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Thursday, 3 December 2020
Page: 10439

Ms LEY (FarrerMinister for the Environment) (10:43): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

On behalf of the Morrison government, I am pleased to introduce the Industrial Chemicals Environmental Management (Register) Bill 2020 to the House.

This bill is at the centre of a package of legislation that will deliver groundbreaking improvements to the way that environmental risks from industrial chemicals are managed in this country. It delivers on reforms agreed by environment ministers from all Australian jurisdictions to drive consistency and higher standards for environmental protection across the nation, and I thank my state and territory colleagues for their cooperation and support in this process.

These are commonsense reforms. They've been designed in cooperation with the states and territories and in consultation with industry and the public. They will deliver streamlined, transparent, efficient and predictable regulation.

This bill is another example of the Morrison government's commitment to leading national action to protect Australia's environment, strengthen our economy and support our communities.

Currently, there are more than 40,000 industrial chemicals able to be used in Australia.

Many of these chemicals underpin aspects of modern life. They are used in household items, including cosmetics, paints, cleaning products, plastics and packaging materials, as well as in manufacturing, mining and fuel production.

Most do not pose significant risks to people or the environment. However, it is clear that some, if not managed properly, can cause serious harm. It's also been clear that current regulatory arrangements for managing these risks are lacking

Regulations for managing environmental risks from industrial chemicals differ across Australia's jurisdictions. This creates two problems: it contributes to complexity and uncertainty for business; and it fails to deliver consistently high environmental protection.

The bill will address these problems and fills an important regulatory gap. It establishes a new national standard for environmental risk management of industrial chemicals, which will:

streamline the regulation of use, storage and disposal of chemicals,

improve consumer confidence in the safety of chemicals,

drive consistency across jurisdictions, and

better safeguard Australia's land, air, waterways, and its people, by reducing the impacts of chemicals on the environment.

The bill will establish a legislative framework that allows industrial chemicals, or particular uses of an industrial chemical, to be listed in categories (known as schedules) according to their level of concern to the environment. It also provides for management measures to be prescribed to address those risks. Chemicals which pose greater risks to people and our environment will have stronger, tighter controls and management requirements.

These scheduling decisions will be made available on a public register. States, territories and the Commonwealth will then implement the new standards within their own regulatory frameworks.

Environment protection agencies in each jurisdiction currently look after the on-the-ground regulation of industrial chemicals. These reforms do not change that. What they do is establish a single standard—a single source of truth, in the public register—for managing the environmental risks from industrial chemicals in Australia.

This streamlined approach gives greater certainty to Australian industry, manufacturers, retailers and end users. It delivers clear advice on the potential impact these chemicals could have on the environment and how to manage these substances.

It will also provide assurance that our regulatory approach to environmental protection for industrial chemicals meets global standards, ensuring that Australia is on at least equal footing with many of our international trading partners.

The Commonwealth is leading these reforms through the introduction of this bill. In addition, in the recent budget, the government announced funding to support implementation of these scheduling decisions in areas under Commonwealth control. This will ensure the new standards are met by activities in Commonwealth areas and at Australia's borders.

This bill is part of once-in-a-generation regulatory improvements to protect the health of Australians and provide greater protection of the environment than ever before. It follows the introduction of the Industrial Chemicals Act 2019, which better targets chemicals of concern for assessment of their risk to human health and the environment.

The Industrial Chemicals Environmental Management (Register) Bill takes this transformation even further. It delivers stronger protections for Australia's environment than ever before.

Australians are right to expect that chemicals should be used in a way that will not damage the environment, regardless of whereabouts in the country they are.

It makes sense for Australians to expect that chemicals are consistently regulated and managed to protect our land, air, and waterways.

Businesses and industry need and expect clear parameters in which to operate.

And it is incumbent upon governments to make sure there are efficient and appropriate controls to protect people and our environment, now and into the future.

This legislation will deliver on these expectations. It will allow industry to make better-informed choices and give the Australian people greater confidence that the products they use have consistent environmental controls in place.

These reforms will help protect Australia's communities from harmful industrial chemicals and reflects the deep commitment the Morrison government has to protecting, preserving and enhancing our environment. I commend the bill to the House.

Debate adjourned.