RURAL AFFAIRS AND TRANSPORT LEGISLATION COMMITTEE Estimates MONDAY, 23 MAY 2011 Full Transcript
Senator SIEWERT: I want to ask about the reform process and the extra money you have been given. As I understand it, you have got $5.8 million for implementing the reform process. You are going to undertake a number of initiatives. Can you explain what the process is from here and how the resources are being allocated.
It is a bit hard to work out from your budget, but I think you have $5.8 million for this year and an increase for the following years as well to keep implementing; is that correct?
Dr Bennet-Jenkins: That is correct. The reform appropriation money runs over a number of years. It is really to assist the APVMA in implementing those reforms. Parts of those reforms are to develop a risk framework, so that is quite a lot of technical work in terms of writing a lot of manuals and developing these risk frameworks. There is the establishment of an electronic document management system, so there is a lot of IT work associated with it. Really it is also about assisting DAFF in the policy development, operationalising the policy once it has been agreed and making sure that all our processes can adopt the new business processes as well as the more efficient electronic management of our registration and review processes.
Senator SIEWERT: What is the time frame for implementing the risk framework process for the review and the development of that?
Dr Bennet-Jenkins: The risk framework is going to be quite a big project. It has already been running for quite some time in terms of—
Senator SIEWERT: The actual review process has been under way for a while, hasn't it?
Dr Bennet-Jenkins: Yes, that is right. We are slowly building on that and developing documents, but it is anticipated that to get all the risk manuals and risk framework put in place will take at least 18 months to two years because there is an enormous amount of work to be done. I will give you an example of the type of information that will need to be developed. The department of environment developed a very detailed risk assessment manual, which is available on their website, and it describes very clearly how they do their risk assessments. As part of this risk framework we are developing we are going to have to do manuals for public health, residues, how we assess chemistry, how we assess efficacy, how we assess crop safety and how we assess animal safety. There is a lot of work to be done. We will keep building on the work we are doing. The different volumes will be out for public consultation as we develop them. We hope that in the next two years we will have a complete risk framework there.
Senator SIEWERT: In terms of the review arrangements, there is legislation attached to the reregistration process.
Dr Bennet-Jenkins: Indeed there will be, yes.
Senator SIEWERT: And what is the timing for that?
Dr Bennet-Jenkins: I might have to defer to the department, who are responsible for the policy and legislation development.
Mr Williamson: In terms of the reregistration scheme that the government announced as part of its election commitments, the policy for that is still under development. The minister has made a broad announcement that there will be a reregistration system, but at this stage the policy for that is still under development.
Senator SIEWERT: But it is part of the initiative that was announced as part of the budget as part of this process?
Mr Williamson: That is correct.
Senator SIEWERT: Did you say that you have not got a time line for it yet?
Mr Williamson: That is still under consideration.
Senator SIEWERT: And that will involve the reregistration of all chemicals?
Mr Williamson: That is the intention, yes.
Senator SIEWERT: So we are talking about a number of years process here, are we not?
Mr Williamson: We would expect so.
Senator SIEWERT: If you do not even have the time line for the introduction of the legislation yet, we are talking about a number of years down the track before the reregistration process is completed?
Mr Williamson: Complete, yes, but not to start. We are talking about 9,000 chemicals in the portfolio. You cannot do that immediately.
Senator SIEWERT: I know, and I am not trying to suggest that you do. That is why I am asking what the time frame is for that reregistration process. Out of the money that has been allocated for this initiative, is it possible to get allocations against each of those initiatives?
Mr Williamson: Just to clarify: the three you are talking about are the risk framework—
Senator SIEWERT: The risk framework, the efficiency process that we were just talking about plus the reregistration process. Does the money that has been allocated cover those three key areas?
Mr Williamson: Certainly. Perhaps it is easier to provide an indication of how much we intend to spend on the IT upgrade and with the residual, in effect, for the remainder of the reform, which will include the business efficiency measures and the reregistration processes. APVMA might be best to provide it.
Dr Bennet-Jenkins: I believe the money set aside for the IT improvements is about $3 million out of the $8.75 million. The only real specification that we have there is for an independent panel. There is $250,000 a year to run an independent panel for three years. Then around about $3 million, I recall, is for the IT improvements. The remainder of the money is to implement the remainder of the reform agenda because we have to change all our processes over in order to implement it. As we said earlier, a reregistration program would run into many years into the future. So the maintenance of such a program would be subject to a cost-recovery review and costing such a scheme out.
Senator SIEWERT: So you intend to do quite a bit of that through cost recovery?
Dr Bennet-Jenkins: There will be a cost-recovery review that will look at not only what it would cost to run the reregistration program but also what savings you are getting out of having gained the efficiencies, say, through an electronic document management system or through the more streamlined processes. So the cost-recovery review looks at both sides. It looks at where the savings are made because you have changed your actual processes and it also looks at where you have added additional tasks and translating those savings into the additional tasks.
Senator SIEWERT: Is the independent panel going to be part of all of the initiatives or all of the process?
Dr Bennet-Jenkins: As I understand it, the independent panel has been proposed to look specifically at the reregistration and the chemical review part of the activities.
Senator SIEWERT: And that has not been established yet, Mr Williamson?
Mr Williamson: No, the panel has not been established yet.
Senator SIEWERT: What is the time line for that?
Mr Williamson: In the near future. I cannot tell you because we have not established a time line for that.
Senator SIEWERT: I want to ask one more question, which relates back to the risk framework. Are you engaging outside experts in the process from here?
Dr Bennet-Jenkins: Yes indeed. It depends on which area we are talking about. The Department of Health and Ageing does the health assessments for us, so they would be the expert group that would do the risk framework for that aspect of it. For the types of areas that we do internally we may find that we have our internal experts who can do the best job. With other ones we may find that it is best to find an external consultant. So there are a number of those projects that will start to roll out over the next six months or so.
Senator SIEWERT: Thank you.