A report to the Australian government recommends establishing a single national system for regulating the nation's plastics industry.
The Productivity Commission, a federally appointed expert body charged with examining industry efficiency, has released a follow-up report on proposals to reform regulation of chemicals and plastics.
In a supplement to its Chemicals & Plastics Regulation Productivity Commission Research Report, it recommends that ``initial risk assessments should be conducted by national agencies before being implemented by state and territory bodies.''
``The case for conducting hazard and risk assessment at the national level through Australian government agencies is compelling. In many areas of regulation, a national approach would deliver significant net benefits to the Australian economy and the community.''
The study began in 2006 after the Council of Australian Governments identified plastics and chemicals as a ``regulatory hot spot.''
Australia's federal government and its eight state and territory administrations all regulate the industry in different ways, yet the hazards and risks posed by chemicals and plastics vary little across the country, according to the report.
It found state and territory governments are ``broadly effective'' at managing risks posed by chemicals and plastics, but more needs to be done to improve legislative harmony between jurisdictions.
Its findings read: ``Improvements in national consistency can be achieved through jurisdictions adopting uniform regulations, harmonizing key elements of their regulatory frameworks and mutually recognizing other jurisdictions' regulations.
``The most compelling reasons for the Commonwealth, state and territory governments to commit to national consistency are the contribution consistency can make to the effectiveness of regulations, the efficiency of their administration and enforcement and the efficiency of the economy as a whole.''
Mike Woods, a member of the Productivity Commission, said: ``Developing uniform regulatory standards and streamlining responsibilities would have significant benefits.
``A higher degree of regulatory uniformity would remove unnecessary costs for industry and improve compliance, while not jeopardizing health, safety or the environment.
``Regulating to protect people and the environment from risks posed by chemicals and plastics has resulted in unnecessary complexity under our federal system,'' he said.
The report also recommended forming a new governance framework to improve policy development, assessment, risk management and enforcement across Australian jurisdictions.
Achieving such a goal would involve establishing a standing committee on chemicals, and would require changes to the country's National Industrial Chemicals Notification & Assessment Scheme to ensure it conducts its own assessment of chemicals and plastics, rather than simply setting risk-management standards.