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Wednesday, 29 November 2000
Page: 20144


Senator FORSHAW (3:59 PM) —I have a couple of questions with regard to the interaction between the minister and the operation of the deed of agreement. As I understand it, the way in which accountability is to be provided is by virtue of a deed of agreement entered into between the Commonwealth and the company. Clause 12 of the bill says:

The Minister may, on behalf of the Commonwealth, enter into a deed of agreement with a body ... for the purposes of this subsection.

Section 9, which gives the power to the minister to declare a body to be the industry services body and/or to be the industry export control body—and Senator O'Brien has already drawn attention to this—is again couched in the terms that a minister `may' make such declarations. In both 9(1)(d) and 9(2)(d) the conditions attached include a requirement that:

... the body has entered into a deed of agreement with the Commonwealth ...

under subsection 12(1) and subsection 12(2) respectively. As I read that, the minister has the discretion as to whether or not he enters into a deed of agreement. He has the power to declare a body to be the industry services body and has the power to declare a body to be the industry export control body, but he can only exercise that power if that particular body has entered into a deed of agreement with the Commonwealth. Further, such a body can be the one company for the purposes of being both the industry services body and the export control body. But that is not necessarily the case; it can be two separate bodies or companies.

Having said all that, I would like to know why it is couched in the terms that the minister may enter into a deed of agreement. Shouldn't it be the case that, if there is a requirement or a condition to having a body designated as the industry services body or the export control body, there must be a deed of agreement? Therefore, there is an obligation on both the Commonwealth and the company to enter into such a deed of agreement. In effect, the question I am putting to you is: could there be circumstances where there would be no deed of agreement in existence? If that is the case, does that mean that, at any one point of time, there may not be an industry services body or an industry export control body? Further, is it intended that the company being established purely because of this legislation—Horticulture Australia—will be both the industry services body and the export control body? Is the primary intention that it be one company with both of those responsibilities? Or is that just for the time being and then it could be split between two other companies or two other bodies? Perhaps I will leave the questions at that.