We published Promoting safer chemical use: towards better regulation of chemicals in Australia – Final report and recommendations in December 2006 after approval by the Parliamentary Secretary. The report was released to the Acting Director NICNAS by the representative Review Steering Committee (RSC – see Appendix 15) which had been charged with overseeing the EC Program review to ensure the process was consistent with the principles and protocol of the NICNAS Community Engagement Charter.
In the report, the RSC identified five key reform drivers:
· better engagement and communication
· enhancing mechanisms to identify chemicals of concern: new screening processes
· improving efficiency
· targeted assessments, and
· increasing legislative reach: enhanced control powers.
The report contains 23 recommendations, expected to enhance regulatory efficiency and lead to more effective outcomes for the community, industry and government. Implementation of the recommendations will provide greater access to information about more chemicals, enhance relationships between stakeholders, including government, and lead to improvements in the safe and sustainable use of chemicals in Australia.
The overall success of delivering significant reforms to the EC Program depends on the delivery of the proposed reform elements as an integrated package, which will ensure full community confidence in NICNAS and its EC Program while enabling greater efficiency and effectiveness to flow on to all stakeholders. The review took a balanced approach to ensure that community, industry and government concerns were addressed.
The RSC notes the reforms are consistent with international trends towards best practice regulation for existing industrial chemicals. Indeed, a number of the reforms are similar to those adopted by other international regulatory bodies and therefore present opportunities for greater international cooperation and harmonisation on chemical safety issues.
Some recommendations can be directly implemented by NICNAS, such as the development of guidance documents and bulletins. However, other recommendations will require further development and stakeholder engagement to ensure effective implementation, with a few designated to be progressed via other mechanisms. All recommendations have been categorised as either I (innovative elements to the EC Program), M (modified elements of the current program) or C (consequential activities that maintain regulatory confidence).
Key stakeholders representing industry, government and the community were consulted in developing an implementation strategy. While some administrative recommendations can be implemented immediately, others – like those requiring legislative change – will be implemented in 2008. Some recommendations are to be progressed through external mechanisms such as the COAG Ministerial Taskforce on Chemicals and Plastics.
Preliminary work has begun on some projects (eg. better engagement and communication, updating of reports on other national schemes for the assessment of existing chemicals) in anticipation of the establishment of an implementation steering group.