Chemicals in Australia are regulated under a number of schemes. If a chemical is not for a therapeutic, agricultural, veterinary or food use, it is considered an industrial chemical.
Industrial chemicals are regulated to aid in the protection of the Australian people and the environment from potential risks associated with the introduction and use of the chemical.
Industrial chemicals includes a broad range of chemicals used in inks, plastics, adhesives, paints, glues, solvents, cosmetics, soaps and many other products.
About the Australian Industrial Chemicals Introduction Scheme
The Industrial Chemicals Act 2019 (IC Act 2019) received Royal Assent on 12 March 2019. The IC Act 2019 establishes a new regulatory scheme, the Australian Industrial Chemicals Introduction Scheme (AICIS), for the importation and manufacture of industrial chemicals in Australia. AICIS will replace the current National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS) from 1 July 2020.
AICIS will make regulatory effort more proportionate to risk, promote safer innovation by encouraging the introduction of lower risk chemicals and will continue to protect the Australian people and the environment from any harmful effects of industrial chemicals.
In addition to the IC Act 2019, there is new legislation which sets out the framework for managing the transition from the old scheme to the new scheme. This is the Industrial Chemicals (Consequential Amendments and Transitional Provisions) Act 2019.
There are also three Industrial Chemicals Charges Acts that authorise the imposition of charges on importers and manufacturers of industrial chemicals to recover the costs of administering the new scheme. These are the:
- Industrial Chemicals Charges (Customs) Act 2019
- Industrial Chemicals Charges (Excise) Act 2019
- Industrial Chemicals Charges (General) Act 2019
Read more about the new scheme and the legislation on the NICNAS website.
Implementation of the Australian Industrial Chemicals Introduction Scheme
The new scheme will commence on 1 July 2020. The Industrial Chemicals Act 2019 (IC Act 2019) will also give effect to the ban on the use of new animal test data for ingredients used solely in cosmetics. The ban will also commence on 1 July 2020.
The IC Act 2019 will be supported by the Industrial Chemicals (General) Rules and Industrial Chemicals Categorisation Guidelines (Categorisation Guidelines), which set out technical and operational details of the new scheme and the requirements introducers need to meet to categorise their chemicals that are not listed on the Inventory for the new scheme. Transitional Rules will also be established under the Industrial Chemicals (Consequential Amendments and Transitional Provisions) Act 2019 to provide further details of the arrangements for managing the transition from the old scheme, to the new scheme.
The Rules will be legislative instruments (delegated legislation) and form part of a new legal framework for the new scheme.
NICNAS has been consulting with the public and industry since late 2015 on the reforms. You can read more about consultations on the new scheme on the NICNAS website.
Early regulatory changes affecting chemical importers and manufacturers
While the new scheme will begin on 1 July 2020, early regulatory changes are now in effect under the current scheme. These changes will reduce regulatory burden for introducers of some lower risk chemicals such as polymers of low concern.
More details on the early regulatory changes can be found on the NICNAS website.
NICNAS is a statutory scheme administered within the Health portfolio.
The Director of NICNAS is a statutory office holder with specific functions under the Industrial Chemicals (Notification and Assessment) Act 1989 (the ICNA 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.
In accordance with recommendations made in a research report by the Productivity Commission in 2008 and subsequently agreed by the Council of Australian Governments, a policy review of NICNAS, initially progressed as a Better Regulation Ministerial Partnership between the Minister for Finance and Deregulation and the Minister for Health, was undertaken to evaluate and make recommendations on the regulatory settings for the notification, assessment and regulation of industrial chemicals. The review noted that any proposed changes to the regulatory arrangements for industrial chemicals should not weaken human health and environmental protection.
The review considered:
- the role and functions of NICNAS as set out in the ICNA 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
- any implications for the resourcing of functions currently cost recovered, should the review recommend changed responsibilities.
In considering the options for reform, the Australian Government had 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
- issues identified in the Discussion Paper: Review of the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS)-June 2012 and the Draft Options for reforming the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme - Regulation Impact Statement (June 2013), and
- the view of industry and non-industry stakeholders collected through consultation activities held during 2012, 2013 and 2014.
The final Regulation Impact Statement associated with the reforms for NICNAS is available from the Office of Best Practice Regulation website.