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Ink stink: Tattooists up in arms over sneaky bid to change Queensland laws

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Health amendments contained in the Queensland Debt Reduction and Savings Bill have angered professional tattooists.

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The bill is being considered by a parliamentary committee, which has heard from industry groups that a proposed requirement for any tattoo ink used in Queensland to have chemical analysis certification is unreasonable and unachievable.

The Australian Tattooists Guild, in a submission, argued that regulating the industry in Queensland had already “contributed to the purchasing and use of untested and unsafe inks and tattoo related equipment by potentially licensed, yet unskilled, individuals currently operating with licenses in Queensland”.

While setting a standard for safe inks would seemingly help, the guild said it had proved problematic in the European Union, due to a lack of data and issues in achieving compliance, and could leave consumers no better off.

The planned Queensland amendments would add an unprecedented level of red tape that was “incompatible with currently achievable technical standards and business practices within the tattoo industry, particularly the ink manufacturing sector”.

“It is, moreover, unsustainable in the Australian context, which has no domestic ink manufacturing, and is a small market for international ink manufacturers,” the guild argued.

Queensland Treasury, which has carriage of the bill, insisted Queensland Health had consulted the guild and the Aesthetics Practitioners Advisory Network in 2019, and believed industry had “sought consistency with ink standards used overseas”.

“The proposed departmental standards for tattoo inks are proposed to be based on the European standards, as Europe is the major source of manufacturing or supply of tattoo inks to Australia,” Treasury told the committee.

“The industry was generally supportive of regulation to safeguard clients from adverse health effects by adopting standards to ensure the inks used in Queensland are safe for human use.”

However, the Professional Tattooing Association of Australia, in a submission, insisted broader consultation was needed for changes that could put the industry at the mercy of European suppliers.

“Should these companies not comply with the vague regulations that are proposed for Queensland the entire tattoo industry in Queensland will be forced underground or out of business,” the association warned.

“The ramifications for the economy and the community will be massive. This will cause the public to seek their tattoos in unregulated situations such as backyard operators or fly into South East Asian countries who will not implement any measures.”

The proposed regulatory standards will be released for further consultation in coming weeks, with the bill allowing for a one-year transition period to the new regime.

While the Australian Medical Association Queensland supports the changes, to protect consumers, it has recommended a six-month moratorium for the industry. It also questioned why health amendments were in an economic bill, prompting Treasury to advise that it was “identified as the most appropriate legislative vehicle to ensure the amendments progress through the usual parliamentary process, including consideration by a parliamentary committee”.

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