Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 15 May 2013
Page: 3379


Mrs MIRABELLA (Indi) (11:11): In rising to speak on the National Measurement Amendment Bill 2013 I note that the government is arguing that the principal reason for the introduction of this legislation is to correct deficiencies, obviously identified during the first two years of operation of the national trade measurement system. Assuming that that truly is the intent, the coalition is prepared to provide support for the bill. On the face of what is being presented to us, through the bill and the associated explanatory memorandum, we do not have a problem with the six sets of changes listed on pages 4 and 5 of the explanatory memorandum, and if the changes that the government proposes to legislate through this bill do genuinely overcome a number of unforeseen problems, and in fact improve the practical operation of the act, then naturally those are outcomes that we support and that are completely uncontroversial to us.

However, I do want to point out that it is now nearly three years since the introduction of the national trade measurement system and it is therefore something of a concern that we are still having to consider multiple changes to the provisions that accompanied its introduction—not to mention that this is not the first time that this has happened. But I suppose we should not be particularly surprised about that! When the coalition asked very specifically, through a Senate estimates question on notice in 2011, about what problems and unforeseen consequences had arisen following the transfer of state responsibilities to the national level through the new trade measurement system, we did not receive a clear answer to that question at all. Instead, we got what now seems to pass as a largely meaningless, stock-standard estimates answer from this government that completely avoided the question, albeit that I suppose we should probably have felt privileged to have even received an answer at all, given that, from the most recent estimates round, there are something like 150 out of 184 questions that still have not been answered after around three months of waiting. And it is not as if the government has been preoccupying itself and the bureaucracy with good policy and a vision for this country. But hopefully the Australian people will be relieved of the burden of the worst administration at the national level since Federation.

But going back specifically to the question at hand, that answer back in 2011 to question B1-85 was: 'A report on the transition to a national scheme has been prepared by the NMI in consultation with other Australian, state and territory officials. The report, which covers all aspects of the transition, was released in July'—that is 2011—'and is available on the website at www.measurement.gov.au.' In other words, the department and the government were not interested in going anywhere near answering the direct question of whether there were specific problems with the rollout of the system. Reading between the lines of that answer, it was not hard to draw the conclusion that the problems clearly were being experienced at that time, but it is only much later down the track that we are learning exactly what they are. It is very poor that the government was not up-front with us back then—again, no surprise. If there are further problems that have not been identified as part of this bill or a predecessor version at the end of 2010, now is the time for the government to finally stop hiding from scrutiny and publicly spell out some of these issues. And it should be very clear about how and why some elements of the system have not been working.

In closing, let me restate my earlier comment that the coalition will support changes that genuinely eradicate unforeseen problems and improve the practical operation of the act. But I am increasingly concerned, each time a bill such as this is presented to the House, that we can be completely sure that that is the case or that there is not a range of other problems that are also still waiting to be addressed even after three years.