APVMA Advisory Board Futures Forum 2014 - Summation

Background to the APVMA Advisory Board futures forum

The APVMA Advisory Board hosted a Futures Forum in November 2014. The forum created an opportunity to bring together all stakeholders to discuss and better understand the current environment in which the APVMA operates, identify the longer term trends that may impact the future of the regulator and provide advice on what the APVMA should do over the next 3–5 years to position itself as a contemporary world class regulator. The event was facilitated by Dr Norman Swan.

  • A number of important questions were posed including:
  • What are other regulators (local and international) doing well?
  • What capabilities do the APVMA need to develop to prepare for the science of the future?
  • What models can be implemented to ensure the APVMA has access to the best scientific advice?
  • What is our risk appetite?
  • What needs to be uniquely Australian in our decision making?
  • What influence (if any) should we bring to the Asia Pacific region?
  • How do we build a sustainable resource base to enable the APVMA to be innovative in its service delivery?
  • What else does the APVMA need to do to provide more predictable decisions with the least red tape?
  • How does the APVMA attract and retain highly skilled staff and/or are there other models for accessing the necessary skills?

The following is a summary of the themes arising from the presentations, discussions and scenarios considered, as well as how conclusions will be used to enhance the APVMA's role in the regulatory control system for agricultural chemicals and veterinary medicines in Australia.

During the first day of the forum a variety of speakers presented on the relative stakeholder perspectives,changing views and trends that will impact the environment in which the APVMA operates. This included farmers perspectives, consumer attitudes to food, future directions of crop protection products, Australia's competivenes and veterinary medicines. A case study on nanotechnology as a new and emerging technologywas also presented, along with a thought-provoking presentation on the frailties of experts in risk regulation

A number of key themes emerged.


Throughout the two days of the forum there was a strong theme of ’balance‘. Expressed and explored in a number of ways, there was discussion on balancing the tension between minimising red tape and facilitating innovation while continuing to protect consumers and the environment.

There was significant discussion on balancing the global regulatory environment with the unique requirements of our Australian system, as well as balancing the expertise, both internal and external to the agency. The forum discussed how such balances could be reached. This fed into discussion on risk.


There was considerable discussion during many of the presentations on day one about risk. The forum discussed what were the actual and perceived risks, how risks could be repeatedly and transparently quantified, and the ways in which risk should be consistently reflected in the regulatory system.

There was discussion on what an appropriate risk appetite was for Australia and how this could be clearly communicated and transparently applied.

Throughout these interrelated discussions of balance and risk, the consensus of the forum was focused on achieving balance through a transparent and repeatable risk assessment process and that any regulatory burden should focus only on requirements justified by the risk ie as a proportionate response.


The presentations also highlighted the changing environment, where science might be heading and how this could best be regulated to balance expectations and real risk.

The forum discussed the significant ramifications of a rigid regulatory environment that failed to adapt to change—either stifling innovation or failing to protect consumers or the environment

Discussion on the changing global structures of regulatory systems, revealed participants felt that in the future there would be less need for each country to replicate a complete regulatory assessment but that harmonisation of common elements and identification of points of difference were key to responding to innovation in a thorough yet timely and cost efficient manner—we can be world class without reinventing the wheel, and indeed facilitate innovation accordingly.

The scenarios pulling these themes together

On the second day of the forum participants discussed a range of possible scenarios. These scenarios were designed to pull together the themes from the first day and then test how the participants saw the role of the APVMA in a range of possible future regulatory and social environments. These scenarios were often deliberately unrealistic but were designed to test the limits of certain attitudes.

In all of the settings, the primary role of the regulator was seen as focusing on a reasonable level of safety to users, consumers and others exposed to agvet chemical products, and to ensure that there would be no unacceptable impact on the environment.

The scenarios demonstrated that participants always expect the regulator to be technically competent, efficient, transparent and consistent, and not unnecessarily impede the progress of a product to a market. They expect that the level of scrutiny should reflect the real rather than perceived level of threat posed by the product, and that sensible use be made of international data and decisions made by other trusted regulators.

In all scenarios, the APVMA was expected to provide credible and reliable advice, even in highly deregulated environments, or when international systems govern Australian regulation. Therefore, the APVMA competencies remain important under all foreseeable regulatory conditions.

In summary, these outcomes reflect the key themes of balance, risk and change and clearly indicate very broad support for a system that more effectively distinguishes between low and high risk, a broad appetite for the use

of international decisions and data, and improved transparency.

Moving forward

The outcomes of the Futures Forum are very relevant and important in informing the Boards ongoing response and assistance to the APVMA CEO on strategic matters.

In summarising the key issues identified at the forum, APVMA CEO Kareena Arthy identified the need to encapsulate regulatory and scientific excellence in decision-making, strong international connections, community confidence and dynamic and efficient business processes as key components in building a regulator of the future.

These components are clearly reflected and expanded in the APVMA priorities for 2015 and have been recently shared with stakeholders:

  • red tape reduction and risk frameworks
  • building international connections
  • business systems and culture
  • strategy and performance
  • communication and engagement
  • legislation implementation and transition.

The scenario planning will also be particularly useful in the further development of the proportionate risk assessment framework being developed.

The participation of everyone who attended the Futures Forum is greatly appreciated.

APVMA Advisory Board members have spent time analysing feedback from the forum, identifying where it did and did not meet participant expectations. We pay close attention to all comments and any additional feedback is welcome.

To protect your privacy, please do not include contact information in your feedback. If you would like a response, please contact us.