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Thursday, 21 June 2012
Page: 7480


Ms ROXON (GellibrandAttorney-General and Minister for Emergency Management) (13:23): by leave—I present a supplementary explanatory memorandum to the bill and move government amendments (1) to (11) as circulated together:

(1) Schedule 1, item 11, page 10 (after line 12), at the end of section 1061PAF, add:

   (3) The AVTOP Principles may specify circumstances in which the amount of an AVTOP is nil.

(2) Schedule 1, item 11, page 10 (before line 13), before section 1061PAG, insert:

Division 4—Other

(3) Schedule 1, item 11, page 10 (after line 27), at the end of Part 2.24AA, add:

1061PAH AVTOP is not compensation or damages

      For the purposes of any law of the Commonwealth, a payment of AVTOP is not to be treated as being a payment of compensation or damages.

(4) Schedule 1, page 13 (line 2), omit the heading.

(5) Schedule 1, item 15, page 13 (lines 3 to 6), omit the item.

(6) Schedule 1, page 13 (line 7), omit the heading.

(7) Schedule 1, item 16, page 13 (lines 8 to 12), omit the item.

(8) Schedule 1, page 13 (line 21), omit the heading.

(9) Schedule 1, item 19, page 13 (line 22) to page 14 (line 6), omit the item.

(10) Schedule 1, page 15 (after line 2), after item 25, insert:

25A At the end of section 39

Add:

   (6) The Secretary may determine that a specified period, being a period that is longer than 13 weeks, applies for the purposes of claims for an AVTOP in relation to a declared overseas terrorist act.

   (7) If, under subsection (6), there is a determination of a period in force for the purposes of claims for an AVTOP in relation to a declared overseas terrorist act, then this Act applies to those claims as if references in subsections (1) and (3) to the period of 13 weeks were references to the period referred to in the determination.

   (8) Adetermination under subsection (6) is not a legislative instrument.

(11) Schedule 1, item 26, page 15 (lines 6 and 7), omit subsection 46B(1), substitute:

   (1) Unless the Secretary makes a determination under subsection (2), a person's AVTOP is to be paid:

      (a) in accordance with section 47; and

      (b) on the date that is determined by the Secretary to be the earliest date on which it is reasonably practicable for the payment to be made to the person.

The House would be aware that these amendments have been available for some time and throughout the period of the debate. These amendments have been identified from the lengthy period when this bill was originally introduced to the debating time and each of these amendments is consistent with the original intent of the bill.

The amendments do a number of things, and I will just quickly take the House through them. They clarify that a payment under the proposed scheme can be between zero and $75,000. This will ensure that funds can be distributed in a fair and equitable manner where there is more than one claimant. For example, where a victim has left behind a widow, a dependent child and a brother, it might be appropriate for the widow and dependent child to receive the full $75,000 and, while the brother might also be eligible, it may be appropriate that he receive a lesser payment.

The amendments will also ensure a payment under the scheme does not adversely affect a person's entitlement to other forms of damages or compensation—those are amendments (2), (3), (6), (7), (8) and (9)—nor any family assistance benefit, amendments (4) and (5). It will allow the period for assessing claims to be extended to ensure that there is sufficient time to assess claims particularly if there is a large number of victims—amendments (10) and (11).

As you would be aware, on 22 March this year the Senate jointly referred the provisions of this bill and a private senator's bill to the Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee. It tabled its report. We support six of the seven recommendations and, to implement a number of those recommendations, those details are set out in the revised explanatory memorandum. Having tabled that revised explanatory memorandum, I think this will provide greater guidance about how the Prime Minister will determine whether a specific terrorist act should be covered by the scheme and it will also clarify that the bill enables the extension of the scheme to cover Commonwealth employees working overseas who do not meet the residency test.

Finally, it clarifies how payments under the scheme will interact with other payments. To implement recommendation 6, the government is exploring options for the establishment of a central contact point for Australians affected by terrorist acts. The government does not support recommendation 5, which would double the maximum payment for primary victims. As I have said, the proposed maximum of $75,000 is appropriate for a number of reasons including that it is consistent with the most generous victims of crime scheme, those in Western Australia and Queensland, and the private senator's bill, and it would seem anomalous to award more to overseas victims than to those who are victims in Australia. It will supplement existing measures of assistance and support including the disaster healthcare assistance, ex gratia assistance, consular and repatriation assistance and immediate short-term financial assistance through the AGDRP. It will not adversely affect the victim's entitlement to a range of other benefits including compensation, damages and Medicare.

I understand that the opposition have indicated that they support these amendments. We welcome that support and I commend the bill with these amendments to the House.