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Wednesday, 18 September 2019
Page: 3365


Mr LITTLEPROUD (MaranoaMinister for Water Resources, Drought, Rural Finance, Natural Disaster and Emergency Management) (10:42): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I have great pleasure in moving the second reading of the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Legislation Amendment (Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority Board and Other Improvements) Bill 2019.

Australians need access to safe and effective agricultural chemicals and veterinary medicines. They protect our crops, livestock and domestic pets; safeguard our environment from invasive weeds and pests; and meet consumer needs for things such as household insecticides.

Agvet chemicals, as these products are commonly known, have brought long-term benefits to Australian agriculture by supporting increased productivity, better quality produce and more competitive industries.

It is important that the regulation of agvet chemicals continues to be streamlined to maximise the benefits for Australia. It is also imperative to ensure that the strong safeguards built into the regulation of agvet chemicals are not compromised.

Through a cooperative scheme with the states and territories, the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority—the APVMA—is the national regulator of agvet chemicals up to, and including, the point of supply. The APVMA has an important role in ensuring that agvet chemicals supplied in Australia are safe for people, animals, plants and the environment, and don't adversely impact our trade market access.

The APVMA needs to be both efficient and effective in its regulation of agvet chemicals. The bill supports these objectives by streamlining regulatory processes while strengthening the vital protections for the health and safety of humans, animals and the environment.

This measure has the potential to free up the time of the APVMA's assessors so they can focus on more complex assessments.

The bill also removes the need for industry to undertake two unrelated reporting activities—one for levies, based on chemical product sales, and a more complex reporting activity on active constituent quantities. It simplifies and aligns these reporting processes based on the quantity and value of product sales. This significantly reduces reporting costs for industry without compromising the availability of information for our international reporting obligations and policy development needs. The chemical industry has been seeking changes to the burdensome reporting requirements and the bill delivers these changes.

The bill also provides for incentives for registration holders to include on product labels certain uses of chemical products that they would not ordinarily register. Similar to the approaches applied internationally, the incentives in the bill operate by extending data protection periods on information for up to five years, if certain priority uses are included on labels. These extensions would be prescribed in the regulations. Based on the experience of these incentives overseas, this will encourage more priority uses on labels, including minor uses, where the costs of adding the use are not justified by the additional commercial returns to chemical manufacturers. This will significantly benefit Australian farmers.

Other measures in the bill will enable the holder of an approval or registration to vary the approval or registration while it is suspended. This will ensure that the issue identified that led to the suspension of the approval or registration can be appropriately rectified at the holder's request.

The bill also makes changes to strengthen the integrity of the regulatory framework.

To perform its role as a regulator the APVMA has to rely on information provided to it by applicants. The bill provides the APVMA with a broader suite of sanctions.

The board, appointed by the Minister for Agriculture, will consist of a chair, the APVMA's CEO and three other members selected on the basis of their skills. Board members will be appointed on a part-time basis. The CEO is included as an ex-officio board member to support informed and collective decision-making and ensure the board's policies are effectively integrated into day-to-day operations.

The APVMA will continue to deliver independent and evidence based decisions. The board will oversee how the APVMA does its job by establishing and monitoring the framework under which it operates. Day-to-day administration and decision-making, such as registering individual chemical products and undertaking compliance and enforcement activities, will remain the responsibility of the APVMA's CEO.

The APVMA is one of the few corporate Commonwealth entities that does not have a governance board to ensure corporate compliance and management accountability. All other Commonwealth regulatory entities with direct responsibility for protecting human life and/or health (such as Food Standards Australia New Zealand, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority and the Civil Aviation Safety Authority) have governance boards.

The board model chosen by the government is comparable with other corporate Commonwealth entities and with private sector companies. Its proposed size, composition, role, functions, duties and powers conform to Commonwealth policy as well as modern best practice guidance on corporate governance. Board members will be required to have appropriate qualifications, skills or experience in financial management, law, risk management, public sector governance, science and/or public health.

In essence, this bill brings a governance and regulatory framework around the APVMA that will not impede the commercial viability of the chemical sector. I commend the bill to the House.

Debate adjourned.