Chemicals and plastics regulation has long been identified as a key area of regulatory reform because of concern about inconsistency, complexity and fragmentation of regulation that leads to inefficient hazard identification and risk management. The chemicals and plastics industries remain a significant component of the Australian manufacturing sector whose competiveness impacts on many other manufacturing sectors.
Background of the Standing Committee on Chemicals
In February 2006, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) identified chemicals and plastics as a ‘hotspot‘ in the National Reform Agenda and established a ministerial taskforce to drive the reform of chemicals and plastics regulation.
The 2008 Productivity Commission report Chemicals and Plastics Regulation (PC report) found that the sector could benefit from greater national consistency in its regulation and a governance framework that enhances national uniformity. The report made 30 recommendations for reform and informed the work of the Ministerial Taskforce on chemicals and plastics regulation that was established in 2008.
The Standing Committee on Chemicals (SCOC) is part of the new governance framework and was established under a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by COAG on 7 December 2009. The objective of SCOC is to achieve an effective and efficient national system of chemicals and plastics regulation.
The Taskforce identified 18 Early Harvest Reforms (EHR) that were a high priority and could be implemented relatively quickly. Of the 18 EHR, 13 are complete and five are being progressed as part of the broader PC chemicals and plastics reforms, or other reforms. The results of an audit of the status of the EHRs as at October 2012 were approved for public release by the SCOC at its 26 October 2012 meeting.
On 29 November 2008, COAG agreed to a response to the 30 PC report recommendations. Chemicals and plastics reforms were part of the National Partnership Agreement to Deliver a Seamless National Economy (SNE NP) that was due to be completed by December 2012.
The Standing Committee on Chemicals (SCOC) was established as part of the 30 chemicals and plastics reforms. The SCOC is part of the new governance framework and was established under a Memorandum of Understanding signed by COAG on 7 December 2009. The objective of the Committee is to achieve an effective and efficient national system of chemicals and plastics regulation.
SCOC is chaired by a senior official from the department and provides secretariat support for the SCOC. SCOC is responsible to COAG and prior to 1 January 2013 reported to each meeting of the Business Regulation and Competition Working Group (BRCWG) on the progress of the reform activities.
As of 1 January 2013, the BRCWG has been replaced by a cross-jurisdictional taskforce known as the Business Advisory Forum (BAF) Taskforce. The BAF Taskforce is chaired by the Secretary of the Commonwealth Department of Finance and Deregulation (DoFD) and comprises a senior Commonwealth Treasury official and Deputy Secretary representatives from both First Ministers and Treasury departments in the States and Territories. The BAF Taskforce reports to COAG through First Ministers’ Senior Officials.
Following the cessation of the SNE NP at the end of 2012, COAG agreed that where milestones were not implemented, or hang over into 2013, that the relevant Select or Standing Councils (or other relevant bodies) responsible for implementing the reforms would report to COAG through the BAF Taskforce by 1 April and 1 September each year. COAG further agreed that SCOC would coordinate the reports from the Select or Standing Councils to the Taskforce twice in 2013 and, if necessary, on an ongoing basis.
COAG has agreed that SCOC will continue to coordinate overall reform delivery for chemicals and plastics regulation.