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Estimates: Community Affairs Legislation Committee: Health Portfolio: Department of Health

Estimates & Committees
Lee Rhiannon 7 Jun 2017

Monday 29 May

CHAIR: Before I move to Senator Leyonhjelm, Senator Rhiannon wanted some clarification around exactly where some questions related to—

Senator RHIANNON: Yes, to do with the testing of cosmetics on animals and the announcement that was in the budget.

Mr Bowles: That is NICNAS the chemicals regulator. I do not think they are even down to appear so we can take anything on notice, if you would like.

Senator RHIANNON: Seriously? I thought that because it was a budget announcement it came in under some of this in section 5: 'Protect the health and safety of the community through regulation.'

Mr Bowles: It depends on what you want to ask. We can talk about the legislative side of it.

Senator RHIANNON: Yes, it was only about the legislation.

Mr Bowles: We can do that. It is in this outcome, Chair; it is up to you whether you want to go there next.

Senator RHIANNON: We are in outcome 5.

CHAIR: I was going to go to Senator Leyonhjelm and then to Senator Reynolds, and then to you, Senator Rhiannon.

Senator RHIANNON: Okay, thank you.

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CHAIR: … Senator Rhiannon.

Senator RHIANNON: I have some questions about cosmetic testing on animals. Will the ban on the use of animal testing data for cosmetics, as announced in the budget, apply to both products and ingredients?

Mr Cormack: I will start this one off. It applies to ingredients that would be used within cosmetics.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you. Will the legislation to implement the ban only apply to ingredients to be used exclusively for cosmetics or will it also apply to all newly tested ingredients introduced for use in cosmetics irrespective of their other uses?

Mr Cormack: I might just ask my colleague Jillian Shaw to field that one.

Ms Shaw: The intention is to align Australia's regulation in this space with how the Europeans regulate cosmetic ingredients.

Senator RHIANNON: It sounds like the answer to my question was yes, that it will be all-encompassing in terms of ingredients. It will not be just ingredients used exclusively for cosmetics; it could be newly tested ingredients that may have been initially developed for other purposes and are now being used for cosmetics. Is that fair to say?

Ms Shaw: Could you repeat your question?

Senator RHIANNON: Will the legislation to implement the ban only apply to ingredients to be used exclusively for cosmetics or will it also apply to all newly tested ingredients introduced for use in cosmetics irrespective of their other uses?

Mr Cormack: The advice I have is that the legislation enables a national ban on the use of new animal test data to support the introduction of chemicals used exclusively as cosmetic ingredients. That will be introduced into parliament as part of broader reforms to industrial chemicals regulation.

Senator RHIANNON: I will look closely at the wording. Thank you. I notice the cosmetics industry has long stated that cosmetics testing on animals in Australia ended 30 years ago, with that testing now occurring overseas. Will Australian or overseas cosmetics companies still be allowed to animal-test their ingredients or finish products overseas for importation into Australia under this measure?

Ms Shaw: In terms of meeting Australian regulatory requirements under the new regulatory scheme that has been put forward, if the animal testing is occurring after 1 July 2018, no, they will not be able to do that.

Senator RHIANNON: Does that mean that this does ban the importation and sale of finished cosmetic products or their ingredients that use new animal testing data?

Ms Shaw: I think it is important to recognise a distinction between what Australia's regulatory scheme can do in terms of product versus ingredient. Within the Australian regulatory environment, we regulate ingredients; we do not regulate the product. So, from that perspective, from 1 July 2018, an introducer cannot introduce an ingredient in a cosmetic-only related context, if you like. They cannot use animal-test derived data to support the introduction.

Senator RHIANNON: I am still coming to grips with this. Does this ban the use of new animal-testing data from overseas to manufacture, develop or sell cosmetics products?

Ms Shaw: Yes. The majority of imported ingredients come from overseas. From 1 July 2018, that will be the case for a cosmetic-only ingredient.

Senator RHIANNON: So it means the ban applies to Australian and imported products?

Ms Shaw: Yes, if that introducer wishes to introduce an ingredient to Australia. But this is an Australian law that cannot have impact internationally.

Senator RHIANNON: Just to be really clear, I would like to ask this: will the use of new animal-tested data

be banned in the manufacture of cosmetics ingredients and finished cosmetics products?

