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Tuesday, 18 September 2012
Page: 11106


Mr FLETCHER (Bradfield) (22:16): I am pleased to have the opportunity to rise in the consideration in detail stage of the bill to ask the minister to explain a number of aspects of the amendments which he has put before the House at this late stage. I am particularly interested in amendment (5), which would add clause 45(15) in relation to consultation, and amendment (6), which would add clause 50(15), also in relation to consultation. The first question I would like the minister to answer is: why was it that the idea of requiring that there be consultation with the affected sector should only have occurred to the government and the bill's draftspersons in the last 24 hours? Had they not thought of the idea of consultation before that? What was the particular revelation that occurred to the government that made them say at this late stage: 'We've got a tremendous idea. Let's add in a provision which allows for consultation before we make governance standards or external conduct standards'? And why is it that the idea of consultation did not occur at an earlier stage?

I would like to ask the minister to address a question in relation to the wording of the proposed amendment. In proposed clause 45(15) there is a requirement that the minister must be satisfied that appropriate consultation has been undertaken. I would be interested to hear from the minister exactly what it is that would constitute appropriate consultation.

I am also interested to note that proposed clause 45(15)(ii) would require that the relevant input to that consultation process must have been taken into account adequately. Again, I am interested to know from the minister what would satisfy the standard of being an adequate taking into account of consultation. I am interested to know how those two provisions under clause 45(15)(i) are to be reconciled with the wording of clause 45(15)(iii), which reads as follows: 'The fact that consultation does not occur or that input is not taken into account does not affect the validity or enforceability of the regulation'. So I would ask the minister, as he goes through this very comprehensive and impressive process of demonstrating his detailed knowledge of these amendments and how they operate, to continue his process of impressing all of us in the House by explaining how we are to reconcile proposed clause 45(15)(iii) with the requirement for appropriate consultation. Is it not the case that the requirement is a mere sham when the clause goes on to say the fact that consultation does not occur or that input is not taken into account does not affect the validity or enforceability of the regulation?

I would also like the minister to answer a broader question which I think arises when we consider the late addition of these provisions requiring consultation with the affected sectors before governance standards and external conduct standards are made. What was the substance of the complaint that the government received which caused it to come up with the idea, at this late stage, of imposing a requirement for consultation? In other words, the government clearly envisages that, by adding amendments (5) and (6) requiring consultation, it has solved a problem which it perceived to have existed. It would be interesting to know exactly what the nature of that problem is and how that problem is solved by a requirement for consultation when the new clause, if passed into law, will say on its face that the fact that the consultation does not occur or that input is not taken into account does not affect the validity or enforceability of the regulation. It might be thought that this suggests that the consultation requirement is a sham because the provision, on its face, is that if you consult and then ignore the consultation, or in fact if you do not consult, it does not matter—that if you do not consult, even in a clause headed 'Consultation', it does not matter. I would welcome the minister's clarification on those points.