Claire Petrie, Law and Bills Digest
The states and territories have primary responsibility for animal welfare issues. However, the Commonwealth’s role in this area continues to be a source of debate, particularly in regards to the regulation of animal testing of cosmetic products and ingredients, and the development and policing of animal welfare standards.
is predominantly dealt with at a state level, with animal welfare laws in force
for each state and territory. Additionally, animal welfare codes of practice exist
for farming and research animals, although they are not legally binding in most
states. Enforcement of animal welfare laws is generally shared between the
RSPCA and state and territory government agencies.
The Australian Constitution
does not refer specifically to animals (except fisheries) and therefore the
Commonwealth’s responsibility for animal welfare issues arises largely in relation
to international trade and treaties. To date, this has primarily encompassed
quarantine, wildlife protection, health and the live export trade (see
‘Regulating live exports’ elsewhere in this briefing book).
Regulating cosmetic testing on animals
A complex array of Commonwealth and state laws
regulate animal testing for cosmetic products. The use of animals in scientific
testing is regulated by state and territory laws which are underpinned by the Australian Code for the Care and Use of
Animals for Scientific Purposes. Neither the Code nor the legislation
specifically bans any form of testing, including cosmetic testing.
The Industrial Chemicals (Notification and Assessment) Act 1989 (Cth) (ICNA Act)
provides national standards for cosmetics imported into, or manufactured in
Australia. The Cosmetics
Standard 2007, issued under the ICNA
Act, requires imported or manufactured cosmetics and cosmetic ingredients
to be registered with the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and
Assessment Scheme (NICNAS)
and undergo assessment for their human health and environmental impacts.
ACCORD, the association for the hygiene, cosmetic
and speciality products industry, has stated that animal testing of cosmetic
products and ingredients is not
currently undertaken by the industry in Australia.
Proposed ban on cosmetic testing
As part of its
policy platform for the 2016 election the Coalition announced its intention to ban cosmetic testing on
animals from 1 July 2017. The proposed ban will apply to the testing of
finished cosmetic products and cosmetic ingredients on animals in Australia and
the sale of products and ingredients tested on animals outside of Australia.
policy announcement brought it in line with that of the ALP and the Greens. The ALP’s Ethical Cosmetics Bill 2016 was introduced as a private
member’s bill following a public consultation process. This bill and the
Greens’ End Cruel Cosmetics Bill 2014 sought to insert new offences
relating to the testing and sale of cosmetics tested on animals into the ICNA Act, but both lapsed without being
An independent office of animal welfare
The administration and promotion of animal welfare
laws is currently the responsibility of administrative bodies in each state and
territory, typically located within the relevant agriculture or primary
industries department. Federally, the Department of Agriculture and Water
Resources (DAWR) is responsible for animal welfare issues arising in regards to
live export and international agreements.
Concerns that the current regulatory approach gives
rise to possible conflicts between the interests of primary industry and animal
welfare, have led to calls for an independent, federal animal welfare body. Prior
to the 2016 election, the ALP promised
to establish an independent Office of Animal Welfare, responsible for
providing advice and oversight on a broad range of animal welfare issues, with
equal involvement from the Commonwealth, states and territories.
In June 2015 the Greens introduced the Voice
for Animals (Independent Office of Animal Welfare) Bill 2015, which sought
to establish an independent statutory authority focusing on
Commonwealth-regulated activities such as the live export trade. A 2015
inquiry by the Senate Standing Committee on Rural and Regional Affairs and
Transport recommended that the Bill not be passed, finding that the substantive
functions of the proposed body were already achieved through existing
mechanisms. The Coalition supported
this recommendation, stating that an independent office would result in
significant cost to the Commonwealth, requiring enabling legislation,
relocation costs and ongoing specialist expertise whilst adding a layer of
National animal welfare standards
Until 2014 the Commonwealth contributed funding to
the Australian Animal
Welfare Strategy (AAWS). The AAWS was originally endorsed in 2004 by the
then Primary Industries Ministerial Council, and was aimed at creating a more
consistent and effective animal welfare system. Following a 2005 review of Model
Codes of Practice for the Welfare of Animals, the AAWS was tasked with
replacing these with national, legally enforceable standards and guidelines.
The Australian Government ceased funding the AAWS
as part of its 2014–15 Budget measures. Animal Health Australia, a
not-for-profit public company, has been commissioned by DAWR to manage the
process of developing the Australian
Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines.
The Productivity Commission’s draft
report on the regulation of Australian agriculture, released in July 2016, found
a national approach to the setting of animal welfare standards, with sufficient
flexibility to address local circumstances, to be desirable. It recommended the
establishment of an independent body to develop national standards and
R Dossor, ‘Cessation
of animal welfare assistance in destination countries and Australian
Animal Welfare Strategy’, Budget
Review 2014–15, Research paper series, Parliamentary Library,
Productivity Commission, Regulation of agriculture—Draft report,
Canberra, July 2016, (Chapter 5).
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