Ms Shaw: Again, I think it is really important to draw a distinction about what Australia's regulatory scheme can do. It is about ingredients and not about banning the end product. But, through the ingredients, it, therefore, in effect, affects the product. But we do not regulate the cosmetic product in Australia.

Senator RHIANNON: I am certainly not trying to verbal you. I am trying to understand this. Is it fair to say that it is effectively a ban on the final cosmetics because all the ingredients are captured under the ban?

Ms Shaw: I think the way that we look at the policy is: it delivers the outcome. Technically, it is not banning the product, but it is banning the ingredient that goes in that product.

Senator RHIANNON: So, therefore, the use of the new animal-tested data can be banned in research and the development of ingredients—is that correct?

Ms Shaw: If it is covered by our scheme. For example, there are a lot of regulatory schemes that exist within the Australian context. Industrial chemicals are defined in the scheme because they do not fit anywhere else. For example, there might be agvet chemicals that fit into that scheme. Therapeutics, as Dr Skerritt just outlined, would fit into that scheme. If they do not fit into any of those schemes, they actually then end up in the industrial chemical scheme, which is actually where cosmetic ingredients then sit.

Senator RHIANNON: I want to go to the voluntary industry code of practice. Will animal-test-free labels clearly apply to ingredients and finished products?

Mr Cormack: The approach that the government proposes is to work with the cosmetics industry, in consultation with key animal welfare stakeholders, to develop a voluntary code of practice on the sale of cosmetic products after the introduction of the ban. That will include an information package for consumers and industry around the promotional claims that can or cannot be made on cosmetic products in relation to the ban. So this is yet to be developed. If will just highlight the three elements of this package. First up, there is a testing ban. The Australian government will work with states and territories to incorporate a testing ban through their respective legislation triggered by changes to the NHMRC's animal ethics code. It is expected that that will be finished by the end of 2018. The second element is the voluntary code that we have just talked about. The third element is the legislative piece that enables a national ban on the use of new animal-test data to support the introduction of chemicals used exclusively as cosmetic ingredients. They are the three elements of the package. The industry code, as the name suggests, is one that we will work through in consultation with industry.

Senator RHIANNON: Probably, the main area of concern that has been raised with us is the word 'voluntary'. You have gone through three aspects. Does one lead to the other or does the voluntary standing remain? Do the three aspects all live together and the voluntary aspect is on an ongoing basis or does it lead to a point where the voluntary aspect is no longer the case?

Mr Cormack: No, what we are saying is that there is a package. I have outlined the three elements of the package. That is the government's proposed approach to ban cosmetic testing on animals. As the name suggests, it is a voluntary code of practice that is developed with industry to ensure that the sale of cosmetic products after the introduction of the band comply. And there is provision of information to consumers, so that they are fully aware.  At the moment, as you would certainly be aware, there can be a range of claims you can put on the label. You can say 'ethical'. You can say 'essential', 'natural' or something that like that does not really have any meaning. This part of the package is to ensure that there is a consistent nomenclature that describes the way that the cosmetics comply with this important measure to implement a ban on cosmetic testing on animals.

Senator RHIANNON: Can you confirm that misleading cosmetics labels falsely claiming to be animal testing free cannot be penalised under any intended legislative instruments?

Mr Cormack: That becomes an ACCC matter. Any claim that is false and misleading, about the nature of any good or service sold, would come under that legislation.

Senator RHIANNON: Does that set out legislative penalties?

Mr Cormack: I am not familiar with the precise nature of the legislative penalties for the different offences. They have their piece of legislation and they are responsible for prosecuting against that. The question would best be put to the ACCC.

Senator RHIANNON: I think that you have probably covered it, but I noticed that there were the two announcements. There was one in the budget and there was one in MYEFO. I will check about the MYEFO announcement. Will Australian companies be banned from manufacturing, developing, importing or selling animal tested cosmetic products, or ingredients, under the last MYEFO announcement that set out a ban on the sale of cruel cosmetics?

Mr Cormack: What we have said today covers the lot, and that is the way the government proposes to deal with that issue and to implement their election commitment.

Senator RHIANNON: What about the advertising for sale of these products via the internet. Will what you are doing also capture that?

Mr Cormack: I will take that question on notice, specifically in relation to that aspect of it.

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