APVMA statement: Ministerial Direction on chemical reviews

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator the Hon Murray Watt, has announced that he has issued a direction to the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) requiring the prioritisation of chemical reviews, consistent with the policies determined under the intergovernmental agreement for the National Registration Scheme for Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals. The Minister has done this in accordance with section 10 of the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals (Administration) Act 1992 (Administration Act).

In considering whether to make the direction, the Minister consulted with the APVMA Board and interim Chief Executive Officer (CEO). The APVMA advised the Minister that it accepts the terms of the proposed direction and will fully cooperate with it.

The APVMA is cognisant of its obligations under the Administration Act and the critical importance of the broader legislative frameworks under which it operates. While the APVMA seeks to continually fulfil its obligations, it acknowledges the issues identified in the Final Strategic Review Report prepared by Clayton Utz with respect to substances listed for chemical reconsideration that have not yet been finalised or prioritised after a protracted period, and how that is viewed as inconsistent with the policies specified under the intergovernmental agreement.

The APVMA has already commenced developing appropriate measures to strengthen its chemical review processes, which will enable it to comply with the direction. A series of planned actions for each of the chemical reviews of concern is currently being finalised and will be provided to the Minister. The first of these will address the chemical chlorpyrifos, with a plan to be finalised within the next week. Further plans to conclude the remaining 7 chemical reviews of concern will be finalised promptly, and provided to the Minister. This work will culminate with a consolidated action plan addressing all chemical reviews of concern.

To implement the Minister’s direction, the APVMA considers it will be necessary to reallocate some of its internal resources, which may affect timeframes associated with its registration-related activities (as notified in the 2023–24 Portfolio Budget Statement). The APVMA is taking a considered approach to ensure it balances and manages the entirety of its legislative responsibilities in responding to the direction. The APVMA will continue to engage with government and stakeholders to ensure there is transparency with respect to those timeframes.

Finally, the Board and interim CEO acknowledge that the findings of the Final Strategic Review Report have led the Minister to considering it necessary to make this direction. Notwithstanding, since February 2023, the significant changes to the agency have been made by the Board and the interim Executive Leadership Team as it addresses its historical shortcomings. 

The strength of the APVMA is its staff – who demonstrate their commitment to Australia’s agvet chemical regulation system on a daily basis and consistently, diligently and professionally strive to deliver the APVMA’s regulatory responsibilities. The Board and interim CEO express their deep appreciation to the staff of the APVMA and commit to working with them to make the reforms needed to sustain our long-held reputation as a world-class regulator. 

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