Chemicals management

Release of Consultation Regulation Impact Statement - Management of chemical environmental risks

The Standing Council on Environment and Water has released the Council of Australian Governments' Consultation Regulation Impact Statement (RIS) on options for developing and implementing nationally consistent decisions to manage the environmental risks of industrial chemicals.

This work is a key initiative under Strategy 12 of the National Waste Policy and a key element of the Council of Australian Government reform agenda on chemicals and plastics regulation. The Standing Council on Environment and Water is leading three reforms arising from this agenda, the key one being the creation of a standards-setting body to develop national environmental risk management decisions for industrial chemicals.

The consultation RIS process is intended to provide stakeholders with an opportunity to discuss key issues and provide feedback on the reform options.

Submissions closed on 28 June 2013. To download a copy of the Consultation RIS and for further details on the consultation process, visit:

Chemicals are a vital part of our daily life. They provide society with a wide range of benefits, particularly increased agricultural and industrial productivity and improvements in the control of disease. On the other hand chemicals have the potential to cause considerable health and environmental problems throughout their life cycle, from production through to disposal.

To ensure that chemicals are managed safely to protect the environment and human health, the department:

  • Undertakes environmental assessments of industrial and agricultural chemicals for the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS) and the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA);
  • Engages with the States and Territories, industry and community groups in the development of guidelines and standards to reduce production of hazardous chemicals;
  • Cooperates in the development of international agreements for restricting the use, production, and emission or release of hazardous chemicals, or for the sharing of information about them; and
  • Gathers information about persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and develops strategies to reduce or eliminate them.

Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Chemical Reforms

The Standing Council on Environment and Water (SCEW) is implementing three reforms arising from COAG's responses to recommendations in the Productivity Commission's 2008 Research Report on Chemicals and Plastics Regulation.

In this report the Commission noted that there is currently no risk management decision-making body for chemicals in the environment sector and no formal policy oversight by environment ministers. This is in contrast to other sectors such as health, transport and occupational health and safety.

The key reform is the establishment of a framework for developing and implementing nationally-consistent standards to manage the environmental risks of industrial chemicals.

The benefits of establishing a national framework for managing the environmental risks of industrial chemicals include:

  • giving Australians greater confidence that potentially harmful high risk chemicals are subject to appropriate and consistent environmental controls across the nation;
  • making it simpler and more cost effective for industry to fulfil its obligations for managing the environmental implications of chemicals by streamlining current systems, reducing fragmentation, and bringing transparency, simplicity and consistency;
  • increasing information about and understanding of chemicals and the environment so that governments, industry and the community can make informed choices about chemicals and help identify areas needing greater attention so that resources can be allocated strategically and proactively to produce improved outcomes; and
  • helping Australia meet its international obligations for sound management of chemicals, for example under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.

Consultation Regulation Impact Statement

PricewaterhouseCoopers has been engaged to develop a Consultation Regulation Impact Statement, on behalf of the Commonwealth and states and territories, as a basis for public consultation on the policy options to achieve the COAG reforms.

Chemicals management infrastructure

A description of the basic legal, institutional, administrative and technical chemicals management infrastructure is provided in: