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Thursday, 21 June 2007
Page: 135

Mr TUCKEY (10:14 AM) —The Industrial Chemicals (Notification and Assessment) Amendment (Cosmetics) Bill 2007, as the member for Gellibrand has just mentioned, is not in dispute in the House. It seems to have, as the government has chosen, an excellent practical effect. In reading the explanatory memorandum, I was somewhat astounded—but maybe I should not be, as I have been married for many years—to note that Australia accounts for approximately 1.2 per cent of worldwide sales of cosmetic products, with many products imported as fully formulated and packed products. That is 1.2 per cent of global consumption. However, the Australian cosmetics and toiletries market has been estimated by local industry organisations as being worth $5.2 billion and covers about 700 million units consumed annually. In other words, all that advertising we see obviously works. It is a very large industry and it is associated with products applied to the human body and, as such, warrants the appropriate oversight by government.

I wish to clarify an issue that I think the member for Gellibrand had some difficulty with, and that is the acronym for the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme; it is NICNAS. Children might have to recite it to show that they have the capacity to pronounce those sorts of things! This legislation is important. There are aspects of the government’s response in assessing the problem to which I would like to refer. Recommendations regarding this issue were considered by government in late 2005. Reforms were implemented on a limited interim administrative basis in relation to some cosmetics through the NICNAS Cosmetic Guidelines until such time as the legislation could be amended to enable the guidelines to become enforceable standards under the act. While the ingredients in cosmetics have been regulated by NICNAS as industrial chemicals for quite some time, the bill represents an extension of the existing approach by enabling the minister to make standards by legislative instrument for cosmetics products as a whole that are imported into or manufactured in Australia. With such a large product range, and considering the application of these products to the human body, that is an excellent proposition.

It is also worthy of note that this legislation will better define the responsibilities of the Therapeutic Goods Administration, the TGA, and NICNAS with respect to their particular responsibilities regarding the nature of these products. A third regulator, the agricultural and veterinary chemicals products manufacturing body, also has a significant role in this area. Prior to the conclusion of my speech, I want to make some remarks in that regard. The requirement is that we have an ongoing consideration of how the bureaucratic approach is applied. Speakers in this debate have made the point that this legislation will simplify various aspects of that process, and I hope that is to be the case. As the explanatory memorandum advises me:

In relation to cosmetics, the major objectives of the agreed reforms were to:

  • clarify the interface between TGA and NICNAS in terms of the regulation of cosmetics;
  • enable a greater range of cosmetics to be regulated by NICNAS rather than the TGA;
  • improve regulation at the interface for identified product types, including changes that could enhance the transparency and useability of existing regulatory documents; and
  • specifically address issues dealing with antiperspirants, mass-market antidandruff shampoos, moisturisers with SPF, antibacterial skin washes, and anti-acne cleansers.

All of these products are used comprehensively by many people and are of considerable importance. It might be interesting to know, as we are discussing chemicals, that the most effective deodorant now available is common salt in a block. Not only does it work very well from my personal experience, but it seems to be totally anti-allergenic. I guess it will still be priced well above the equivalent amount of salt one might buy for cooking. This is a reform people might take note of.

The objectives of government action are to maintain or enhance appropriate health, safety and environmental standards and, as far as possible, align Australia’s regulation of cosmetics with the international regulatory standards of major trading partners, thereby minimising any trade barriers. This will also enable full implementation of the agreed reforms for cosmetics at the interface; only partial implementation has been possible under the interim arrangements. A related objective is to ensure that there is clarity and regulatory certainty regarding the regulation of cosmetics and this will further enable NICNAS to recover the cost of the regulation of such cosmetics. The table provided shows that, of the options available to the government, the evidence is that this particular approach will be the least expensive. Whilst there is a relationship to cost in certain areas, it would appear from that table that this approach would be substantially lower than option 1, which is canvassed in the explanatory memorandum and on which I do not intend to comment today.

