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    This National Profile has been prepared to assess AustraliaÕs national
    infrastructure for the management of chemicals. It has been based on
    information gathered from government, as well as from the industry,
    community groups and research bodies. Because it is the first such
    profile to be prepared, the main emphasis has been on explaining
    AustraliaÕs infrastructure from the national perspective, although some
    information on the role played by State and Territory governments has
    also been included.
    The profile has addressed a number of key questions, as indicated below.
    One dominant theme to emerge from examining these issues is that
    AustraliaÕs chemical management infrastructure has undergone
    considerable change and innovation over the last decade. The changes
    reflect priorities identified by governments, particularly in relation to
    more consistent national approaches, avoidance of duplication and
    enhanced protection for workers, the public and the environment. Many
    of the key laws for administering chemicals have only been enacted
    within the past decade.
    The key questions addressed by the National Profile are set out below.
    What is the landscape affecting Australia’s chemicals
    infrastructure?
    As Chapter 1 explains, understanding the landscape from an
    environment, economic, political and social viewpoint is an important
    factor in considering AustraliaÕs chemicals management profile.
    AustraliaÕs ecologically unique mega-biodiversity, its strong resource
    based economy reliant on mineral exploitation and agriculture, its highly
    urbanised population hugging the eastern and south western coasts of an
    otherwise sparsely populated continent, and its multi-level system of
    government, all play a role in determining how chemicals management
    has developed in this country.
    AustraliaÕs governance consists of three distinct tiers of government. The
    national (or Commonwealth) government is responsible for those areas
    referred to it by the Constitution or by agreement with State and
    Territory governments. The State and Territory governments manage all
    other aspects except those devolved to local government (which manages
    many of the day to day decisions of government). This political
    landscape has had a major impact on how chemicals are managed in
    Australia with the Commonwealth currently responsible for the
    assessment of chemicals and the coordination of national chemicals
    management and the States and Territories managing the control of
    chemicals use.
    The social and geographic landscape has also played a part in
    determining how Australia approaches its chemicals management with,
    for example, our relatively infertile soils encouraging fertiliser usage and
    livestock rearing (with its associated veterinary chemicals), a dry
    landscape in which water quality is of central importance, the population
    concentrated living in large cities creating urban pollution problems,
    concern that Australia should protect its unique mega-biodiversity, and a
    need to ensure our chemicals usage is managed soundly so that
    AustraliaÕs export markets are preserved.
    What chemicals are manufactured, imported, exported and
    used in Australia ?
    As Chapter 2 explains, the chemicals sector in Australia - through
    manufacture and exportation, importation and consumer use - makes a
    significant contribution to the domestic economy. Chemicals are used for
    a wide range of purposes in Australia. Notably, Australia is a major
    importer of fertilisers, a major user of pesticides and a significant export
    of inorganic chemicals or minerals. These patterns reflect the importance
    of AustraliaÕs minerals and agricultural sectors.
    AustraliaÕs chemicals industry is primarily concerned with base chemical
    manufacturing and chemical reformulation. The industry, though small
    by global standards, is growing at three times the OECD average and
    represents an important part of AustraliaÕs economy.
    However, as important as chemicals are, information on the use of
    chemicals (and their generation as emissions or waste) is currently
    fragmented in Australia. Data has proved hard to obtain and is often too
    aggregated to allow detailed examination. This is an area where
    cooperative effort and greater consistency of approach is beginning to
    occur, as discussed in ChapterÊ6.
    What is Australia’s regulatory environment?
    The Australian regulatory environment for chemicals management, as
    explained in Chapter 4, is consistent with the political divisions noted
    above. AustraliaÕs chemicals management is generally divided between
    national (Commonwealth) uniform schemes of assessment or registration
    and regionally (State and Territory) based schemes focusing on managing
    the chemical at various stages of its lifecycle.
    The other organising element in AustraliaÕs chemical management
    infrastructure is the management of a given chemical by its end-use.
    Thus, the approach taken is determined by whether the chemical is
    intended for use in industry, agriculture, pharmaceutical medicines or
    food. Together these approaches form a comprehensive chemicals
    management infrastructure.
    As noted earlier, most of this regulatory environment now in place has
    been introduced to Australia since the late 1980s.
    Assessment and registration of chemicals
    Much effort has been directed in the past decade towards developing
    four key schemes that together manage the assessment and/or
    registration of chemicals. These four schemes correspond to the four
    common applications of chemicals (agriculture, industry,
    pharmaceuticals and food). In developing these schemes,
    Commonwealth, State and Territory governments agreed to use
    nationally uniform assessment programs, thus avoiding duplication,
    decreasing costs and reducing the burden on industry.
    The four national schemes are: the National Registration Scheme for
    Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals; the National Industrial
    Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme for industrial Chemicals;
    the Therapeutic Goods Administration for pharmaceuticals; and the
    Australia New Zealand Food Authority for food additives and
    contaminants.
    Management of chemicals
    The changes to AustraliaÕs chemical management infrastructure over the
    last decade include a large range of new State and Territory legislation
    directed at improving the management of chemicals. Fields covered
    include occupational health and safety (or ensuring the safe use of
    chemicals by workers), environment protection, transport and waste.
    The level of activity and innovation in these areas equals that at the
    national level. Each State (New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland,
    Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania) and Territory
    (Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory) has substantially
    overhauled its environmental protection, occupational health and safety,
    waste management and transport regimes in the past decade. This
    means that in each State and Territory there is a system of chemicals
    management designed to control a chemical through-out its lifecycle.
    It is important to note that the National Profile, while concentrating on
    the national assessment schemes acknowledges the importance of
    lifecycle management of chemicals and suggests that future profiles
    investigate this area in more detail.
    What conclusions can be drawn?
    In the period since the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, Australia has
    implemented significant improvement in chemicals management.
    One consequence of the innovation associated with these improvements
    is that coordination among the various regulatory agencies has emerged
    as an important aspect in maintaining effective chemicals management in
    Australia. All tiers of government in Australia have responded to this
    challenge but ongoing effort is required and it would be reasonable to
    conclude that developing a National Profile of Chemicals Management
    Infrastructure is itself an important part of improving cooperation across
    programme areas in Australia.
    The national profile has also identified definite limits to access to
    information on chemicals use or emissions. However, it is important to
    recognise that recent developments, including introduction of the
    National Pollutant Inventory, show that this is a recognised problem,
    with reform and debate on data access and gathering an expanding area.
    Indeed, a stop press (November 1998) for this profile has been the
    commitment, in the recent national election campaign of the political
    parties subsequently re-elected to Government, to a ÔChemwatchÕ which
    includes establishment of a database on agricultural and veterinary
    chemical use.


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