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Wednesday, 18 March 2015
Page: 2703


Mr PORTER (PearceParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister) (09:28): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

Today is another important milestone in this government's commitment to reduce the regulatory burden faced by businesses, community organisations, families and individuals.

Earlier today I tabled the government's inaugural annual deregulation report for 2014. The report provided an important opportunity for us to report to the parliament on our efforts to turn the tide on Commonwealth regulation.

Much has been achieved to reduce red tape, but there remains much to do.

An important element of this government's red tape commitment is dedicating parliamentary sitting days for the repeal of regulation. These repeal days are for the purpose of repealing counterproductive, unnecessary or redundant legislation and, consequently, removing associated regulations.

These repeal days also allow us to remove the redundant or obsolete items of legislation that we do not use and do not need anymore.

Allowing spent and redundant acts to remain in force on the Commonwealth's statute book makes it harder for businesses, community organisations, families and individuals to find out about the regulations that matter to them.

Instead of being able to quickly and easily find and access the regulations they need to comply with, they have to sift through outdated, unnecessary regulations to determine whether they still apply.

Through the work of all ministers, this government has made significant progress in cleaning up the statute book.

In 2014, the government introduced the autumn and spring omnibus repeal day bills, the Amending Acts 1901 to 1969 Repeal Bill, the Amending Acts 1970 to 1979 Repeal Bill, and the statute law revision bills (No.1 and No.2).

To date and subject to the approval by the parliament, these bills, together with the bulk repeal of regulations introduced by the Attorney-General, will repeal over 10,000 legislative instruments and over 1,800 acts of parliament.

Regulation should only remain in force for as long as necessary. It should be easily accessible and continue to deliver on policy outcomes. This is not about removing protections. This is, rather, the application of common sense.

Today the Omnibus Repeal Day (Autumn 2015) Bill, which is before the House, with the Statute Law Revision Bill (No. 2) 2015 and the Amending Acts 1980 to 1989 Repeal Bill 2015 will further clean up the Commonwealth's statute books, by repealing acts and amending unnecessary and outdated provisions.

The Spent and Redundant Instruments Repeal Regulation 2015 is also part of the government's 2015 autumn repeal day package. The regulation repeals 160 spent and redundant legislative instruments from across government, as well as repealing provisions from other legislative instruments. Repeal of the instruments will reduce red tape, deliver clearer laws and make accessing the law simpler for both businesses and individuals.

Subject to the parliament, these bills will collectively repeal over 890 Commonwealth acts.

The Omnibus Repeal Day (Autumn 2015) Bill, alone, will amend or repeal 14 acts across portfolios, some of which are spent and redundant or have remained on the Commonwealth statute books long beyond the date of fulfilling their purpose. Other acts being amended or repealed have provisions that have been superseded by other legislation years ago.

The omnibus bill will also make a number of amendments to legislation to reduce complexity and reduce compliance costs.

The omnibus bill proposes a number of sensible overdue changes. Some examples of these changes are in the repeal of the Meat Export Charge Act 1984 and the Meat Inspection Arrangements Act 1964, both of which are now redundant. The inspection of meat and meat products for export was overhauled in 2011. The Commonwealth no longer employs any domestic state meat inspectors and cost recovery arrangements are now set out under the Australian Export Meat Inspection System, with fees being collected under other Commonwealth legislation. This begs the obvious question as to why this redundant regulation needs to remain on the statute books. Another example is the repeal of the Primary Industry Councils Act 1991. At present, no industry councils are established by this act and none have been established under this act for over a decade. Two councils were previously established under the act but are now ceased—the Grains Industry Council (established in 1991 and ceased in 1999) and the Australian Pig Industry Council (established in 1993 and ceased in 1998). We can repeal this act because the original purpose of industry councils is now being fulfilled by other mechanisms.

In addition, the omnibus bill contains one particular measure that will result in over $41 million in deregulatory savings. Proposed amendments to the Health and Other Services (Compensation) Act 1995 will remove the requirement for compensation recipients to separately submit a statutory declaration when submitting a claim for benefits provided under Commonwealth programs for Medicare, nursing home, residential care and home care services.

The requirement for a separate statutory declaration to be signed and witnessed for every compensation claim results in a process that could take several hours per claim in correspondence and phone calls through legal representatives to obtain a valid declaration. Essentially, in these cases, it is already an offence to provide false or misleading information to the Commonwealth, so having separate statutory declarations is unnecessary.

This amendment will reduce the regulatory burden on both compensation payers and around 50,000 claimants per year and allow automation of certain compensation recovery procedures for the government. Compensation recipients will save time by being able to declare that the information provided is true and correct using existing forms.

In this case, the legislation is the responsibility of the Department of Health but the services are delivered by the Department of Human Services. This is a fine example of how departments and portfolios are collaborating on cross-portfolio reforms to reduce red tape, and of the government's resolve to find meaningful reductions in regulatory burden regardless of whether or not they sit within existing organisational boundaries.

As part of the omnibus bill, the government will also remove acts that are now inoperative. Inoperative acts expand the volume of the law without achieving any policy goal and can therefore be repealed.

By way of example, the statute books do not need to include the International Monetary Agreements Act 1959. The act, which relates to former increases in Australia's quota in the International Monetary Fund and to past increases in the capital stock of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, has long served its purpose and can be removed from the stock of Commonwealth regulation.

The omnibus bill also abolishes a number of advisory groups and statutory bodies that no longer are justified.

For example, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 will be amended to end the Biological Diversity Advisory Committee. Membership of this committee lapsed in 2007. The Minister for the Environment is able to use a range of other existing mechanisms, including through the department, stakeholder consultation, scientific input, the Threatened Species Commissioner, the Indigenous Advisory Committee and the Threatened Species Scientific Committee to achieve the relevant advisory end.

Through our commitment to dedicated parliamentary repeal days and bills such as the omnibus repeal day bill, the amending acts 1980 to 1989 bill 2015 and the Statute Law Revision Bill (No.2) 2015, this government is taking decisive action to reduce red tape.

These are a fundamental part of the government's red-tape commitment.

I look forward to working with the parliament to ensure that these reforms are passed for the benefit of the Australian community.

Last but not least, I thank the Office of Parliamentary Counsel and others for the significant time and effort that went into preparing this important bill which allows the government's third repeal day to be possible.

With this, I commend the Omnibus Repeal Day (Autumn 2015) Bill to the House.

Debate adjourned.