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Tuesday, 4 September 1984
Page: 402


Senator GRIMES (Minister for Social Security) —I seek leave to make a statement concerning the Government's legislative program for the current period of sittings.

Leave granted.

As the statement is the same as one read some time ago in the House of Representatives, I seek leave to have it incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The statement read as follows-

In doing so the Government is continuing its practice of announcing the legislation program at the start of each period of sitting to provide a basis for informed and open public debate about major national issues.

There would be no stronger indication than that already given by the Treasurer that during the current sittings the Government will be building on its proud record of sound economic management and progressive social reform which was established by last year's Budget and consolidated during the Autumn sittings this year.

This government has had to tackle, during its seventeen months in government, economic and social problems of a kind not seen in this country for over 50 years. Our program should be seen in this light.

Our major objective this sitting will be to provide sufficient fiscal stimulus to maintain the momentum of private sector expansion, including by direct support for business; to provide further improvements in pensions and other welfare payments, to provide tax cuts which will support the accord, boost family income and stimulate consumer spending-all this while achieving a significant reduction in the Budget deficit.

In addition to the key Budget Bills already introduced on Budget night we intend introducing further Bills to amend the Income Tax Assessment Act, the Income Tax (International Agreements) Act and the Bank Account Debits Tax Administration Act to implement measures announced in or before the Budget. We intend to continue our fight against tax avoidance with Bills to counter trust stripping schemes.

In addition to revising the Medicare levy threshold and ceiling we will introduce a Bill to amend the National Health Act and the Health Insurance Act which will, among other things:

alter drug pricing arrangements; and

encourage provision of respite care in nursing homes.

We will introduce a Bill to implement a new Commonwealth State Housing Agreement which will launch a ten year assault on housing-related poverty. In addition to a further social security and repatriation legislation amendment Bill we intend if time permits to introduce a supported accommodation assistance program to provide support for those in crisis situations and for the chronically homeless.

(The home and community care part of the aged care package is to be introduced in the Autumn sittings next year.)

We intend to amend the Trade Practices Act by repealing sections 45D and 45E and will be amending the Conciliation and Arbitration Act to provide a mechanism whereby secondary boycott disputes can be dealt with by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission.

We also intend to introduce a Bill to bring about a major consolidation of all existing veterans' entitlement legislation.

The Government will be embarking on major industry restructuring and assistance measures all of which have already been announced and some extensively canvassed . Briefly these will include legislation to:

establish an automotive industry authority as part of the revised assistance to the industry. Associated with this initiative will be the introduction of measures to provide support for the design and development of motor vehicles;

revise industry arrangements for the retail marketing of petrol;

amend the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act to facilitate and encourage off-shore petroleum exploration and development activity, and to give effect to the area to be avoided by ships around the Bass Strait petroleum production facilities;

introduce a package of Bills to restructure the wheat marketing and pricing arrangements;

revise arrangements for the fishing industry to introduce a new management policy and further assistance measures;

amend the export inspection charge provisions for meat, dairy products and eggs following review of these procedures;

revise arrangements for the canned fruits marketing industry.

The Government also intends to introduce, if time permits, a package of Bills to reorganise the dairy marketing industry. These will not be passed during the Budget sittings but will provide the opportunity for detailed public debate to take place on a more informed basis.

As already announced by the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs the Government will introduce a major item of legislation to revise the system of grants to the States and the Northern Territory for schools assistance. This will be introduced together with States Grants Bills for tertiary education, as well as Bills to adjust grant levels in line with cost supplementation arrangements.

In line with an announcement made last April the Government intends introducing a Bill to amend various electoral, health, social security and education Acts to bring arrangements for Christmas Island broadly into line with the rest of Australia.

Bills will also be introduced to:

enhance the role, jurisdiction and enforcement powers of the Human Rights Commission;

introduce changes to the supplementary licence scheme for broadcasting and television in preparation for its early commencement;

guarantee borrowings raised by Qantas to purchase Boeing 767 aircraft;

enhance the Commonwealth's ability to collect air navigation charges and introduce separate airport charges;

enable the Empress of Australia to be replaced, thereby ensuring the survival of the Bass Strait sea passenger service;

replenish Australia's contribution to the International Development Fund;

restrict the use of Australian passports to Australian citizens and remove the distinction between immigrants who are British subjects and those who are not;

implement the report of the remuneration tribunal in respect of salaries and allowances following the 1984 general review.

In addition the usual Statute Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill will include a number of matters of minor significance.

We will of course be proceeding with Bills before the Parliament, including:

The Constitution Alteration Bills;

Defence and Repatriation Bills;

Conciliation and Arbitration; and

the six Export Inspection Charge Bills.

As always, unforeseen circumstances may give rise to additional legislation and pressure on parliamentary debating time as well as on the Parliamentary Counsel' s time and resources may not enable all of the legislation forecast to come forward as soon as we would like. In addition, the Government may still consider other measures which could result in legislation in the current sittings. However, the program I have outlined continues the direction of reform established by the Government thus far.

I commend the Government's program and look forward to the assistance of honourable senators in its implementation.