Submissions to the 2012 Review of the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme - Unilever Australasia

The Discussion Paper: Review of the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS)–June 2012 was released on 1 June 2012. Submissions were received betweeen 1 June and 27 July 2012. The comments received from this consultation process will be used to inform the government of stakeholder views

Page last updated: 21 September 2012

PDF printable version of Unilever Australasia submission (PDF 150 KB)

1. Letter
2. Submission form
3. Submission table




1. Letter

Unilever Australasia
20 Cambridge Street
Epping NSW 2121
Private Bag 2
Epping NSW 1710
Australia

T: (02) 9869 6100
F: (02) 9869 6150

NICNAS Review
Department of Health and Ageing
MDP71
GPO Box 9848
CANBERRA ACT 2601

Dear Sirs

Review of the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme Discussion Paper

Unilever Australasia is an international manufacturer and marketer of food, home and personal care products and is a market leader in many grocery categories in Australia and New Zealand. Our well known home and personal care brands include Rexona, Sunsilk, Vaseline, Dove, Omo/Persil, Surf, Domestos and Jif.

We have a significant interaction with NICNAS through new chemical notifications, annual reporting obligations and membership of the NICNAS Industry Engagement Group & the Handbook Review Group and are well equipped to provide a local company perspective on the NICNAS Review Discussion Paper.

Unilever is also an active member of Accord and the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) and we wish to express our full support for Accord and AFGC's submissions on the discussion paper.

Unilever supports the objective of the Better Regulation Ministerial Partnership Review of NICNAS to identify means of improving the competitiveness of the Australian chemical industry as well as maintaining occupational safety, public health and environmental standards. It is our view that the current system for managing chemicals in Australia is too complex, fragmented, and overly bureaucratic and does not align with our major trading partners. This results in a barrier to product innovation and hinders the introduction of "greener" chemicals and imposes a considerable cost burden to industry. Top of page

While a review of NICNAS and ICNA Act is welcomed, the fundamental issue of strategic management and regulation of chemicals in Australia remains virtually unaddressed. The Productivity Commission Review 2008 provided a roadmap for a new regulatory framework. However, inaction on the implementation of PC review recommendations is an ongoing source of concern and frustration.

There are a number of general principles which are considered essential for an efficient and effective regulatory framework, which include:
  • Risk management through risk prioritisation of industrial chemicals with a focus on hazardous chemicals
  • Clarification of NICNAS' role and responsibilities with an emphasis on scientific risk assessment and removal of post market and compliance obligations
  • Harmonising the regulatory treatment of new industrial chemicals with that of other advanced economies and increased acceptance of overseas assessments
  • Removal of cosmetic ingredients and products from the scope of industrial chemical regulation and alignment with the requirements of similar economies, such as EU & New Zealand
  • Reduction of the cost & resource burden to industry through measures such as the elimination of annual reporting and recognition of chemicals on international inventories
A more detailed explanation of these principles can be found in the Accord and AFGC submissions.

The Unilever position on each of the options proposed in the discussion paper are found in the accompanying attachment.

Please contact either of us if you have questions in relation to this submission on 02 9869 6221 or email Julie Newlands and John Graham.Top of page

Yours sincerely
Julie Newlands / John Graham
Regulatory Manager
9 August 2012

A division of
Unilever Australia Ltd
A.B.N 66 004 050 828

2. Submission form

Unilever Australasia
Julie Newlands
Regulatory Manager
(02) 9869 6221

20 Cambridge St
Epping NSW 2121

Part 4—The regulatory framework for industrial chemicals (options A1–A3)

A1—Qualified Support—Low priority. The focus must be on clarifying the relative roles and responsibilities of the different agencies under an integrated chemical regulatory framework

A2—Support. This should be a pre cursor to the development of a national chemical policy in which roles and responsibilities of all agencies are clearly defined with no gaps or overlaps.

A3—qualified Support. The priority must be the implementation of the PC recommendation 4.3 and the development of a National Chemical Policy—a consequence of theses strategic changes should then be to review existing MOU’sTop of page

Part 5—New industrial chemicals (options B1–B6)

B1—Support. Alignment of permit and exemption threshold volumes ,data requirements and applicability criteria with other advanced countries, such as EU, Canada, NZ and US, to ensure an efficient, cost effective and harmonised regulatory regime. Emphasis should be on higher risk chemicals. Annual reporting of exemptions and permits should be replaced by an obligation to maintain records for 5 years, due to the significant administrative burden of annual reporting.

B2—Support. Increase range of exemptions AND reduce the administrative burden of the risk management requirements for low risk chemicals, particularly annual reporting.

B3—Do NOT support. We do not support this proposal without full consideration of the potential costs and benefits. We do support a more structured approach to the NICNAS process with defined timings. As the screening process is the first step in the process, costs for this should be looked at in the overall process context, rather than additional costs added in. This proposal should be reviewed within the context of the cost recovery guidelines.

