Review of the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme

The Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing and the Department of Finance and Deregulation are undertaking a review of NICNAS to investigate how the regulatory settings may be improved to enhance both the competitiveness of the Australian chemical industry and public health and environmental outcomes.

Page last updated: 11 January 2013

A Better Regulation Ministerial Partnership between the Minister for Finance and Deregulation and the Minister for Health has been established to evaluate and make recommendations on the regulatory settings for the notification, assessment and regulation of industrial chemicals, noting that any proposed changes to the regulatory arrangements for industrial chemicals should not weaken human health and environmental protection.

The Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing and the Department of Finance and Deregulation are undertaking a review of NICNAS to inform the Partnership.

Background

NICNAS is a statutory scheme within the portfolio of the Minister for Health, with responsibility delegated to the Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Ageing. The Director of NICNAS is a statutory office holder with specific functions under the Industrial Chemicals (Notification and Assessment) Act 1989 (the Act), including the scientific assessment of chemical risks to public health, occupational health and safety and the environment. NICNAS also has some responsibilities for recommending the control of risks in relation to new and existing chemicals.

There has been no over-arching review of NICNAS since its establishment in 1990. Recommendations to improve the effectiveness of chemicals and plastics regulation, including in relation to NICNAS, have, however, been made in the Report of the Taskforce on Reducing Regulatory Burdens on Business (January 2006) and the Productivity Commission Research Report: Chemicals and Plastics, July 2008.

Objective

The review will investigate how the regulatory settings may be improved to enhance both the competitiveness of the Australian chemical industry and public health and environmental outcomes. The review will include, but is not limited to, assessing and making recommendations in relation to:

  • the role and functions of NICNAS as set out in the Act and the extent to which they adequately reflect stakeholder expectations and international best practice, having regard to the broader context of chemicals regulation in Australia
  • the governance and consultation arrangements of NICNAS and the extent to which they support the effective delivery of NICNAS' functions
  • the efficiency and effectiveness of NICNAS' operating arrangements and business processes, with particular regard to the protection of human and environmental health, the management of risk, and compliance costs for business, and
  • any implications for the resourcing of functions currently cost recovered, should the review recommend changed responsibilities.

The review will have particular regard to the recommendations of the Productivity Commission Research Report: Chemicals and Plastics Regulation, July 2008 and relevant commitments made under the Council of Australian Governments' Seamless National Economy National Partnership Agreement.

Discussion Paper

The Discussion Paper: Review of the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS)-June 2012, outlining potential options for reforming the regulation of industrial chemicals, was released on 1 June 2012.

Consultation on the Discussion Paper has now closed.

All submissions will be shared with relevant Commonwealth agencies and any consultants engaged to assist with the review.

Stakeholder Engagement Workshops

During the consultation period, stakeholder engagement workshops were offered in each of the capital cities between 26 June and 16 July 2012. Due to the level of interest, workshops were subsequently held in Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

Regulatory Impact Workshop

A further workshop was held on 15 October 2012 to provide key non-government stakeholders an opportunity to comment on the general regulatory impact of options for reform.

Draft Regulatory Impact Statement

The department is consulting with key stakeholders during June/July 2013 on a Draft Options for reforming the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme - Regulation Impact Statement (June 2013) which assesses the impact of four options for reform, compares these options to the base case (no reform) and makes recommendations regarding a preferred option. For further information please email NICNAS (NICNAS.review@health.gov.au)

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