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Tuesday, 18 September 2012
Page: 11129

Ms KING (BallaratParliamentary Secretary for Infrastructure and Transport and Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Ageing) (16:40): I thank the member for Boothby and the member for Moreton for their contribution to the debate on the Industrial Chemicals (Notification and Assessment) Amendment Bill 2012. As has been discussed, the bill delivers on important outcomes of the recent review of cost recovery arrangements for the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme, also known as NICNAS.

The bill fulfils this government's commitment to minimise regulatory burden on business by ensuring that fees and charges reflect the cost of the service actually provided. The bill does this by better aligning NICNAS levy arrangements with the value of chemicals introduced by importers and manufacturers of industrial chemicals. The proposed amendments to current registration charges will deliver a more equitable charging arrangement for business. This means that from 2013-14 more than 2,500 low-value introducers will pay less. Further, there will be a large number of businesses—approximately 1,690—from tiers 2 and 3 whose fees and charges will either be less or stay the same as what they paid in 2012-13. A relatively small number of higher value introducers—under 400—will pay more.

The member for Boothby rightly raised some issues in relation to industry concerns about why we are doing this before the better regulation partnership between the Department of Health and Ageing and the Department of Finance and Deregulation is concluded. This CRIS has been a very long time in coming—several years, in fact, of extensive consultations across industry and across the non-government sector. It supports some very important work that we want NICNAS to get on with. It also supports a fairer fee structure for business.

The amendments in this bill to registration charges support a very important program of work that is beginning to assess the large number of chemicals on the Australian inventory whose impact on human health and the environment is unknown. In 1990, approximately 38,000 chemicals were nominated by industry to be grandfathered as existing chemicals. These 38,000 chemicals have never been assessed for their impacts on human health and the environment. We do not know the quantities of these chemicals, how they are being used, whether they are still even on the market in Australia—many of them will not be—and the extent to which the community and the environment are being exposed. Understandably, the unknown risks associated with these chemicals have been of great concern to the community and to us. That is why Labor committed to ensuring that the risks posed by these chemicals to the community, workers and the environment be reduced. It is very much part of our policy platform.

Our commitment to this is demonstrated with the launch recently of the framework that will see the faster assessment of these chemicals. I am pleased to announce that stage 1 of this program has already commenced. In this stage, NICNAS will be looking at chemicals identified by stakeholders as needing priority assessment. This includes chemicals for which NICNAS does hold exposure data, chemicals that overseas bodies have taken action against, and chemicals found in babies' cord blood This has been a very longstanding issue, sitting on the policy agenda, and I am very pleased that we are in fact taking action on it. Over the next four years, 3,000 chemicals will be assessed. As you can see, this body of work is about the long-term safety and protection of the Australian community and our environment. Other measures that are included in this bill ensure that fees are equitably applied only to businesses seeking particular NICNAS services and that provisions relating to fees for redundant services are removed. The measures described in the bill have been subject to extensive consultation, and stakeholder views have been taken into account in finalising NICNAS's cost recovery arrangements. In addition to delivering on important outcomes of the recent review of the NICNAS cost recovery arrangements, the bill also ensures consistency with the new model health, work and safety laws, which commenced in the Commonwealth in some Australian states and territories on 1 January this year. Changes will also be made to the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Code Act 1994, which cross-references the NICNAS Act. These amendments reflect the government's commitment to ensuring that the most efficient and equitable regulatory system is in place for industrial chemicals while maintaining human health and environmental safety.

In closing, I particularly want to acknowledge the input of stakeholders in developing measures included in the bill. I believe that the collaboration between, government, industry and the community has delivered well-considered and appropriate mending legislation and I thank the opposition for their support.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.

Ordered that this bill be reported to the House without amendment.