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Wednesday, 13 February 2008
Page: 201


Mr TANNER (Minister for Finance and Deregulation) (12:56 PM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

This bill makes a number of important amendments to the Lands Acquisition Act 1989. The amendments proposed in the bill update the act to enable Commonwealth mining regulations to be promulgated; to apply penalties to breaches of the act with respect to mining that are commensurate with Commonwealth criminal law policy; to make the act more efficient by giving the Minister for Finance and Deregulation the power to initiate claims, making the Minister for Finance and Deregulation responsible for an administrative function; to eliminate an inconsistency by making the Cocos (Keeling) Islands land administration exempt from the act, consistent with Christmas Island and Norfolk Island acts; to reduce the duplication of tabling of commercial, in-the-market transactions; and to repeal the redundant Lands Acquisition (Defence) Act 1968.

The amendments in relation to mining will enable the promulgation of Commonwealth mining regulations for the administration of mining on Commonwealth land. In particular, they will enable state and territory legislation to be applied in a manner consistent with Commonwealth policy. The amendments also empower the Federal Court to have jurisdiction in matters arising under such regulations. The amendments ensure the judicial and review processes are consistent throughout the act.

The amendments provide for a penalty regime for breaches of the regulations under the act that is in line with the Commonwealth’s criminal law policy. The amendments impose a maximum penalty of 50 penalty units for an individual and 250 penalty units for a body corporate for breaches of regulations made under the act.

The process of promulgating Commonwealth mining regulations will entail extensive consultation and agreement with states and territories. Enabling the Minister for Finance and Deregulation to initiate an offer of compensation to an interest holder without a claim being made promotes efficiencies and fairness in the application of the act. This will also expedite the compensation process and ease financial and administrative burdens in relation to compulsory acquisitions. The proposal will avoid delays to settlement of compensation in relation to acquisitions and provide certainty to the Commonwealth on its financial exposure.

The amendments provide that, in the absence of a claim for compensation, the Minister for Finance and Deregulation must wait 12 months from the date of acquisition before making an offer. The Minister for Finance and Deregulation will also be able to initiate an offer of compensation for losses arising from the Commonwealth’s activities on the land, to be acquired prior to the acquisition regardless of whether or not the acquisition proceeds.

In relation to offers from the Minister for Finance and Deregulation, the rights of recipients of offers to review processes under the act are preserved. The amendment exempting land on the Cocos Islands from the act will correct that anomaly. Dealings in land on the Cocos Islands under the Cocos (Keeling) Islands Act 1955 have, by reason of oversight, not been made exempt from the act. The amendment would bring the administration of land on the Cocos Islands in line with land administration on Christmas Island and Norfolk Island without the intervention of the act.

The amendment which removes the tabling of commercial acquisitions on market of an interest in land reduces duplication and administrative burdens. Accountability and transparency of commercial acquisitions is provided by AusTender, which makes public commercial acquisitions of property by the Commonwealth. AusTender has a standard of transparency and accountability equivalent to that of tabling in parliament. This amendment brings the acquisition of land in line with the Commonwealth Procurement Guidelines. This amendment accords with initiatives to reduce red tape in government administration. It creates efficiencies by reducing duplication and associated administrative costs. The amendment dealing with the substitution of the Attorney-General with the Minister for Finance and Deregulation, in connection with cancelling and amending title documents related to land held in trust, creates further efficiencies by bringing the administrative functions of the act within the responsibility of the Minister for Finance and Deregulation.

The act presently enables the Attorney-General to cancel and amend titles to land when land is held in trust and the public purpose for the land is varied. As the Minister for Finance and Deregulation has the responsibility for administering the act, having the Minister for Finance and Deregulation assume that role from the Attorney-General will streamline the process and promote greater efficiencies.

The repeal of the Lands Acquisition Defence Act 1968 eliminates redundant legislation. This legislation was created in order to acquire public parkland in New South Wales. This acquisition has long since passed and the Lands Acquisition Defence Act 1968 can now be repealed. This amendment would update Commonwealth legislation.

I commend the bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr Anthony Smith) adjourned.