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Thursday, 4 December 2003
Page: 23772

Mr ROSS CAMERON (Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer) (9:49 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The purpose of this bill is to amend the Trade Practices Act 1974 and other relevant Commonwealth legislation to support professional standards laws which are currently in force in New South Wales and Western Australia, and which other jurisdictions are expected to adopt in due course.

Professional standards laws seek to minimise damages claims against professionals through improved professional standards—by requiring risk management strategies, compulsory insurance cover, professional education and appropriate complaints and disciplinary mechanisms—in return for caps on the liability of professionals who are covered by schemes which have been gazetted under the relevant state or territory professional standards law.

The amendments made by this bill will establish a structure under which the Commonwealth, by prescribing schemes under state or territory professional standards legislation, can support those laws by allowing liability under the relevant Commonwealth legislative provisions to be capped.

Ultimately this will benefit professionals and consumers alike, as professional standards laws will ensure that professionals hold adequate insurance, and this will serve to protect the interests of the community at large. There is also an unequivocal benefit to consumers flowing from the risk management strategies, professional education and disciplinary procedures embodied in professional standards schemes.

This bill amends three Commonwealth acts: the Trade Practices Act 1974, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission Act 2001 and the Corporations Act 2001.

Amendments of the latter two acts are subject to the provisions of the Intergovernmental Corporations Agreement 2002. As required by clause 510 of that agreement, I now inform this House that Western Australia, South Australia and New South Wales have voted in favour of these amendments and of truncating the usual exposure period that would apply before the introduction of this bill. Victoria does not favour truncating the usual consultation phase and has voted accordingly, but I assure the Victorian government and others that the processes of this parliament will ensure that the views of the community have adequate opportunity for expression before this bill becomes law.

I commend this bill to the House and present the explanatory memorandum.

Debate (on motion by Ms Roxon) adjourned.