B4—Support. We agree with streamlining of the assessment process so that it is consistent with best overseas practice, and focusing resources on higher risk chemicals. However, the latter 2 points confer on NICNAS the powers of a risk management agency, which clearly it is not and is contrary to PC Recommendation 4.3—we do not support these proposals

B5—Do NOT support. None of the proposals are supported as they go beyond NICNAS’s role of risk assessor and into the area of risk management (refer PC Recommendation 4.4)

B6—Do not support. Changes to the ICNA Act should not add complexity and should be aligned to NICNAS’s role as a risk assessor. Support for strategic review rather than piecemeal changes to the Act.Top of page

Part 6—Existing industrial chemicals (options C1–C6)

C1—Conditional support. PEC process must be more streamlined, flexible and transparent than current and must have a prescribed start and end dates

C2—Do not support. The intent of this option is unclear given the recent introduction of the Inventory Multi-tiered Assessment and prioritization (IMAP) framework

C3—Do not support. The mandatory collection of additional information from industry and downstream users cannot be supported. Greater use of international assessments is preferable to increasing burden on local industry

C4—Support. Support for the removal of general powers to impose conditions of use chemicals after a chemical has been entered on AICS. We cannot and do not support replacement powers as they fall under risk management and are not consistent with PC report recommendations

C5—Do not support. There is a considerable cost and resource burden for introducers and downstream users to notify NICNAS when they are no longer using chemicals listed on AICS

C6—Conditional Support. A more strategic review and consequent high level changes should be undertaken, rather than ad hoc changes to specific areas

Part 7—Post market monitoring and enforcement (Options D1–D3)

D1—Do not support. Do not support secondary notification proposal. Removal of secondary notification function from the ICNA Act should be considered

D2—Do not support. Systems are already in place for the mandatory reporting of adverse effects of formulated products, eg ACCC. This area is clearly outside NICNAS’s remit and further pushes the agency into risk management

D3—Support. No objection to this option subject to the introduction of reforms outlined in B1. Compliance requirements should be proportional to riskTop of page

Part 8—Other reforms—release of information and confidential commercial information (Options E1–E2)

E1—Do not support. Insufficient evidence provided to justify increase in disclosure powers. Any risk to the treatment and /or disclosure of commercial-in-confidence information is not supported

E2—Do not support.—Insufficient evidence provided to justify increase in disclosure powers. Any risk to the treatment and /or disclosure of commercial-in-confidence information is not supported

Part 8—Other reforms—use of foreign schemes/ international assessments (Options F1–F2)

F1—Strongly support. It is entirely appropriate for NICNAS to accept assessments from other first world countries, as New Zealand does, and is an opportunity to reduce Australia-only barriers to chemical assessments

F2—Strongly Support. This option will reduce complexity and improve alignment with other chemical schemes, thus facilitating the exchange of information

Part 8—Other reforms—chemicals in articles (Options G1–G2)

G1—Do not support. The problem has not been clearly defined

G2—The ICNA Act is quite clear on this matter. We do not support piecemeal changes to the Act

Part 8—Other reforms—chemicals in cosmetics (Option H1-H2)

H1—Strongly support. We support the regulation of cosmetic products as consumer goods under Australian Consumer Law, regulated by the ACCC. NICNAS is responsible for chemical risk assessment, not the regulation of formulated products. The Cosmetic Standard should be repealed as it implies NICNAS as the cosmetic products regulator, a role which was criticized in the PC report.

H2—It is clear that the ICNA Act does not confer the power to regulate cosmetic products to NICNAS and this was recognized in the PC report. Cosmetic products should be regulated as consumer goods under the control of the ACCC, the product safety regulator. The NZ Cosmetic Products Group Standard is good example of a pragmatic and flexible approach to the regulation of this product category, including recognition of imported cosmetics that are regulated under highly reputable regulatory frameworks. Also, the adoption of the IFRA Code should be actively pursued as a means of harmonizing the use of fragrance ingredients between major first world countriesTop of page

Part 8—Other reforms—Import and export of chemicals under the Stockholm and Rotterdam Conventions (Option I1-I2)

I1—Support. This is consistent with PC Recommendation 4.3

I2—Support. This is consistent with PC Recommendation 4.3

Part 8—Other reforms—Governance—Committees (Option J1)

J1—Support. Support for the establishment of an independent technical advisory committee to provide advice to the Director and efficient and effective management structure and stakeholder committees

Part 8—Other reforms—Governance—Relationship with the Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA) (Option K1)

K1—Support. Should be a part of a broader strategic review of NICNAS’s role. The preferred location of NICNAS should also be considered as part of developing a National Chemicals Policy.Top of page

