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Wednesday, 2 March 2016
Page: 1639


Senator RYAN (VictoriaMinister for Vocational Education and Skills) (16:22): I table the explanatory memorandum relating to the bill and move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—

The Regulatory Powers (Standardisation Reform) Bill 2016 represents the first substantial tranche of Commonwealth Acts to trigger the operation of the Regulatory Powers (Standard Provisions) Act 2014.

The Regulatory Powers Act provides for a standard suite of provisions in relation to monitoring and investigation powers, as well as provisions regulating the use of civil penalties, infringement notices, enforceable undertakings and injunctions.

That Act commenced on 1 October 2014, but only has effect where Commonwealth Acts are drafted or amended to trigger the standard provisions in that Act.

By standardising regulatory powers across the Commonwealth, the Act is intended to:

significantly reduce the length of legislation governing each regulatory regime

provide greater clarity and consistency for agencies that need to exercise powers with respect to multiple regulatory regimes

make it easier for businesses that are subject to multiple regimes to understand and comply with the law, and

facilitate the development of a common body of law.

The Regulatory Powers Act also ensures that Commonwealth regulatory powers are sufficiently certain and predictable, while being flexible, to ensure that agencies with specialised functions can operate effectively.

This Bill will amend 15 Commonwealth Acts to repeal existing provisions providing for regulatory regimes and instead apply the standard provisions of the Regulatory Powers Act.

Those Acts fall within the portfolios of the Attorney General's Department and the Departments of Agriculture and Water Resources; Defence; Employment; Health; Industry, Innovation and Science; and Social Sciences.

In most instances, the Bill will not alter existing arrangements because application of the Regulatory Powers Act will result in either the substitution of an equivalent provision or a provision that is the same in effect with modernised terminology or minor technical changes reflecting current drafting standards.

Where necessary, the amendments will modify the operation of the Regulatory Powers Act to retain existing regulatory powers that do not have equivalent provisions in the Regulatory Powers Act.

In a small number of instances, the Bill will alter existing arrangements because application of the Regulatory Powers Act will result in the acquisition of new provisions or additional powers or functions. This only occurs where such provisions are necessary for the effective performance of duties or functions and the effective exercise of powers under the Regulatory Powers Act.

Alignment with the Regulatory Powers Act also provides an opportunity to consider whether existing regulatory powers or functions are still relevant and appropriate.

Accordingly, in some cases the Bill will either repeal or narrow existing regulatory provisions that do not have equivalent provisions in the Regulatory Powers Act on the basis that those existing provisions are no longer required or required in their current form.

The standard provisions of the Regulatory Powers Act represent best practice in relation to regulatory powers of general application. That Act also includes operational safeguards, and maintains Parliamentary scrutiny over application of that Act to specific regulatory regimes.

The Bill will also make minor amendments to the Regulatory Powers Act to clarify the operation of certain provisions and remove unreasonable administrative burdens on agencies exercising regulatory powers under the Regulatory Powers Act.

Those amendments relate to:

the ability to secure evidence of a contravention when exercising monitoring powers

the age of photographs for identity cards

the time period for the making of a civil penalty order, and

the cap on the amount to be stated in an infringement notice.

Implementing the Regulatory Powers Act supports the Government's regulatory reform agenda, as that Act intends to simplify and streamline Commonwealth regulatory powers across the statute book.

Over the last 20 years there has been an enormous proliferation of regulatory powers and associated provisions, across the Commonwealth statute book. Those powers and provisions vary in their breadth and detail, resulting in inconsistency or unnecessary duplication across regimes.

Standardisation provides regulatory agencies with the opportunity to use more uniform powers, and increase legal certainty for businesses and individuals who are subject to those powers.

Ordered that further consideration of the second reading of this bill be adjourned to 10 May 2016, in accordance with standing order 111.