This is government legislation doing everything possible to implement a process that is simplified and certain and which hopefully will not limit the time or ability of people who manufacture or promote these different products in getting them to market. I have just made the point that it is only in recent times that someone has found that salt in a block is probably the most effective and least intrusive of deodorants. One wonders just how long someone looked at salt in that capacity to work out whether or not we could use it, notwithstanding that we drink it and eat it. So sometimes we find that the process is annoying, and I am of the opinion that that is the situation when it comes to agricultural chemicals. I am deeply concerned about the processes there. We had the opportunity to talk with the acting director only yesterday in the backbench agricultural committee, and we expressed our concerns about some of those activities. It is too good an opportunity not to say that there are significant delays.

The legislation has time limits in which these matters can be considered and that is to be applauded, but as a representative of rural people I constantly get strong expressions of concern about the delays in introducing new products. We are at pains with the NICNAS process in recognising that a lot of these products are imported and in considering how we should best deal with them, especially considering that most of the European and American sources of these products have quite stringent testing procedures, which I gather from the WTO reference in the explanatory memorandum will be recognised as such.

People who go offshore to pick up generic chemicals such as glyphosate, which ran out of patent many years ago, have all sorts of barriers in labelling and finding out how these things might work as agricultural and veterinary chemicals. Often they are very much needed. There has been a tendency in recent times to revisit past approvals. There is a product known as diazinon, which has been the standard treatment for blowfly strike and other infestations in sheepskin and wool, and it works particularly well. It also represents an alternative to mulesing, which is a surgical approach to stopping the wool around the breech of a sheep and therefore the most terrible attack by blowflies. As a consequence, it is very important.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. IR Causley)—I think the member for O’Connor is straying from the bill.

Mr TUCKEY —I wanted to point out that, while for diazinon we have these three separate administrative organisations to test these products, we seem to be able to create some shortcuts for cosmetics, and I approve of that. In the veterinary chemicals area, not only do we seem to have significant delays; we also have people revisiting products of that nature and saying that we should not use them anymore because they have some danger to humanity. I wonder, if that same approach were taken to some cosmetics that are popular with the females in particular, whether they would accept being told that they could not use a favourite cosmetic anymore for reasons that suggest that it would be harmful to them, when it had been used for years and it had had no harmful effect.

Mr Randall —You are not suggesting, Wilson, that they should be mulesed, are you!

Mr TUCKEY —Certainly not. The reality I am pointing out is that this is the alternative. That chemical was very useful to people in agriculture, and they have now simply been told that they cannot use it. Yet I can find examples of neither harm to humans over the many years that it has been used nor in fact, for that matter, harm to the sheep which frequently get dunked in it, let alone sprayed with it. I just make the point because the opportunity arises, in all of these processes, for the political structure to provide that the test not be overly intrusive or overly expensive, because obviously that cost will be passed on to consumers. In the case of veterinary chemicals, we find people wanting to withdraw products that have been around for a very long time, have a very definite use and, as far as I can see from a practical perspective, do not have any harmful effects.

I well remember reading a very interesting article in this wider regard about how easy it is to prove that a particular product is carcinogenic. Of course the typical process is to feed the product or make it available to laboratory rats. But the best way to induce cancer in a laboratory rat is to feed it too much protein. If they eat too much, they will get cancer. It might be a bit of a message to us. But the reality is that you can affect the outcome of those particular tests outside of the effect of the product being tested. I think these things need to be put on the record because that is quite silly.

It is interesting to note, when one starts to test these products—I made comment, as you might remember, in the party room—that testing capacity is now so definitive that a scientist writing on these matters and making that reference to laboratory rats said that we could now discover two teaspoons of vermouth if they were in the Great Lakes of America and if those Great Lakes were full of gin. This fellow went on to say that that would be a very dry martini. So we have those testing procedures, and we should be using them more positively in testing for drugs in humans. I will not extend on that for fear that I might also be told that I am getting a bit off the mark.

I support this legislation. It is very practical, and I hope it performs to the convenience of the industry and the consumer in a somewhat better way than the APVMA process.