Australia's proposed national plastic and chemical regulations, designed to streamline laws across the country, might never become a reality, Australia's reform council has warned.
The country's peak intergovernmental forum, the Council of Australian Governments, in Canberra, wants to introduce the proposed harmonized laws.
COAG recognized chemicals and plastics policy as a regulatory “hotspot” in February 2006 and determined that 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 industries' regulatory compliance burden. The council said gaps, inconsistencies and duplication in the regulatory framework had created inefficient management of hazard identification and risk.
In a December report, the COAG Reform Council warned that ongoing delays have undermined confidence in COAG being able to deliver any plastics and chemicals reform.
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, Australia's Plastics and Chemical Industries Association 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.
“Australia is missing out on newer, better, safer, more sustainable chemical and plastic products and technologies,” Donnan said.
She said 144 pieces of legislation exist across Australia related to chemicals and plastics, on top of all other, broader regulatory burdens facing industry.
“The enormous cost [and] lengthy delays in gaining approvals, combined with Australia's relatively small market, means companies simply cannot justify manufacturing and importing improved new products for supply to Australian industry and consumers,” she said at the time. “In some cases, the regulatory cost is greater than the product unit cost.”
Donnan did not return phone calls seeking comment about the reform council's recent warning to COAG.