3. Submission table

The Regulatory Framework for Industrial Chemicals

Option No.DetailsUnilever's positionComments
    A1
Detailed industrial chemicals risk assessment and management manualQualified supportLow priority. The focus must be on clarifying the relative roles and responsibilities of the different agencies under an integrated chemical regulatory framework
    A2
Australian Government cross-portfolio group to consider chemical policy issuesSupportThis should be a pre-cursor to the development of a national chemical policy in which the roles and responsibilities of all agencies are clearly defined with no gaps or overlaps
    A3
MOU between NICNAS & other agencies be reviewed and re-negotiatedQualified supportThe priority must be the implementation of PC Recommendation 4.3, and the development of a National Chemical Policy—a consequence of these strategic changes should then be to review existing MOUs.
Top of page

New Industrial Chemicals

Option No.DetailsUnilever's positionComments
    B1
Reduce number of assessment categories & review volume thresholds, data requirements with view to harmonising with overseas arrangementsSupportAlignment of permit and exemption threshold volumes, data requirements and applicability criteria with other advanced countries, such as EU, Canada, NZ and US, to ensure an efficient, cost effective and harmonised regulatory regime. Emphasis should be on higher risk chemicals. Annual reporting of exemptions and permits should be replaced by an obligation to maintain records for 5 years, due to the significant administrative burden of annual reporting
    B2
Consider new & expanded exemptionsSupportIncrease range of exemptions AND reduce the administrative burden of the risk management requirements for low risk chemicals, particularly annual reporting
    B3
Introduce a pre-assessment statutory screening process, with time frames, to enable NICNAS to refuse an application if it does not include all necessary informationDo not supportWe do not support this proposal without full consideration of the potential costs and benefits. We do support a more structured approach to the NICNAS process with defined timings. As the screening process is the first step in the process, costs for this should be looked at in the overall process context, rather than additional costs added in. This proposal should be reviewed within the context of the cost recovery guidelines.
    B4
Streamline assessment process (eg 4 successive technical phases);SupportWe agree with streamlining of the assessment process, so that it consistent with best overseas practice, and focussing resources on higher risk chemicals.
Enable NICNAS to refuse an assessment certificate in prescribed circumstances; enable NICNAS to impose conditions of use on an assessment certificateDo not supportHowever, the latter 2 points confer on NICNAS the powers of a risk management agency, which clearly it is not and is contrary to PC Recommendation 4.3—we do NOT support these proposals.
    B5
After 5 years if chemical is subject to conditions of use and risk management measures not imposed, the chemical is not entered on AICS; enable to refuse to enter a chemical in prescribed circumstances; during 5 years following assessment of a new chemical, the Introducer decides to stop the chemical, NICNAS may choose not to enter the chemical on AICSDo not supportNone of the proposals are supported as they go beyond NICNAS' role of risk assessor and into the area of risk management (refer PC Recommendation 4.4)
    B6
Ensure any legislative changes do not adversely impact existing safeguards, eg applicant’s right of appeal, confidentiality provisions, transparency etcDo not supportChanges to the ICNA Act should not add complexity and should be aligned to NICNAS' role as a risk assessor. Support for strategic review rather than piecemeal changes to the Act
Top of page

Existing Industrial Chemicals

Option No.DetailsUnilever's positionComments
    C1
Maintain existing PECs process, but remove unnecessary prescriptive detailConditional supportPEC process must be more streamlined, flexible and transparent than current and must have prescribed start and end dates
    C2
Introduce new legislative assessment process for non-PECsDo not supportThe intent of this option is unclear given the recent introduction of the Inventory Multi-tiered Assessment and Prioritisation (IMAP) framework.
    C3
Broaden mandatory information-gathering powers to enable NICNAS to better undertake risk assessment activities and adequately manage AICSDo not supportThe mandatory collection of additional information from industry and downstream users cannot be supported. Greater use of international assessments is preferable to increasing burden on local industry
    C4
Remove general power for NICNAS to impose conditions of use after chemical has been entered on AICSSupportSupport for the removal of general powers to impose conditions of use on chemicals after a chemical has been entered on AICS,
Replace with more limited power to impose conditions on a chemical listed on AICS only if an existing chemical assessment has been undertaken and remove a chemical from AICS if NICNAS considers there is an unacceptable public health risk etcDo not supportWe cannot and do not support replacement powers as they fall under risk management and are not consistent with PC report recommendations
    C5
Establish a new Part of AICS for chemicals that are no longer in use, with view to removal from AICSDo not supportThere is a considerable cost and resource burden for introducers and downstream users to notify NICNAS when they are no longer using chemicals listed on AICS
    C6
Ensure any legislative changes do not adversely impact existing safeguards, eg applicant’s right of appeal, confidentiality provisions, transparency etcConditional supportA more strategic review and consequent high level changes should be undertaken, rather than ad hoc changes to specific areas
Top of page

