Labor's consultation on cosmetics testing on animals

17 July 2014

Today I spoke in the Parliament about Labor's national public consultation on the banning of cosmetics testing on animals.

In March, federal Labor made a commitment to run a national consultation on phasing out the importation, manufacture, sale and advertising of cosmetics or cosmetic ingredients tested on animals. Recently federal Labor established a caucus subcommittee that will conduct public hearings on this subject right around the country. Cosmetics testing on animals is not banned in Australia but industry says that it stopped many years ago. However, products that have been tested on animals overseas or which contain ingredients that have been tested on animals overseas are sold in Australia.

As Clare O'Neil, who is chairing the caucus subcommittee has said:

Animal testing is an area of the law that we believe should reflect the ethics of the community, so that's why we want to talk to as many Australians as we can about whether they think it's appropriate that this still goes on, and whether it's appropriate that products that have been used in animal testing are available for sale in cosmetics in Australia.

We formally launched a website for public submissions which is available at We are working through interested interest groups such as the RSPCA, cosmetics companies and regulators in order to allow as many Australians as possible to have their say in this policy process. Industry, animal welfare organisations and research institutions naturally have an interest in cosmetics testing on animals. As Labor's deputy leader, Tanya Plibersek, has said:

Animals should not suffer in the quest for better mascara or lipstick.

Labor has so far received over 1500 submissions to our cosmetics testing inquiry, and there have been over 90,000 Australians that have viewed the page. That speaks very strongly, I believe, to the community interest in this issue. As with the issues of live animal exports, many Australians have made clear that they hold strong views on this issue.

There will be stakeholder hearings and public forums held around Australia: in Brisbane on 15 August, in Fremantle on 18 August, here in Canberra on 19 August, in Sydney on 19 August, in Melbourne on 20 August and also in Hobart on 21 August. I would encourage all Australians who have strong views on animal testing to have their say through Labor's policy process. Federal Labor is keen to engage as many Australians as possible in this important conversation because we believe that it is only though the community having their say that we will reach the appropriate policy perspective. It is vital that we are able to engage through these public forums and to answer questions such as whether or not a full ban should take place in Australia, what would be the most effective and efficient way of banning these practices, what changes would need to be made by industry and government to comply with bans, how the bans would be policed, whether there are additional implications that we need to be aware of for industry, for government and for the community, what would be a realistic timeframe for compliance and whether there are other issues that the subcommittee should take into consideration when thinking through these issues.

The question of cosmetics testing really is one that reflects how the way in which we treat animals has become a first-order policy issue in Australia. It troubles me when I hear the minister for Agriculture in the House castigating Labor for having put in place a temporary ban on live animal exports to Indonesia. We did that so that we could ensure that the industry continued to have a social license to operate and as a result Australia now has a livestock control process right through to the point of slaughter. That is something which decades ago would not have been regarded as a vital issue but now is regarded as an important issue by many Australians who watched images of animals being maltreated and did not simply say, 'That is only an animal' but said, 'That is a moral issue; we need to do something about it.' 

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Cnr Gungahlin Pl and Efkarpidis Street, Gungahlin ACT 2912 | 02 6247 4396 | [email protected] | Authorised by A. Leigh MP, Australian Labor Party (ACT Branch), Canberra.