addressed by an instruction on the label but, currently, in order to update the label instructions to address what is only a trade issue, the APVMA must take regulatory action against the product registration. Only then can it update the label as a related action. It actually lacks the power at the moment to take direct action against the source of the concern, which in many cases is simply the product label. This bill addresses this problem by enabling the APVMA to focus the regulatory action upon the label approval when concerns about trade issues arise, without affecting the registration of the product.

They are both very sensible amendments which simplify an important process. They are a good example of reducing regulatory burden where regulation exists without providing any real gain, and I commend the bill to the House.