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Wednesday, 28 March 2007
Page: 3

Ms JULIE BISHOP (Minister for Education, Science and Training and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women’s Issues) (9:10 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The Governance Review Implementation (Science Research Agencies) Bill 2007 amends the Australian Institute of Marine Science Act 1987, the AIMS Act, the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation Act 1987, the ANSTO Act, and the Science and Industry Research Act 1949, the SIR Act, to implement changes to the governance arrangements of the Australian Institute of Marine Science—known as AIMS; the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation—known as ANSTO; and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation—known as CSIRO.

These changes form part of the government’s response to the recommendations of the review of the corporate governance of statutory authorities and office holders conducted by Mr John Uhrig.

The assessment of all three science research agencies against the recommendations of the Uhrig review found that their functions are best suited to the board template. However, a number of minor changes are required to legislation for each agency to enhance their governance arrangements and make them fully consistent with that board template.

The current arrangements in relation to the appointment of future CEOs for AIMS and CSIRO are being amended to reflect the Uhrig review recommendation that the CEO should be appointed by the board, rather than the Governor-General. This arrangement is already in place in ANSTO.

A number of consequential amendments are also being made to ensure that other relevant provisions, including provisions relating to termination of the appointment of the future CEOs, are consistent with this arrangement.

In recognition of the responsibilities and workload of the chair of the CSIRO board, a position of deputy chair has been created. Again, this is consistent with the arrangements that already apply to ANSTO.

Consistent with the Uhrig review recommendations regarding the powers of a governing body, the legislative requirement for ministerial approval of contracts above a prescribed value will be removed from the acts for all three agencies. This will be replaced by a requirement, set out in the minister’s statement of expectations that the minister is notified in advance of the agencies entering into significant contracts.

The ANSTO Act will also be amended to reflect Uhrig review recommendations with regard to best practice for boards by specifying that the board will consist of six to nine members, including the executive director. This increase in the size of the board will enable a wider range of expertise to be brought to bear on corporate governance of ANSTO and is commensurate with the extent and technical complexity of its operations.

For consistency with commercial practice, the title of the chief executive of ANSTO will be changed to ‘Chief Executive Officer’ rather than the current ‘Executive Director’.

In relation to CSIRO, the legislation is being amended to provide that the chief executive seek the board’s approval for the payment of bonuses or IP rewards to CSIRO staff, rather than the minister’s approval.

Section 9A of the Science and Industry Research Act is also being amended to remove the need for ministerial approval of the acceptance of gifts.

The legislative enhancements to the science agencies’ governance arrangements will be complemented by the issuance of statements of expectations by the Minister for Education, Science and Training to the AIMS Council and the ANSTO and CSIRO boards outlining the government’s current objectives relevant to these agencies, as well as any broad expectations that the minister has for them. The AIMS Council and the ANSTO and CSIRO boards will each reply to the statement of expectations with a statement of intent, outlining how they propose to meet the expectations of the minister. The statements of expectations and the statements of intent will be made public.

The statement of expectations will augment the 2007-08 to 2010-11 quadrennium funding agreements (which replace the former triennium funding agreements), which also serve to document key understandings about the agencies’ operations over this period. The agreements will be entered into by the agencies, the Minister for Finance and Administration and the Minister for Education, Science and Training.

Finally, I would like to draw the attention of the House to the fact that the deputy secretary of my department has resigned from the ANSTO board and the secretary of my department has resigned from the CSIRO board to remove any potential for conflict of interest for serving public servants between their responsibilities to the minister and to the boards.

The amendments to the sciences agencies’ acts are part of a suite of changes that are being implemented by the government to improve the governance arrangements for various statutory agencies within the Education, Science and Training portfolio.

I commend the bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Dr Emerson) adjourned.