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Wednesday, 19 November 1986
Page: 2548

Senator GRIMES (Minister for Community Services)(10.28) —I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to incorporate the second reading speech in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows-

Mr President, this Bill continues the practice of introducting an omnibus Bill into each sittings of the Parliament as an expeditious way of making a large number of non-contentious amendments to legislation not otherwise being amended.

Some of the amendments made by this Bill tidy up, correct and up-date existing legislation. Other amendments are of minor policy significance or are matters of routine administration. None of the amendments made by the Bill has any significant financial impact. However, the amendments of the Migration Act 1958 are expected to result in a marginal increase in revenue in the long term.

Many of the proposed amendments will be self-evident or sufficiently explained by the Explanatory Memorandum circulated with the Bill. I propose to confine my comments to addressing the more noteworthy changes included in this Bill.

Air Navigation (Charges) Act 1952

At present a statutory lien for the payment of outstanding charges can only cease to have effect if all the outstanding charges are paid or the aircraft is seized and held by the Commonwealth.

The amendments provide the power for a lien to be lifted in other circumstances where continued existence of the lien is no longer appropriate. An example of such circumstances would be where all outstanding debts have been waived or written off.

Ashmore and Cartier Islands Acceptance Act 1933

Australian Antarctic Territory Act 1954

Christmas Island Act 1958

Cocos (Keeling) Islands Act 1955

Coral Sea Islands Act 1969

Heard Island and McDonald Islands Act 1953

Norfolk Island Act 1979

Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1910

Amongst other things, these Acts provide that the Governor-General may make Ordinances for the peace, order and good government of the Territories. The Ordinances are subject to Parliamentary scrutiny and disallowance. The Acts provide that where an Ordinance repeals another Ordinance and the repealing Ordinance is disallowed then the repealed Ordinance is revived.

As the Acts currently stand, where the disallowed Ordinance repealed a law other than an Ordinance, then the disallowance does not result in the revival of the repealed law. Important areas of the law in force in the Territories are not contained in Ordinances and, accordingly, if such a law were to be repealed by an Ordinance which is subsequently disallowed, a gap in the relevant Territory's law could result. The fact that disallowance of the repealing Ordinance does not, in these circumstances, revive the former law also detracts from the effectiveness of disallowance.

The Bill amends the Acts in question so that any law which is repealed by an Ordinance will be revived upon disallowance of the repealing Ordinance.

Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court Act 1933

The proposed amendment will enable the ACT Ordinance to authorise the Judges of the ACT Supreme Court to make Rules of Court on particular matters. The amendment will remove legal doubts that arose recently in two cases as to the extent of the current rule-making power conferred on the Supreme Court Judges under the Act in respect of matters arising from the vesting of jurisdiction in the Court by Ordinance. The Act authorises such conferral of jurisdiction by Ordinance.

Australian Institute of Marine Science Act 1972

The Act currently provides for a Council consisting of a Chairman and 4 members to govern the Institute. It also provides for a Director to manage the affairs of the Institute subject to the general direction of the Council.

The Director is accountable to Council on all matters involving the Institute including managerial and administrative matters. As chief manager of the Institute, the Director is the executive arm of Council and should therefore be an ex-officio member of Council.

The amendments now provide for the Director to be included as an ex-officio member of the Council of the Institute.

Australian Trade Commission Act 1985

At present, the Australian Trade Commission may insure the direct overseas investment of an Australian organisation against losses due to war, expropriation, or foreign exchange transfer blockage. The main purpose of the proposed amendments is to allow the Commission to extend this form of insurance to Australian organisations where the overseas investment is made indirectly via a foreign subsidiary or corporation in which the Australian organisation has a substantial shareholding.

Bankruptcy Act 1966

The amendments to this Act proposed in the Bill are designed to improve the administration of bankruptcy. The Official Trustee is restructured from a corporation aggregate into a corporation sole vested in the Secretary to the Department for the time being administering the Act, presently my Department. This will enable the performance of the trustee function by the Official Trustee to be more effectively managed and its procedures to be streamlined.

The Federal Court of Australia will also be empowered to delegate certain of its powers under the Bankruptcy Act to Registrars of the Court. The Federal Court is already able to delegate its powers in jurisdictions other than bankruptcy. Similarly, the Family Court of Australia is able to delegate certain of its powers to Registrars of that Court. Experience has shown that such provisions permit considerable freeing up of judicial time enabling resources to be devoted to more complex disputes between litigants rather than spent on minor procedural and interlocutory matters.

Biological Control Act 1984

The purpose of the proposed amendments is to bring the Commonwealth Act into line with the co-operative Commonwealth, State and Northern Territory scheme on biological control.

