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Thursday, 10 February 2011
Page: 386

Mr GRAY (Special Minister of State and Special Minister of State for the Public Service and Integrity) (9:42 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

There are two additional estimates bills this year: Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2010-2011 and Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2010-11.

The additional estimates bills seek appropriation authority from parliament for additional expenditure of money from the consolidated revenue fund in order to meet requirements that have arisen since the last budget. The total additional appropriation being sought through additional estimates bills 3 and 4 this year is a little over $2.3 billion.

I turn to Appropriation Bill (No. 3). The total appropriation being sought this year is $1.36 billion. This proposed appropriation arises from changes in the estimates of program expenditure due to variations in the timing of payments and forecasted increases in program take-up, reclassifications and from policy decisions taken by the government since the last budget.

I now outline the major appropriations proposed in the bill.

The Department of Immigration and Citizenship will receive supplementary funding of $290 million for operational costs associated with the management of offshore asylum seekers.

The Attorney-General’s Department will be provided with $120.7 million to assist people in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia who have been adversely affected by the floods which began in late November 2010. People who have temporarily lost their income as a direct result of the flooding are eligible to apply for payments which will be provided through Centrelink for up to 13 weeks.

In addition, the Attorney-General’s Department will be provided with $17.6 million to reimburse state and territory legal aid commissioners for providing legal assistance in national security, people smuggling and drug related matters. This funding will be made available through the Expensive Commonwealth Criminal Cases Fund.

The government will provide the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations with $14.3 million to support the operation of the Education Services for Overseas Students Assurance Fund which provides compensation to international students in the event of an education provider closure. Students will be given a refund of any course fees that cannot be recovered from education providers if they are unable to be placed in a suitable alternative course. This funding will supplement provider contributions and ensure the Fund is able to meet its obligations, and will only be drawn down if required.

In addition, the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations will be provided with $10.1 million to introduce the Fair Entitlements Guarantee to protect employee entitlements when an employer enters liquidation. The Fair Entitlements Guarantee will replace the General Employee Entitlements and Redundancy Scheme and extend current entitlements to include redundancy pay, up to a maximum of four weeks for each year of service. The new guarantee will apply to all Australian workers other than company directors and their close associates. This funding is in addition to the $458.6 million currently available to the General Employee Entitlements and Redundancy Scheme over four years.

The government will also provide the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations with an additional $14.6 million to double the capacity of the Connecting People with Jobs Relocation Assistance Pilot program up to 4,000 places. A primary focus of the program will be to assist eligible unemployed Australians to relocate to Queensland to take up employment opportunities in flood affected areas. This funding will provide incentives for the unemployed to move to areas which offer greater employment opportunities and to stick with their new job.

The government is providing $22.4 million to assist Tasmanian forestry contractors and employees respond to the challenges facing the Tasmanian native forest industry.  The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry will receive $14.6 million in Appropriation Bill (No. 3) to provide exit assistance in the form of grants to eligible contracting businesses as well as assistance to help ensure that employees receive their full entitlements. The balance of the funding is being met from other sources.

The Department of Finance and Deregulation will be provided with $11 million to support an increase in the number of ministerial, opposition, Australian Greens, Independent and whips staff to allow members and senators to better manage their workload and provide them with greater capacity for consultation.

The government will provide AusAID with the following additional amounts:

  • $20 million for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The global fund is a partnership between governments, non-government organisations, the private sector and affected communities to improve health outcomes in developing countries. Australia has been contributing to the global fund since 2004 and this increase in appropriation is part of the government’s commitment to increase Australia’s official development assistance.
  • $127.3 million to maintain the grant component of Australia’s share in the International Development Association, the concessional lending arm of the World Bank, which aims to reduce poverty by providing interest-free credits and grants for programs that boost economic growth, reduce inequalities and improve people’s living conditions.
  • $71.9 million to finance Australia’s share of contributions to the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative, the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative, arrears clearance provided by the World Bank and compensation to the International Development Association for grants foregone.
  • The Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative is a joint International Monetary Fund-World Bank approach to debt reduction where the international financial community work together to reduce to sustainable levels, the external debt burdens of the most heavily indebted poor countries.
  • The Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative enables the World Bank, the African Development Bank and the International Monetary Fund to provide 100 per cent relief on eligible debt to a group of low-income countries that are pursuing sound adjustment and reform programs, to help them advance toward the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals.

The government will reappropriate $25 million for the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research. This reappropriation relates to unspent amounts from last financial year for the Green Car Innovation Fund Program. This funding will be used to meet priority spending measures for other programs.

The government will undertake the first stage of an implementation study into a high speed rail network. This first stage will involve a high-level costing and identification of routes and is expected to be completed by July 2011. The Department of Infrastructure and Transport will be provided with $6 million to undertake the study.

