House debates

Wednesday, 15 May 2013


Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Legislation Amendment Bill 2012; Second Reading

1:03 pm

Photo of Sid SidebottomSid Sidebottom (Braddon, Australian Labor Party, Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) Share this | Hansard source

But it also expects that these assessments will occur on a regular basis so they remain up to date.

This government is concerned for the health and safety of those people most exposed to dangerous chemicals. We want to improve farmer safety as well as improving the health and safety of all people exposed to agvet chemicals. We also want our trading partners to be assured about the agricultural products we export. The reregistration scheme proposed brings Australia into line with other comparable international regulators but is not a copy necessarily of the overseas approach. The scheme in schedule 2 complements the Australian chemicals market so it delivers the desired outcomes without unnecessarily resulting in the withdrawal of safe and useful chemicals. So let us be clear about this: companies will not have to generate new data to make an application for reregistration. Opposition members have continually repeated this fundamentally wrong view about what is involved with a reregistration application.

The scheme design imposes the most minimal requirements on industry. Holders of approvals or registrations would only need to provide information that they should already have access to. They will make a simple application electronically; the authority then does all the work from here. There is no blanket requirement for a chemical company to generate a whole new set of data to support reregistration, contrary to statements made by those opposite. The bill specifically provides that the authority cannot—and I reinforce that, cannot—require information from an applicant that the applicant cannot reasonably be expected to have. The government accepts that a long history of safe use counts in favour of keeping a tried and true chemical on the market. After looking at the simple application, where there are no reasonable grounds to believe a chemical is not safe the chemical will be reregistered without further obligations on the chemical company. The chemical company may choose not to reregister a chemical rather than have its safety examined. It is their choice. That is a commercial decision. The government does not promote particular products over others.

The opposition also does not understand how chemicals will come into the reregistration scheme. The safety of a chemical is determined mainly by the hazard of the active constituent. Whether or not a product passes reregistration will be determined almost entirely on whether the active constituent in the product is still safe to be used. The APVMA will consider all products with the same active constituent together. It will not be looking at individual products, as mentioned by those opposite, so much as it will look at the chemistry behind the product. There are only 780 different active constituents. The authority will not have to, as the member for Paterson earlier incorrectly claimed, assess applications for more than 9,000 products in one year. All reregistration applications will not happen all at once, as the member for Paterson said earlier in a gross exaggeration—but why am I not surprised by that?

Applications will be made progressively over the next 15 years, with the order of those applications determined by the risk of the chemical. This was made clear in draft regulations published last year. Products will remain on the market during this time and will continue to be on the market until a decision is made. If the decision is that a more detailed review is required, this will be scheduled and unless there is an immediate safety issue the product will remain on the market until a full scientific review of the issues identified in reregistration can be considered. The reregistration process cannot be manipulated by pressure groups to force chemicals off the market. (Extension of time granted)

Finally, on compliance, in 2011-12 the authority closed 198 cases of alleged noncompliance, completed eight investigations, completed 18 recall actions, conducted 96 compliance monitoring visits and oversaw 60 audits of veterinary manufacturers. Schedule 3 of the bill improves the authority's ability to do this job. It provides the authority with more enforcement options to allow it to respond to the risk posed by non-compliant behaviour in an appropriately proportional manner. This will improve the authority's ability to make regulatory decisions that protect public health and safety and the environment with confidence.

It is of great concern that the member for Dawson should think that improving the authority's ability to deal will those few malfeasant companies that try to avoid the law should mean that the system is harder to navigate. Industry is supportive of strong compliance powers as they benefit law-abiding makers and users of agvet chemicals. The authority is developing education and communication information to assist industry with the adjustment to the new law. This includes publishing a risk compendium. The compendium has already progressively been published by the authority's websites.

I understand that the opposition will make amendments seeking the removal of the reapplication and reregistration scheme and delaying implementation, as the member earlier mentioned. I will have more to say about these amendments and the importance of and the need for these reforms at the appropriate time. Thanks for your patience.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.

Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.


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