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Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research Amendment Bill 1992
House: Senate Portfolio: Foreign Affairs and Trade
Purpose To extend the life of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (the Centre) and allow the Centre to establish and fund training schemes, conduct and fund development activities and fund international agricultural research centres.
Background The Centre was established by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research Act 1982 (the Principal Act). The functions of the Centre are contained in section 5 of the Principal Act and include: * to formulate programs and policies with respect to agricultural research for either or both of the following purposes: identifying agricultural problems of developing countries; finding solutions to agricultural problems of developing countries; and * to commission agricultural research by persons or institutions in Australia in accordance with such programs and policies.
Section 43 of the Principal Act provides that the Principal Act will cease to have effect 12 years from its commencement. This will occur in June 1994. Section 44 of the Principal Act requires the Minister, ten years from the commencement of the Principal Act, to arrange for a review of the operations of the Centre to determine the desirability or otherwise of its continued existence.
The Centre was established as a response to the view that Australia could make a significant contribution to the development of developing countries through sharing its agricultural research expertise. 1 Prior to the establishment of the Centre, there did not exist any mechanism to promote a systematic and co- ordinated approach to Australian agricultural aid assistance. For example, there was no effective mechanism for identifying agricultural problems of developing countries, particularly those areas of research which warranted Australia's support, or for marshalling the collective expertise of bodies such as universities, State departments of agriculture, CSIRO and suitably competent private organisations and individuals. At 30 June 1991, the Centre had commissioned 192 research projects, 122 of which have been completed.
The Centre's core funding forms part of the Government's annual allocation to the development assistance program. The Centre's appropriation from the development assistance budget for 1991- 92 totalled $18.9 million and is estimated to total $21.6 million in 1992- 93.
On 18 October 1991, prior to the review of the Centre required under section 45 of the Principal Act, the Minister requested the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade (the Committee) to examine and report on the Centre's effectiveness against its legislative charter and the desirability or other wise of the continued existence after June 1994. The Committee's report was tabled in April 1992. The conclusions of the Committee included: * the Centre's projects are a most effective form of official development assistance, focussing on areas of high priority for the partner countries with great success; * the outcome of the Centre's research to date has proved most efficient;
* the Centre's financial operations and measures to ensure accountability were sufficiently rigorous to ensure the disposal of its funds were in keeping with the objectives for which they were appropriated; * the Centre's legislative mandate should include responsibility for training directly related to the Centre's projects; and * the Centre should continue and that it should retain its statutory authority status within the foreign affairs and trade portfolio.
The recommendations of the Committee included: * the Principal Act be amended to allow the Centre to conduct project- related training, and that responsibility for the administration of the Centre's training scheme together with the concomitant resources, should be transferred from AIDAB (Australian International Development Assistance Bureau) to the Centre; and * the Centre continue as a statutory authority, located within the foreign affairs and trade portfolio.
The above recommendations were accepted by the Government in its August 1992 response to the Committee's report and are given effect to by this Bill.
Main Provisions Clause 4 provides the Centre with new functions of establishing and funding training schemes related to its research programs; conducting and funding development activities related to its research programs; and funding international agricultural research centres.
Section 37 of the Principal Act provides that the Centre is not to enter into a contract without Ministerial approval. A new section 37, that will be substituted into the Principal Act by clause 9, provides that the Centre is not to enter a contract for carrying out agricultural research unless Ministerial approval has been obtained, or the contract's value does not exceed the amount, if any, determined by the Minister. Ministerial determinations will be subject to disallowance by Parliament.
The effect of clause 11 will be to allow the Minister to delegate any of his/her powers under the Principal Act to the Board of Management of the Centre.
The principal effect of clause 12 will be to extend the life of the Centre.
References 1. Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, Annual Report 1990- 91, p. 3.
Bills Digest Service 9 September 1992 Parliamentary Research Service
This Digest does not have any official legal status. Other sources should be consulted to determine the subsequent official status of the Bill.
Commonwealth of Australia 1992.
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Published by the Department of the Parliamentary Library, 1992.