New chemical regulation scheme begins

The Australian Industrial Chemicals Introduction Scheme (AICIS) begins today, 1 July 2020, replacing the 30 year old National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS).

Federal Regional Health Minister, Mark Coulton described AICIS as a more contemporary, risk-proportionate regulatory scheme for the importation and manufacture of industrial chemicals in Australia.

The AICIS makes improvements to the regulatory arrangements and encourages innovation through reducing the regulatory burden, with quicker access on to the Australian market for low risk chemicals.

Adopting a risk-based approach is consistent with best-practice regulatory models and ensures the regulator can focus resources where most warranted, particularly assessing higher risk chemicals.

The new scheme will help to protect the health of Australians and our environment, while also keeping industry competitive and promoting access to safer chemicals.

The scheme will also promote community confidence by adopting more effective compliance and enforcement powers, and providing more information about industrial chemicals used in Australia.

Ministerial rules are now in place to set the scientific and administrative detail of the new scheme, while the overarching legal framework is set out in the Industrial Chemicals Act 2019 (IC Act).

The rules impose restrictions on the use of animal tests to prove the safety of chemicals in cosmetics, which is an important step in the Government’s commitment to reducing reliance on animal test data. The rules also allow greater use of assessment information from overseas regulators with comparable health and environmental standards.

Having the detail for the new scheme in Ministerial rules, rather than in the IC Act, will help the scheme keep pace with international trends, industry practices and advances in science.

The sector should experience reduced overall compliance cost in importing and using new chemicals in Australia. The direct costs of the scheme will continue to be recovered through fees and charges paid by the sector. While fees for some services have increased, fewer applications to the regulator are expected, with the new cost recovery arrangements meaning reduced costs for companies introducing low risk chemicals, especially small businesses.

These changes to the industrial chemicals regulation are the culmination of more than 10 years of analysis, consultation with community and industry stakeholders, and reform. This reform work started with a Productivity Commission review of chemicals and plastics under the Howard Government, with legislation passed in February 2019.

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