By: Kate Tilley
December 26, 2012
CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA (Dec. 26, 10:50 a.m. ET) —Ă‚ AustraliaĂ˘€™s proposed national plastic and chemical regulations, designed to streamline laws across the country, might never become a reality, AustraliaĂ˘€™s reform council has warned.
The countryĂ˘€™s peak intergovernmental forum, the Council of Australian Governments in Canberra, wants to introduce the proposed harmonized laws. COAG recognized chemicals and plastics policy is a regulatory Ă˘€śhotspotĂ˘€ť in February 2006 and agreed existing regulation is fragmented because it is administered by multiple agencies across all government levels.
In 2008, COAG agreed to introduce reforms reducing the chemicals and plastics industriesĂ˘€™ regulatory compliance burden. COAG agreed gaps, inconsistencies and duplication in the regulatory framework have created inefficient management of hazard identification and risk.
In a December report the COAG Reform Council (CRC), which was established to help COAG with its reform agenda, warned that ongoing delays have reached a point where Ă˘€śwe are not confident the [plastics and chemicals] reform will be delivered.Ă˘€ť
The council said the federal government has not yet completed two targets set for June 2010, and governments collectively have not completed other milestones.
In April, AustraliaĂ˘€™s Plastics and Chemical Industries Association (PACIA) CEO Margaret Donnan said it had been four years since COAG agreed reform was needed, yet there had been little or no progress in its implementation.
Ă˘€śAustralia is missing out on newer, better, safer, more sustainable chemical and plastic products and technologies,Ă˘€ť Donnan said.
She said there are 144 pieces of legislation across Australia specifically related to chemicals and plastics, on top of all the other regulatory burdens facing industry more broadly.
Ă˘€śThe enormous cost [and] lengthy delays in gaining approvals, combined with AustraliaĂ˘€™s relatively small market, means companies simply cannot justify manufacturing and importing improved new products for supply to Australian industry and consumers,Ă˘€ť Donnan said. Ă˘€śIn some cases, the regulatory cost is greater than the product unit cost.Ă˘€ť
Plastics News sought DonnanĂ˘€™s response to the councilĂ˘€™s warning, but the associationĂ˘€™s media spokeswoman did not respond.
COAG was created in 1992 to identify and implement nationally significant policy reforms requiring coordinated action by all Australian governments. Members are Prime Minister Julia Gillard, and premiers and chief ministers from all states and territories.
COAGĂ˘€™s final 2012 meeting was Dec. 7. COAG said it would respond to CRCĂ˘€™s summary report at its first 2013 meeting and consider action required to manage its chemicals and plastics reform concerns.