Post-Market Monitoring and Enforcement

Option No.DetailsUnilever's positionComments
    D1
Streamline secondary notification process for existing chemicals—NICNAS re-assessment could use streamlined or PEC-style approach and AICS could list function and use of chemical related to original assessmentDo not supportDo not support secondary notification proposal. Removal of secondary notification function from the ICNA Act should be considered
    D2
Supplement existing secondary notification requirements with a more comprehensive system of mandatory adverse effects reporting for new and existing chemicalsDo not supportSystems are already in place for the mandatory reporting of adverse effects of formulated products, eg ACCC. This area is clearly outside NICNAS' remit and further pushes the agency into risk management
    D3
Introduce into ICNA Act a comprehensive, graduated & contemporary compliance regime to enable NICNAS better manage complianceSupportNo objection to this option subject to the introduction of reforms outlined in B1. Compliance requirements should be proportional to risk
Top of page

Release of Information & Commercial Confidence Information

Option No.DetailsUnilever's positionComments
    E1
Amend ICNA Act to enable release of (including confidential commercial) information to other C'wealth & state agenciesDo not supportInsufficient evidence provided to justify increase in disclosure powers. Any risk to the treatment and/or disclosure of commercial-in-confidence information is not supported
    E2
Amend the ICNA Act such that at time of listing on AICS, the chemical name would be subject to contemporary confidentiality criteria to increase transparencyDo not supportFor the same reasons as given in E1
Top of page

Use of foreign schemes/international assessments

Option No.DetailsUnilever's positionComments
    F1
Increase utilisation of international assessments to support and streamline the assessments for permitsStrongly supportIt is entirely appropriate for NICNAS to accept assessments from other first world countries, as New Zealand does, and is an opportunity to reduce Australia-only barriers to chemical assessments
    F2
Better align categories & data requirements for exemptions, permits & certificates with US, EU etcStrongly supportThis option will reduce complexity and improve alignment with other chemical schemes, thus facilitating the exchange of information
Top of page

Chemicals in Articles

Option No.DetailsUnilever's positionComments
    G1
Clarify role of NICNAS in relation to chemicals in articlesDo not supportThe problem has not been clearly defined
    G2
Amend ICNA Act to clarify role of NICNAS in the assessment of chemicals, particularly imported articlesDo not supportThe ICNA Act is quite clear on this matter. We do not support piecemeal changes to the Act
Top of page

Chemicals in Cosmetics

Option No.DetailsUnilever's positionComments
    H1
Responsibility for administration and enforcement of the Cosmetics Standard 2007 be transferred to the ACCC, but assessment of chemicals in cosmetics would remain with NICNASStrongly supportWe support the regulation of cosmetic products as consumer goods under Australian Consumer Law, regulated by the ACCC. NICNAS is responsible for chemical risk assessment, not the regulation of formulated products. The Cosmetics Standard should be repealed as it implies NICNAS as the cosmetic products regulator, a role which was criticised in the PC report.
    H2
New provisions introduced into ICNA Act (and on AICS) to specifically deal with chemicals in cosmetics (not treated as industrial chemicals), eg a inventory of cosmetic ingredients, positive and negative lists, better alignment with international approachesDo not supportIt is clear that the ICNA Act does not confer the power to regulate cosmetic products to NICNAS and this was recognized in the PC report. Cosmetic products should be regulated as consumer goods under the control of the ACCC, the product safety regulator. The NZ Cosmetic Products Group Standard is a good example of a pragmatic and flexible approach to the regulation of this product category, including recognition of imported cosmetics that are regulated under highly reputable regulatory frameworks. Also, the adoption of the IFRA Code should be actively pursued as a means of harmonising the use of fragrance ingredients between major first world countries
Top of page

Import & Export of Chemicals under Stockholm and Rotterdam Conventions

Option No.DetailsUnilever's positionComments
      I1
Remove regulations relating to import & export of these Convention chemicals from ICNA legislationSupportThis is consistent with PC Recommendation 4.3
      I2
Retain regulations relating to import & export of these Convention chemicals from ICNA legislationDo not supportThis is inconsistent with PC Recommendation 4.3
Top of page

Governance—Committees

Option No.DetailsUnilever's positionComments
    J1
Consider most appropriate role & membership of committees once reform options identifiedSupportSupport for the establishment of an independent technical advisory committee to provide advice to the Director and efficient and effective management structure and stakeholder committees
Top of page

Relationship with the Dept of Health & Ageing

Option No.DetailsUnilever's positionComments
    K1
DoHA work with NICNAS to clarify roles & responsibilities and address any administrative and resource deficienciesSupportShould be part of a broader strategic review of NICNAS' role. The preferred location of NICNAS should also be considered as part of developing a National Chemicals Policy.

Top of page

A full list of all 2012 submissions can be viewed at June 2012 submissions to the review of NICNAS.