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Wednesday, 25 October 2017
Page: 11889

Mr JOYCE (New EnglandDeputy Prime Minister, Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources and Minister for Resources and Northern Australia) (09:35): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

Agricultural chemicals and veterinary medicines—or agvet chemicals—are essential to our quality of life. We all know that these chemicals protect our crops and animals from pests and diseases, and underpin the productivity and competitiveness of Australia's farmers. However, agvet chemicals also have a range of other uses, including protecting our health, managing domestic pests and fulfilling consumer needs. Agvet chemicals are used to control vermin and pests in food premises, kill flies and mosquitoes around our houses, preserve timber, control fouling of boat hulls and keep our swimming pools safe. These chemicals are also vital for keeping our pets healthy and protecting our environment from invasive weeds and animals. The regulation of safe and effective agvet chemicals is therefore of interest to all Australians.

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. The APVMA ensures that agvet chemicals used in Australia are safe for people, animals, plants and the environment.

Legislation underpinning the APVMA and agvet chemical regulation was developed in the early 1990s. A detailed review of the whole legislative framework is overdue. The government announced in April that it would undertake such a review and the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources is currently developing terms of reference for this important piece of work.

In the meantime, the chemical industry has made it clear that there are simple, non-controversial changes that could be done now that improve the efficiency of the regulator and increase the speed to which farmers can get access to safe effective chemicals. We are heeding these calls.

The Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Legislation Amendment (Operational Efficiency) Bill 2017 amends agvet chemical legislation to streamline industry reporting and support the operational efficiency of the APVMA. The bill also clarifies some ambiguities in the legislation and removes unnecessary and redundant provisions.

This bill reduces some of the unnecessary regulatory burden on industry by simplifying reporting requirements for chemical products. The amendments in the bill ensure that industry continues to provide necessary information about registered chemicals in the marketplace but reduces the time and effort that industry require to collect this information.

Essentially, the bill 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 role of the regulator is to ensure that the safe agvet chemicals we need are available in a timely fashion. The bill therefore includes measures to improve the administrative efficiency of the APVMA and promote quicker access to chemical products. The measures in the bill reduce the handling time for applications by increasing the APVMA's flexibility when dealing with errors in applications and for altering applications.

Other measures in the bill enable the holder of a label approval to vary a label approval while this approval is suspended. This removes an administrative barrier that currently prevents the holder from addressing the reasons for the suspension. This will ensure that the issue with a label approval that led to its suspension can be appropriately rectified at the holder's request.

To perform its role as a regulator the APVMA has to rely on information provided to it by applicants. The bill includes civil penalty provisions for providing false or misleading information. These provisions provide a broader suite of sanctions than currently available to the APVMA for dealing with any false or misleading information that may be provided to it. This is important as it will provide the APVMA with the necessary tools to proportionately respond to any false or misleading information it receives. Industry understands the importance of increasing the range of compliance options available to the APVMA.

Further measures in the bill clarify the meaning of the expiry date for a chemical product and allow applicants to address minor errors identified during preliminary assessment of an application, without having to go through the whole application process again.

Stakeholders have confirmed that the bill will deliver tangible benefits to industry and the regulator.

Collectively, the measures in the bill will reduce regulatory burden on industry and allow the regulator to be more efficient, while ensuring safe and effective agvet chemicals continue to be available to the community.

The government will continue to work with industry to implement further improvements to agvet chemicals regulation through future legislation and administrative reform.

I would also like to convey my deepest sympathies to and keep in my closest thoughts and prayers the family of Linda Burney.

Debate adjourned.