Output 1.5: CWC Implementation

Regulation and reporting of Australian chemical activities in accordance with the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), and strengthening international implementation of the Convention.

Performance Measures

  • Australia's obligations under the CWC are met.
  • Effective regulation of CWC-related activities in Australia, involving the chemical industry, research and trade.
  • Contribute to strengthening CWC verification and implementation, including through cooperation with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and with CWC States Parties.
  • Contribute to enhancing regional CWC implementation through targeted outreach.

Performance Assessment

Meeting CWC Obligations

ASNO maintained Australia's strong record of performance in meeting its CWC obligations. Comprehensive and timely annual declarations and notifications were provided to the OPCW via its Secure Information Exchange portal as follows:

  • Article VI declaration of imports and exports of CWC-Scheduled chemicals and of past activities at 38 facilities with CWC-relevant chemical production, processing or consumption activities during 2019 (declared in March 2020)
  • Article VI declaration of anticipated activities at seven CWC-Scheduled chemical facilities for 2020 (declared in September and October 2019)
  • Article X, paragraph 4, declaration of Australia's national programs for protection against chemical weapons during 2019 (declared in April 2020)
  • responses to OPCW Third Person Notes including routine clarification of the operational status of declared chemical plants and
  • responses to OPCW notifications and amendments/corrections to inspector details and deletions or additions to the OPCW inspectorate.

Since 1997, the OPCW has conducted 60 routine inspections at declared chemical plants and a Defence protective purposes laboratory in Australia in accordance with the provisions of Article VI of the CWC.

In the current reporting period, ASNO facilitated three routine OPCW inspections. One inspection was of a declared Schedule 2 processing facility in Victoria, from 16 to 20 September 2019. The other two inspections were of declared ‘Other Chemical Production Facilities' (OCPFs) in Victoria, from 10 to 12 September 2020. The inspections proceeded smoothly and received excellent support and cooperation from industry. The OPCW inspection team verified Australia's declarations, including the absence of any undeclared CWC-Schedule 1 chemical production, in accordance with the inspection mandates.

Online reporting by regulated chemical facilities and import permit holders, in accordance with their statutory obligations, enabled ASNO's preparation of Australia's declaration of past and anticipated chemical activities to the OPCW.

Legislation and Regulation

The CWC is included as a Schedule to the Chemical Weapons (Prohibition) Act 1994 (the CWP Act). There are three Schedules of chemicals listed in an annex to the CWC known as the ‘Annex on Chemicals'. Any changes to the CWC Annex on Chemicals accepted by Australia are regulated by amending the Chemical Weapons (Prohibition) Regulations 1997.

The 24th Conference of States Parties to the CWC, held on 25–29 November 2019, decided to list four additional Schedule 1 chemicals/chemical families in the Annex on Chemicals. The chemicals are highly toxic Novichok nerve agents, which have no known industrial use but could be used for chemical warfare or terrorism purposes. This the first time the Schedules of the Chemical Weapons Convention have been updated since the Convention's entry into force in 1997.

The Chemical Weapons (Prohibition) Regulations 1997 were updated to include the new chemical families/chemicals, with the changes coming into effect on 7 June 2020.

ASNO consulted more than two hundred organisations before the Conference of States Parties; organisations were provided with an opportunity to comment on the proposed addition of new chemicals/chemical families to the Annex of Chemicals to the Convention. No organisation expressed concern about the potential regulation of these chemicals/chemical families.

The permit systems, under the CWP Act and Regulation 5J of the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations 1956, continued to operate well.

Table 18 provides statistics for the permits issued to facilities producing, processing or consuming CWC-Scheduled chemicals during the current reporting period. Thirty-one facility permits were in effect at 30 June 2020.

During the 2019–20 period one permit was issued for the import of CWC-Schedule 1 chemicals and 69 permits were issued for the import of CWC-Schedule 2 and 3 chemicals.

Table 18: Permits for CWC-Scheduled Chemical Facilities
CWC-Scheduled Chemicals CWP Act 1994 Permit type Permits at 30 June 202025 New permits 2019–20 Re-issued permits 2019–2026 Permits cancelled 2019–20
Schedule 1 s19(4) Production (Protective) 1 0 1 0
s19(5) Production (Research) 9 0 2 0
s19(6) Consumption 10 1 2 0
Schedule 2 s18(1) Processing 8 1 0 1
Schedule 3 s18(1) Production 3 1 0 1

ASNO is a member of the Australian Government Regulatory Science Network (RSN). Established in 2011, the RSN is a network of Australian Government agencies responsible for regulating chemical, biological or radiological materials. The RSN committee meets regularly to exchange information and conducts at least one major science-focused activity each year to promote regulatory science exchange among the member agencies. Other activities include joint agency seminars, interagency workshops, symposiums and conference presentations.

RSN membership includes:

  • Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment
  • Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA)
  • Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA)
  • Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office (ASNO)
  • Defence Export Control (DEC)
  • Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ)
  • National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)
  • Australian Industrial Chemical Introduction Scheme (AICIS)
  • Office of Chemical Safety, Department of Health (OCS)
  • Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR)
  • Safe Work Australia (SWA) and
  • Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).

The RSN is a forum for scientific and technical staff from member agencies to discuss regulatory scientific issues and improve interagency cooperation. The objective of the RSN is to improve the performance of Australian government regulatory agencies by strengthening evidence-based decision-making by:

  • improving the quality and consistency of regulatory science
  • fostering collaboration and sharing scientific knowledge and experience between agencies and
  • contributing to regulatory science issues.

Western Europe and Others Group (WEOG) Representatives at the Annual National Authorities meeting, 6 November 2019 (Credit: OPCW Flickr).

Western Europe and Others Group (WEOG) Representatives at the Annual National Authorities meeting, 6 November 2019 (Credit: OPCW Flickr).

Cooperation with the OPCW and CWC States Parties

ASNO has continued to support OPCW initiatives and has worked with other States Parties to encourage effective implementation of the CWC.

On 17 June 2020, Australia contributed AUD200,000 to the OPCW's Centre for Chemical and Technology (ChemTech Centre) Project. According to the OPCW, the new ChemTech Centre "will be a recognised leader in research, analysis, training, and capacity-building. It will be a flagship for the OPCW and its broader community and will significantly enhance the capabilities and standing of the OPCW as the global leader in the effort to rid the world of chemical weapons."

ASNO provided technical advice and contributed to policy development in preparation for OPCW Executive Council meetings, industry cluster meetings and informal consultations in The Hague. ASNO attended the National Authorities for the CWC meeting from 5–7 November 2019 in The Hague.

Domestic Outreach

ASNO continued its close cooperation on CWC implementation issues with relevant Australian Government agencies including the Department of Home Affairs, Defence Export Controls, Australian Border Force, Australian Bureau of Statistics, and the National Industrial and Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme.

To assist ASNO in meeting its CWC reporting obligations and to ensure compliance with CWC-relevant legislation, ASNO also continued to strengthen engagement with its constituency in industry, research and trade, including with non-government agencies and associations.

During the reporting period, ASNO has conducted three outreach presentations and two outreach site visits. As described in the Legislation and Regulation section above, ASNO also conducted outreach on four new listed Schedule 1 chemical families/chemicals.

25 Permit numbers include new, existing and renewed permits.

26 Permits are valid for the year of application, and for a further four years if permit conditions are met.