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Wednesday, 23 June 2010
Page: 6256

Mr GRAY (Parliamentary Secretary for Western and Northern Australia) (9:28 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The Financial Framework Legislation Amendment Bill 2010 is an omnibus bill that would, if passed, affect 31 acts, involving the amendment of 25 acts and the repeal of six acts.

This is the sixth Financial Framework Legislation Amendment Bill since 2004 and builds on improvements to the Commonwealth’s financial framework that have had support from across the parliament.

This bill contains three major components, being the repeal of redundant special appropriations, the improvement of governance and accountability arrangements under the Commonwealth’s financial framework legislation, and the improvement of financial and governance arrangements for various specific bodies.

First, the bill would, if enacted, repeal 20 redundant special appropriations, including six acts entirely. This continues the government’s commitment to regularly review special appropriations, as stated in the government’s response of December 2008 to the report by the former Senator Andrew Murray, Review of Operation Sunlight: overhauling budgetary transparency.

Second, the bill would improve governance arrangements for various bodies operating under either the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 or the Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Act 1997, which are known colloquially as the FMA Act and the CAC Act respectively. In relation to bodies of an interjurisdictional nature, the proposed changes would allow for relevant state or territory ministers to request information about the operation of these bodies, along the lines of what can currently be requested by Commonwealth ministers. This recognises that interjurisdictional governance requires mechanisms to support, where appropriate, accountability to states and territories, as well as the Commonwealth. The specific changes affecting any particular agencies, however, would be stated in regulations, to enable full consultation and to calibrate the requirements on a case by case basis.

Third, the bill would improve the financial and governance arrangements for several specific bodies. These proposed amendments have been developed after consultation with relevant ministers, departments and agencies, consistent with the Australian government’s policy on governance arrangements.

Another change in the bill covers new delegation powers in the CAC Act, allowing ministers to delegate to a departmental secretary certain limited functions relating to the oversight of Commonwealth authorities and Commonwealth companies. Introducing specific delegation powers strengthens existing arrangements, clarifying the use of authorisations for obtaining budget estimates and monthly financial statements. The proposed delegation would also consolidate the existing ability of the Minister for Finance and Deregulation to delegate approval of the manner of investment of surplus money by certain Commonwealth authorities.

In particular, the bill would consolidate the Australian Institute of Criminology and the Criminology Research Council, while transferring them from governance under the CAC Act to the FMA Act. It would also transfer the governance of the Australian Law Reform Commission from the CAC Act to the FMA Act. Further, the bill would transfer the governance of the National Transport Commission to the CAC Act, bringing it into a recognised governance framework. And, last, the bill would abolish the Office of Evaluation and Audit for Indigenous Programs in recognition of this function now having been appropriately absorbed into the Australian National Audit Office.

Finally, the bill strengthens reporting to parliament of the Commonwealth’s involvement in companies. Currently, the CAC Act obliges responsible ministers to inform parliament when the Commonwealth acquires or disposes of an interest in a company. The bill would relocate this requirement more appropriately in part 5 of the FMA Act, which currently deals with investments, and allows for increased accountability in reporting to parliament, under the regulations of the FMA Act, on the types of companies and other bodies corporate that the Commonwealth might become involved with.

In summary, the bill removes unnecessary laws, regularises and consolidates various ongoing arrangements and emphasises the importance of the executive reporting to the parliament about activities that are being conducted through company structures.

I commend the bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mrs Gash) adjourned.