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Thursday, 25 August 1983
Page: 291


Mr LIONEL BOWEN (Leader of the House) —by leave-In the past, members of Parliament and the people have become aware of the Government's legislation program in any period of sittings only when Bills were introduced. The Governor-General's Speech certainly provides a general guide to intentions. However the Government has decided that this is not an effective way to inform the Parliament and the public. We feel that there is no reason to hide the priorities of legislation and we are very proud of our intentions to achieve substantial improvement in the legislation already existing-certainly in the economic area. Moreover, if honourable members and senators have the opportunity early in the sitting to see what the parliamentary program is to be like, they can more easily plan ahead their own priorities and recognise that there is a substantial work load ahead of them.

As I announced the other day, approximately 117 pieces of legislation are planned under this program. This is the first time a government has informed the Parliament of its detailed intentions. This will be the first full length sitting since the Government was elected. It provides the first opportunity to embark on a full range of economic and social reforms to put this Government's commitments into effect. We have not wasted any opportunities to now. During the short autumn sitting, we passed legislation to establish the community employment program-a demonstration of our first priority; that is, to put Australians back to work. We also took the opportunity to institute a number of priority welfare and taxation reforms; to protect the South West Tasmanian wilderness and to establish the Economic Planning Advisory Council and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Legislation was introduced in fulfilment of major constitutional and legal reform priorities and debate will be resumed on those matters early in this sitting.

I shall now outline briefly the Government's legislation program for the sitting ahead. In regard to economic and industrial development, the Government will introduce legislation which is proposed for passage in the sitting to do the following: Implement the recent decisions on the steel industry; give the Australian Industry Development Corporation a greater role in financing industry in Australia; implement various bounty decisions announced recently; reform the operation of various primary industry assistance and inspection arrangements, particularly in the dairy products and meat areas and implement existing export inspection cost recovery policy; implement decisions on a review of the industrial research and development incentive scheme; and enable the period for which temporary assistance may be granted to an industry to be extended.

Subject to resources, it is hoped that legislation will also be introduced affecting the regulatory environment within which business operates; for example , amendments to the Insurance and Life Insurance Acts to improve financial standards. These are subject to detailed planning at the moment and should be available for introduction at an early date. There will also be introduced new legislation governing cheques and bills of exchange, together with companies and securities legislation to revise the co-operative scheme in the light of experience and to implement decisions on a centralised scrip and accounting system in the futures industry. It is hoped that this legislation will be introduced in what is called the September sitting.

In regard to consumer protection, legislation will be introduced to establish the Prices Surveillance Authority. Other consumer affairs legislation is also under consideration. In the industrial relations area, a Bill amending the Conciliation and Arbitration Act will be introduced for passage to implement reforms already announced, including a complementary Commonwealth-State industrial relations system. In addition, legislation to give effect to our commitments in the public sector industrial area will be developed and introduced if time permits.

In the area of welfare and community development, major pieces of legislation for introduction and passage in the September sitting will include: Bills to establish Medicare and to implement other Budget health decisions and measures in the health area; a Bill to establish the new first home ownership assistance scheme and legislation associated with the Government's decision to retain the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation; a package of education Bills implementing our decisions on schools and tertiary funding and making technical changes to the student assistance legislation; and major social security and repatriation Bills largely to implement Budget decisions.

In regard to electoral matters, Bills to implement our decisions on electoral reform following consideration of the report of the Joint Select Committee on Electoral Reform will be introduced in the coming sitting. In regard to constitutional and law reform, as foreshadowed by the Attorney-General (Senator Gareth Evans), the Government plans to put referendum Bills through Parliament to enable a referendum to be held in early 1984. In addition, we propose that family law, freedom of information, archives, ombudsman and sex discrimination Bills introduced in the last sitting proceed. New legislation implementing various priority law reform commitments will include: Legislation to establish an independent director of public prosecutions; following the recent conference in the Senate chamber revised proposals in relation to investigating organised crime; a revision to the Family Law Act in relation to legal aid costs, as announced in the Budget; legislation to provide for a new scheme for transfer of prisoners between States; and legislation to implement aspects of the Law Reform Commission's report on lands acquisition and compensation, which will be for introduction only. Should time permit, major human rights legislation will also be introduced, as will a new criminal investigation Bill. Depending on the progress of discussions with the States an Australia Bill will be introduced to end the residual colonial links with Britain. A uniform defamation Bill will be introduced as an exposure draft to enable public comment. The customary Statute Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill will also be put forward in due course.

In regard to migration and citizenship, the Migration Amendment Bill already passed by this House will be taken further and citizenship legislation will be introduced to remove anomalous and discriminatory provisions. In addition to the Appropriation Bill and Taxation Bills introduced on Budget night we will be introducing for passage normal States grants legislation and further income tax legislation to implement decisions from the Budget and the May statement including those decisions relating to superannuation and tax avoidance initiatives. Other Bills for passage will be introduced to implement Budget revenue decisions relating to broadcast and television licence fees, customs and excise tariffs and Budget decisions on the petroleum freight subsidy.

In regard to external relations, Bills will be introduced for passage to fulfil our commitment to further Australia's contribution to the International Development Association, the Asian Development Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Legislation to implement the proposed Torres Strait treaty may also be ready for introduction. An Income Tax (International Agreements) Bill will be put forward to implement various agreements signed recently. This piece of legislation is expected to be introduced in September. Other measures proposed for passage in the September sitting include: New radio communications legislation; amendments to enable the Interstate Commission to commence operation; amendments to the Public Service Act to enable the operation of the community employment program in the Commonwealth Public Service.

Other legislation which may be introduced and proceeded with if time permits includes: Bills to improve the operation of the Australian National Line and Australian National Railway; legislation to restore the courier service of Australia Post and to make other amendments in the postal law; and a Bill to implement, through an amendment to the Patents Act, Australia's accession to the Budapest Treaty. A Liquid Fuels Emergency Bill has already been introduced.

As will always be the case, unforeseen circumstances may give rise to additional legislation. There will be pressure on the Parliamentary Counsel and other people to enable all matters to come forward as soon as we would hope. But what I have outlined is a major program for the House, consistent with the Government's objectives of restoring balance to the economy and establishing the basis for sustained economic growth as well as implementing priority social and institutional reforms. Obviously, making available legislation, much of which is complex, may take a little longer than normal. Some of the Bills, of course, may well be introduced into the Senate and may not be introduced in this House until October or later. The Government thought it right and proper to give honourable members advance notice of the program that we will be facing in the following months.