Australia participates in a range of international chemical conventions, frameworks and strategies including the:
- Minamata Convention on Mercury
- Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade
- Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants
- Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.
The Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) leads Australia’s involvement in these international chemical conventions. The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA), with the Australian Industrial Chemicals Introduction Scheme (AICIS), the Therapeutic Goods Administration and the Australian Border Force support DAFF in controlling the manufacture, import and export of chemicals restricted by international conventions. Further information on the Australian Government’s actions under these conventions is available on the DAFF website.
State and territory governments also have an important role in managing emissions, releases and disposal of these chemicals.
To implement these conventions, controls on the import, manufacture, use and export of such chemicals have been introduced under the following legislation:
- Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals (Administration) Act 1992
- Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations 1956
- Customs (Prohibited Exports) Regulations 1958.
The Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals (Administration) Act 1992 makes provisions for the role of the APVMA in meeting Australia’s obligations under international agreements. Our role can include:
- prohibiting the import, manufacture, export or other dealings of certain chemicals or products
- prohibiting certain activities in relation to these chemicals either absolutely or subject to conditions
- providing information to other countries on the import, manufacture, export or other dealings with chemicals that are the subject of international agreements.
The Customs Regulations complement the Agvet Code Regulations by introducing controls at the border.
The Minamata Convention
The Minamata Convention on Mercury is an international treaty that seeks to protect human health and the environment from anthropogenic (caused by humans) emissions and releases of mercury and mercury compounds. Australia ratified the Minamata Convention on 7 December 2021.
In the past, mercury has been used as a pesticide and biocide, however there are no longer any registered agricultural chemicals or veterinary medicines that contain mercury as an active constituent.
Very small amounts of mercury as thiomersal may be used in veterinary vaccines, where it functions as a preservative. As part of ratifying the convention, the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals (Administration) Regulations 1995 have been amended to make mercury as an active constituent or as another ingredient in a pesticide, biocide or antiseptic, a controlled chemical that cannot be imported, exported or manufactured in Australia. These regulations are supported by the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations 1956 and the Customs (Prohibited Exports) Regulations 1958.
These changes were notified in the APVMA Gazette on 27 July 2021.
Thiomersal in veterinary vaccines is not a controlled chemical. Where necessary, its use as a preservative can continue.
Further information on the Australian Government’s action on the Minamata Convention can be found on the DAFF website.
The Rotterdam Convention
The Australian Government ratified the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade on 20 May 2004, and obligations relating to the convention came into force for Australia on 18 August 2004.
The Prior Informed Consent (PIC) procedure is a mechanism for formally obtaining and disseminating the decisions of importing parties about whether they wish to receive future shipments of those chemicals listed in Annex III of the convention, and for ensuring compliance with these decisions by exporting parties.
All parties are required to make a decision as to whether they will allow import of each of the chemicals in Annex III of the convention. All exporting parties are required to ensure that exports of chemicals subject to the PIC procedure do not occur contrary to the decision of each importing party.
DAFF issues a notice in the Commonwealth of Australia Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Gazette when chemicals are added to the Rotterdam Convention. Previous notices were issued on:
For the chemicals included under the Rotterdam Convention, refer to the Annex III Chemicals.
The Stockholm Convention
The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from chemicals that remain intact in the environment for long periods, become widely distributed geographically, accumulate in the fatty tissue of humans and wildlife, and have harmful impacts on human health or on the environment or both.
Exposure to persistent organic pollutants (POPs) can lead to serious health effects including certain cancers, birth defects, dysfunctional immune and reproductive systems, greater susceptibility to disease and damages to the central and peripheral nervous systems.
Control measures apply to the import, export, production, disposal and use of POPs. Participating governments also promote the best available techniques and best environmental practices for replacing POPs while preventing the production and use of new ones. The Australian Government ratified the Stockholm Convention on 20 May 2004, and obligations relating to it came into force for Australia on 18 August 2004.
For more information on the chemicals included under the Stockholm Convention, refer to the listing of POPs.