House debates

Thursday, 18 October 2018


Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Legislation Amendment (Streamlining Regulation) Bill 2018; Second Reading

9:52 am

Photo of David LittleproudDavid Littleproud (Maranoa, National Party, Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

It is with pleasure that I move the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Legislation Amendment (Streamlining Regulation) Bill 2018.

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 increasing productivity, better quality produce and more competitive industries. Agvet chemicals will play an important part in helping our agriculture sector achieve the $60 billion worth of farm production forecast in 2018-19.

It is important that the regulation of agvet chemicals continues to be streamlined to maximise the benefits for all Australians. 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 also needs to be efficient and effective in its regulation of agvet chemicals. This bill furthers these objectives by streamlining regulatory processes, while retaining protections for the health and safety of humans, animals and the environment.

The bill makes changes to enable the use of new, simpler processes for chemical product assessment based on risk. These changes support improved access to safe and effective chemical products and reduce costs associated with their registration. They do this by better aligning regulatory effort with risk and reducing red tape.

The bill specifically provides for new prescribed approval and registration processes that will be quicker and less costly than those currently available, while also ensuring these products remain safe and effective. These new processes will apply for those active constituents, chemical products and labels that require minimal or no assessment of technical information.

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 provides for incentives for registration holders to include certain uses of chemical products on labels that they would not ordinarily register. This will encourage more minor and priority uses to be added to labels, where the costs of adding those are not justified by the additional commercial returns to chemical manufacturers. For example, where a chemical product is needed to control pests in a high-value, low volume export crop   or where a chemical product is needed for a niche crop or to deal with a particular regional pest.

These uses will improve productivity for farmers by allowing access to a wider range of safe and effective agricultural chemicals.

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 uses—such as minor and priority uses—are included on labels. These extensions would be prescribed in the regulations. Based on the experience of these incentives overseas, this could encourage more uses on labels, with significant benefits to Australian farmers.

A further measure in the bill provides for a disallowable instrument to be made by the APVMA in the future to prescribe a scheme for accredited third party assessment providers. This gives the APVMA the flexibility to implement a scheme that allows applicants and the APVMA to use accredited third party providers to undertake assessment services. It ensures though, that the APVMA remains the decision-maker in respect to approvals and registrations.

The bill also includes measures to improve risk communication about chemical products. This increases the transparency of voluntary recalls of agvet chemicals, and modernises the legislation so the reporting obligations are clear for persons recalling these chemicals.

Additional measures in the bill address some deficiencies or inconsistencies in the regulation of agvet chemicals. These are largely minor issues. However, when considered together, they improve the operational efficiency of the APVMA.

The measures in the bill represent a considered approach to improving agvet legislation and have been developed through a program of engagement with stakeholders. The bill has been consulted on publicly and this consultation has confirmed that the bill will deliver benefits to industry, the regulator and our community.

The bill will improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the national system for regulating agvet chemicals, while ensuring safe and effective agvet chemicals continue to be available to our community. I commend the bill to the House.

Debate adjourned.