The new Department of Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government will be provided with $5.9 million to strengthen local engagement and improve whole-of-government coordination of policy for regional Australia. This funding is in addition to the resources that have already been transferred to the Department of Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government from the former Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government and the Attorney-General’s Department.

The government will provide the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism with $12.5 million to support joint projects with the United States designed to reduce the cost of solar energy technologies. The funding will support new research on advanced solar technology projects, and exchange programs and research scholarships focussed on affordable solar energy solutions. The initiative will build on existing collaboration between researchers in the two countries. The Australian Solar Institute will manage the Australian government’s contribution to the initiative.

The Australian Federal Police will be provided with $24.8 million to increase their own technical and operational capabilities as well as those of regional policing partners. The funding will disrupt people smuggling activities by enhancing support to the Indonesian National Police and Indonesia’s High Technology Crime Operations Centre through the acquisition and operation of a patrol boat; the lease and operation of a surveillance aircraft; and strengthening computer forensic and investigative capability.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade will receive an additional $18.2 million to reimburse them for the cost of issuing a higher than expected number of passports in 2009-10. This additional funding is being provided in accordance with the passport funding agreement.

The government proposes to provide the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy with the following additional amounts:

  • $17.1 million for additional work to support the finalisation of definitive agreements between Telstra and NBN Co, and to develop and implement arrangements for the establishment of a new agency to manage the universal service obligation.
  • $11.8 million, which is a reappropriation of amounts from 2009-10, for the digital switchover Viewer Access Satellite Television service and the digital switchover communications campaign. Delays with some milestone payments and an advertising campaign resulted in program payments being delayed to 2010-11.

The Australian Sports Commission will be provided with $21.6 million to continue the Active After-School Communities program until December 2011. The Active After-School Communities program provides funding to 3,270 primary schools and out of school hours care services to deliver quality sport and other structured physical activity programs to around 150,000 children.

The government will provide Centrelink with $10.7 million to provide families with the additional option of receiving child care rebate payments directly to their bank account on a fortnightly basis from 1 July 2011. This will allow families to choose from a greater range of child care rebate payment options and builds on the child care rebate fortnightly payments measure, originally reported in the Economic Statement 2010.

The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet will be provided with an additional $35.9 million to address a shortfall in funding for expenses related to the transfer of the Office for the Arts from the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. The shortfall arose from amounts being incorrectly appropriated to the wrong outcome in the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities during the 2010-11 budget.

The government will provide $15.1 million in additional resources to the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency to support the energy efficiency functions that were transferred from the former Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, including the National Solar Schools Program and the National Strategy on Energy Efficiency, and to continue delivery of COAG and ministerial council related energy efficiency commitments.

Funding of $19.5 million will be provided to the Federal Magistrates Court following the government’s decision not to restructure the federal courts. The Federal Magistrates Court will continue to exercise general federal law matters and provide a pool of judicial officers for dual commissions to the Military Court of Australia. The funding amount reflects the number of Federal Magistrates who have remained with the Federal Magistrates Court. This funding will be fully offset by savings in the Federal Court and Family Court.

An additional $19.1 million will be provided for the Murray-Darling Basin Authority to enable the authority to fulfil its statutory obligations and meet community expectations regarding the development and ongoing implementation of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. The increase in funding is matched by a reduction in administered funding for the Sustainable Rural Water Use and Infrastructure program within the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities.

The Department of Health and Ageing will receive an additional $24 million for the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme premium free dispensing incentive payment. Under this scheme eligible pharmacists receive an indexed incentive payment, currently $1.56, for each substitutable PBS item dispensed where a premium does not apply. Substitutable PBS items are those that are interchangeable at patient level. The adjustment to the estimates for this program takes account of additional categories of eligible prescriptions and allows for higher levels of growth in the use of substitutable prescriptions.

The appropriations that I have outlined so far are proposed to meet additional funding requirements that have arisen since the last budget. There is a further category of requirement for additional appropriation, referred to as a ‘reclassification of appropriation’, that are also proposed in Appropriation Bill (No.3).

These amounts need to be reappropriated to align the purpose of the proposed spending with the correct appropriation type. The additional appropriations are fully offset by savings against the original appropriations and thus do not lead to additional expenditure.

I now outline the material reclassifications proposed in Appropriation Bill (No.3):

  • The Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency will be provided with $45.6 million as departmental funding in 2010-11 to provide sufficient funding to meet expected departmental expenditure arising for the closure of the Home Insulation Program and the delivery of the Home Insulation Safety Plan.
  • AusAID will be provided with $85.9 million as departmental funding in 2010-11 and will spend $85.9 million less in administered funding. This reflects the reclassification of expenditure under AusAID’s new expense classification framework.

The remaining amounts that appear in Appropriation Bill (No. 3) relate to estimates variations, minor reclassifications and other minor measures. I commend the bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr Anthony Smith) adjourned.