Chapter 1CEO's report and outlook

Chief Executive Officer's Report

2010–11 was a challenging year for the APVMA. We implemented the first tranche of reforms flowing from the Better Regulation Ministerial Partnership while delivering good core business performance and responding to new issues and expectations. APVMA staff demonstrated drive, energy and resilience; the achievements described in this annual report attest to the commitment of the APVMA’s staff to deliver value to the broader Australian community and meeting the needs of agriculture and the chemical industry.

The APVMA’s mission is to protect the health and safety of people, the environment and trade through the independent assessment and management of risks of pesticides and veterinary medicines that are supplied and used in Australia.

In 2010–11, we have focused on improving the assessment process and on reviewing existing chemicals, while effectively managing ongoing science and regulatory issues. We have also re-invested the efficiency brought about by legislative reform into better performance, and we have been working collaboratively with our government partners in developing and preparing for a suite of reforms to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of our work.

Stakeholder confidence

Our priority is to promote confidence through consistent, predictable and transparent decision-making. This year we took a new approach with existing chemical reviews by publishing component technical reports ahead of review findings, allowing stakeholders to know when the APVMA has put registrants on notice regarding proposed regulatory action. As a result, stakeholders are more aware of our ongoing regulatory activity to protect people, the environment and trade.

This reporting period saw the introduction of the reforms to the Freedom of Information Act 1982 from 1 November 2010 and the commencement of the Information Publication Scheme (IPS) from 1 May 2011. We have implemented the IPS, and we continue to increase our voluntary publication of information to the APVMA website.

This year also saw the implementation of new legislated administrative and operational arrangements, including a new streamlined process for the promulgation of maximum residue limits for treated agricultural and animal commodities in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code. The APVMA has now taken on the responsibility for the process of amending the Food Standards Code, and our regulatory partners at Food Standards Australia New Zealand continue to provide advice on human dietary risk assessments.

A second major piece of new legislation introduced new arrangements for the approval of pesticide and veterinary medicine product labels. We moved from a system of assessing and approving each marketed version of a product label to a system of assessing and approving only those particulars of a product label that relate to the safe and effective use of the product—the relevant label particulars.

The change to the new processes proceeded seamlessly because APVMA staff were thoroughly prepared, well-trained and committed. As this annual report shows, efficiencies gained were re-invested and resulted in strong registration performance outcomes.

Science and regulatory issues continue to be at the forefront of our work. This year, the APVMA progressed further with its preparedness strategy for nanotechnology, including the appointment of a number of new Science Fellows and the formation of a Nanotechnology Expert Advisory Panel. Our work, supported by funding from the Nanotechnology Enabling Technologies Strategy, aligns with and, in some cases, is ahead of many other agencies internationally.

The APVMA’s international work continues to earn respect and recognition in the international community. We actively participate at a number of international committees driving many of the harmonisation and capability building initiatives. The year’s achievements that provide tangible benefits to the efficiency and effective operation of the APVMA are detailed in this annual report. This year, I was also honoured to be asked to take on the role of Vice-Chair of the OECD Working Group on Pesticides.

Operational excellence

The APVMA’s key priority this year was to focus on the assessment processes in particular screening as well as improving timeliness of those evaluations that require a technical assessment. As a result of this concerted effort, the registration performance statistics are very pleasing. Timeframe performance has met or exceeded our targets and the number of decisions made increased by 23 per cent, despite an increase of 22 per cent in the number of applications received. The throughput and timeframe for screening applications also improved. This was a great result from our teams of evaluators who had to simultaneously manage substantial changes in processes and greatly increased workloads.

This year, the APVMA has also worked hard with our state and territory partners to respond to emergencies and outbreaks such as locust plagues, mouse plagues and floods and cyclones. APVMA staff have assessed and issued three times the number of emergency approvals compared with last year. Such activities support Australian agriculture and growers in times of need.

The APVMA continues to strive to strengthen our working relationships with overseas regulators. We worked with several overseas regulatory agencies in joint reviews and work-sharing of assessments of new pesticide chemistry: nine out of 14 Category 1 new chemistry applications that are currently under assessment are joint-review projects. This year we have also begun to pave a way to apply our experience with the pesticide sector to the veterinary medicine sector. Key overseas veterinary medicine regulators and several international animal health companies have expressed support for working with the APVMA to trial this approach.

In preparation for changes arising out of the government’s Better Regulation reforms and knowing that stakeholders expect that we meet the challenges of maintaining core business while engaging and implementing reform, the APVMA established a Better Regulation Taskforce. An authority wide steering group provides advice to the Taskforce and a staff Change Agents Group assists in authority-wide input. APVMA staff are embracing the change through innovative leadership using the motto Building the future through better regulation.

Informing policy

During 2010–11, the APVMA continued to be involved in the Better Regulation reforms to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our operations. This reform work is to be supported by a specific, one-off government appropriation for 2010–13.

The reform agenda is moving rapidly. Major advances in 2010–11 include amendments to the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Code Act and Regulations in July 2010 to streamline a number of administrative and technical processes. In addition, as part of the COAG Early Harvest Reforms, a new, streamlined process for the promulgation of maximum residue limits for treated agricultural and animal commodities in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code was developed.

The APVMA continues to work collaboratively with other Australian Government agencies in developing and preparing for a suite of extensive reforms to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of our work.

I continue to rely on the support of a strong cohesive executive team to lead staff through these challenging times. This year I was pleased to welcome Tony de la Fosse back to his role as Program Manager Corporate Program after a three-year leave of absence. The APVMA bade farewell to Mrs Joanne Mitchell, who expertly led the Corporate Program in this time. Once again, my Advisory Board and Audit Committee have been invaluable in providing the authority with experience, a fresh set of eyes on issues and reassurance.

The future

This annual report describes our ongoing activity to improve performance, to communicate our role clearly, to work with national and international government agencies, and to enhance the capability of our people and our systems. 2010–11 has been a year of implementing and delivering on the first round of reform while working hard behind the scenes in informing policy and committing to action and preparedness for the next, substantial round of reforms.

The future will see many operational and legislative changes for the APVMA. There is to be a focus on increasing transparency and information access and introducing more efficient business processes through improved use of information technology and electronic document management systems. We will hold a strong regulatory posture to promote confidence and enhance awareness of how our regulatory activities protect people, the environment and trade in supporting the Australian community and meeting the needs of agriculture and the chemical industry.

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