Monday, 18 February 2019
Industrial Chemicals Bill 2017; Consideration of Senate Message
These amendments relate to the Industrial Chemicals Bill 2017 and associated bills, which came to this place over a year ago and have been sitting before the Senate for that time. At the time that package of bills was brought into the chamber, Labor flagged three areas of concern with respect to the original legislation. First was the matter of the continued assessment of chemicals that are currently in use but that have never been assessed. It's the process referred to as the IMAP framework, and IMAP stands for inventory multi-tiered assessment and prioritisation. That's a program that has seen some 7½ thousand unassessed chemicals now assessed as part of a process where we're working through all of the 30,000-odd chemicals that are still unassessed. The original legislation provided no certainty that that process would continue. After discussion with the government, the government has agreed to continue that process and has provided a letter to the opposition to confirm that it is a commitment of the government to do so. Labor accepts that commitment and so the legislation wasn't formally amended because of it.
Secondly, the original legislation, in Labor's view, had loopholes within it that would have allowed cosmetic testing on animals to continue. This is something that we have been opposed to from the beginning. Indeed, Labor had the own legislation in 2016 that would have banned the cosmetic testing of animals into the future. Whilst the government legislation made some progress, the loopholes were of concern to us. As a result, there has been continuing negotiations with several of the animal rights groups, including Be Cruelty-Free and Humane Society International. The government has now agreed to using government rules to ensure that the process used in Australia is much more closely aligned to the animal processes that are currently in operation in many European countries. Again, Labor has accepted that the use of government rules which are, in effect, disallowable by the parliament is a way that those matters can be addressed and Labor has accepted that change to the proposition.
Thirdly, there was a concern that Labor raised with what are referred to as exempt chemicals or low-risk chemicals not being reported to the national regulator. Again, this was of concern, because we believe that all chemicals should be, at some point in time reported, to the national regulator so there is a record of what chemicals are used, in what quantities and by whom so that, if, in future years there is a problem, we can backtrack and identify where those chemicals were used and what effects they had. Again, as a result of Labor's concerns, the government has agreed to make changes to the legislation with respect to that, and the amendments that we're now voting on are, indeed, a change to the legislation which will mean those exempt chemicals will be reported to the regulator in future.
Overall, I believe that this is now better legislation. It is legislation that fits in and aligns much more closely with the public expectations, both with respect to cosmetic testing on animals, which I know the public broadly opposes and which in today's world is both cruel and unnecessary; and, secondly, with respect to public expectations of safety, whereby it's important that there are records kept of chemicals and to what extent they have been used so that in the future, if there is an adverse reaction, we're able to trace not only who might be affected by them but where they were used. With those comments, we will be supporting the amendment.