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Wednesday, 20 March 2013
Page: 2876


Mr ROBB (Goldstein) (10:06): I apologise for causing the delay in proceedings in this chamber. I rise to speak on the Financial Framework Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2013. The bill seeks to amend five acts across three portfolios. This is the 13th financial framework legislative amendment bill since 2004. It was an important process initiated by the Howard government and it is really a maintenance program. The last in the series that was passed in the House was just recently, in February. The bills are typically non-controversial in nature and tend to address a lot of housekeeping issues from legislative anomalies and text errors to bringing greater clarity to certain bills, giving consistency and efficiency. This bill is no exception in that regard.

Briefly, there are three areas that are addressed in this bill. Firstly, it attempts to remove any constitutional doubt about the Commonwealth's existing involvement with 20 Commonwealth initiated companies such as Medibank Private and the Australian Submarine Corporation and it is a response to the High Court ruling of the Williams versus Commonwealth case relating to the School Chaplaincy Program, which ruled that there must be clear enabling legislation for moneys to pass from the Commonwealth to the states. I think the Commonwealth government contest the decision of that High Court case, so, as a measure to remove any doubt, they have taken certain amendments in this bill to provide clear enabling legislation. Secondly, there are amendments to formalise a recoverable payments framework for inadvertent payments or overpayments made by agencies to recipients who are not entitled to receive them.

Finally, there are amendments relating to the transfer of tax losses from the Military Superannuation and Benefits Scheme to the ARIA Investments Trust. This stems from the government's decision to consolidate the trustees of the Commonwealth's main civilian and military superannuation schemes in May last year. It is not surprising that there are subsequent amendments to that legislation. Deputy Speaker, you might recall that at the time there was a lot of angst and concern about the speed of it all and the nature of the decision and the policy changed. As I say, it is not surprising. This is one issue which is characteristic of so much of what this government has done, in that it has rushed and failed to have proper consultation in so many areas. We are seeing it in the parliament right now with this media legislation. We see it in the superannuation area, particularly the tax gouges, the changes and the breaking of promises about maintaining certainty—another manifestation of that. Certainly, if we get the privilege of government sometime this year, one of the driving intents of our approach to policy and policy change will be to restore a sense of stability, certainty and constancy, and when decisions are taken not to then after the event keep changing the rules. That is damaging so much potential investment in this country, and in many ways it has caused subsequent revenue problems for this government because of the uncertainty that that has been generated by the legislative process in this place and the endless changes that are taking place.

They are the main areas the bill addresses. The coalition find them non-controversial, necessary changes, and we support the bill.