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Thursday, 28 February 1985
Page: 368


Senator GARETH EVANS (Minister for Resources and Energy)(6.20) —I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows-

Honourable senators will be aware that the administrative changes following the recent election transferred reponsibility for animal and plant quarantine from the Minister for Health to the Minister for Primary Industry. The Minister for Health retains responsibility for human quarantine. The changes in responsibility give effect to our election promise and implement Australian Labor Party policy to transfer animal and plant quarantine to the Department of Primary Industry. Agricultural quarantine is central to agricultural health, and the rural sector has long expressed an interest in seeing those elements of quarantine that relate to agriculture being more closely aligned with other agricultural activities. At the same time, the changes preserve the link between the human aspects of quarantine and other functions of the Health portfolio.

The purpose of the Bill before the Senate is to amend the Quarantine Act to give effect to the changed administrative arrangements whilst at the same time clarifying certain provisions where some doubt could arise as to whether they apply to human, animal or plant quarantine. As the Bill is concerned only with administrative matters, there are no financial implications involved.

The amendments reflect the Government's strong commitment to an effective quarantine service which plays a major role in Australia's social and economic well-being. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Kerin) and the Minister for Health (Dr Blewett) will work closely together on matters of mutual concern.

I would draw honourable senator's attention to sub-clause 5 (1) of the Bill. The amendments proposed by this sub-clause provide the basis for the dual administration of the Act. The new sections 8A, 8B, 9 and 9AA provide for the appointment of officers who, under the Minister for Primary Industry and the Minister for Health, will be charged with the execution of the Act. In place of the present Director of Quarantine, there will be two directors-a Director of Human Quarantine, appointed by the Minister for Health, and a Director of Animal and Plant Quarantine, who shall be the secretary to the Department of Primary Industry. The proposed new sections also provide for the appointment of chief quarantine officers and quarantine officers for each of human, animal and plant quarantine. The present Director of Quarantine, who is the Chief Commonwealth Medical Officer and a Deputy-Secretary of the Department of Health will, by virtue of sub-clause 5 (2), assume the office of Director of Human Quarantine immediately upon the commencement of these amendments to the Quarantine Act.

Clause 6 will insert a new section 10B into the Act to provide that a Director of Quarantine may delegate his powers. In the absence of a specific power of delegation in the Act, the current procedure is for the Director of Quarantine to authorise other persons to exercise those powers in his name. The insertion of the new section will not alter the practical effect of the current operational procedures.

In providing for the administration of the quarantine function by two departments, I am quite confident that Australia's unique record in quarantine matters will not only be maintained but enhanced. I commend the Bill to the Senate.

Debate (on motion by Senator Reid) adjourned.