Each State and the Northern Territory will establish a biological control authority and the Act will be amended so that the Industries Assistance Commission Act 1973 will apply to declarations under each of the complementary State/Northern Territory Acts.

Complementary State legislation has now been passed in the Victorian, New South Wales, Tasmanian and South Australian Parliaments.

The aim of the Act will continue to be one of establishing procedures for assessing and, where appropriate, authorising biological control programs in Australia. The decision-making process presently being followed will not be changed by the amendments and the direct cost to the Commonwealth for salaries and administration are not expected to be increased by the amendments.

Commonwealth Places (Application of Laws) Act 1970

The proposed amendments will enable the Director of Public Prosecutions to institute proceedings in relation to offences against the applied provisions of State laws committed on Commonwealth places in the States. The amendments will also enable the Director to carry on such proceedings when they have been instituted by Commonwealth officials. They will include proceedings instituted by members or special members of the Australian Federal Police. Such proceedings may currently be instituted or carried on by State prosecutors. The right of State authorities to institute or carry on proceedings in respect of offences against applied State laws will not be affected.

Copyright Act 1968

The amendment will clarify the definition of `broadcast', which was modified by the Copyright Amendment Act 1986 passed last Sittings. Interested groups have submitted that the wording inserted by that Act is ambiguous, and does not express the Government's intention that `broadcast', in this context, should cover transmissions to the copyright owner's public, whether the `general' public or part of the public. Following consultations there is agreement with the policy and wording of the proposed new definition.

Crimes Act 1914

The amendment makes it clear that the Act does not, and was never intended to, limit the operation of any Territory law relating to search in connection with offences against any law of that Territory.

Dried Vine Fruits Equalization Act 1978

The amendments are being made to overcome certain practical difficulties associated with the administration of levy payment and disbursement. The need for these amendments arises from relatively recent legal interpretations of the Act.

To enable the Australian Dried Fruits Corporation to continue to distribute equalisation payments to producers through the packing establishments that first received the fruit for processing, the concept of a packer is being amended so that it no longer includes the establishments that remove seeds from raisins on behalf of the original packing establishment. The need for this change arises from the fact that the `deseeding' establishments do not have records which would allow them to pass on equalisation payments to individual producers. Consequential amendments deal with the circumstances in which fruit is regarded as being in the custody of the packer.

Other amendments are being made to ensure that equalisation levy rates can be set late in the season without excluding fruit which leaves the custody of a packer early in the season from the penalty provisions for non-payment of the equalisation levy.

At present, interest which accrues on equalisation moneys held in trust by packers prior to disbursement to individual entitled producers must be returned to the Corporation. Amendments are being made to provide that such interest is to be passed on by packers to those producers in proportion to their individual entitlements to the principal sum.

The proposed amendments have the support of the Australian Dried Fruits Association, the principal industry representative body, and the Australian Dried Fruits Corporation.

Family Law Act 1975

Australia presently has reciprocal arrangements for enforcement of maintenance orders with 29 states of the United States of America. However those arrangements only apply to final orders of US courts. The scheme which operates within the USA by virtue of the enactment by all States of the Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act does not allow for the making of orders if the respondent is not present within the jurisdiction. Instead, a ``petition for support'' is obtained from a court in the claimant's state and remitted to the respondent's state for hearing.

This amendment will enable the regulations to make provision for courts having jurisdiction under the Family Law Act to accept petitions for maintenance remitted by courts of the US States that conclude reciprocal arrangements with Australia, and for Australian courts to make orders in respect of such petitions.

Insurance Act 1973

It is proposed to make a number of amendments of a minor or machinery nature, the more significant of which relate to the solvency requirements. They will make it clear that current account balances due from related bodies corporate are not to be regarded as assets for solvency purposes unless they have been approved by the Insurance Commissioner for this purpose. Also, assets otherwise subject to such approval of the Insurance Commissioner cannot be placed outside this requirement through the use of trusts.

The amendments also provide that, for the purposes of the required solvency margin, the value of shares held by an authorised insurer in an authorised related body corporate is to be reduced by an amount that is equivalent to the solvency margin, per share, of that related insurer.

Insurance (Agents and Brokers) Act 1984

The proposed amendments are, in the main, designed to clarify a number of provisions and overcome certain difficulties that have been identified in the operation of the Act with a view to avoiding the imposition of unnecessary administrative costs.

The proposed clarifications relate to the nature of misrepresentation, the acceptability and scope of the professional indemnity cover required for registered brokers and the provision of information.

The amendments designed to overcome administrative difficulties relate to dealings with Lloyd's brokers, the provision of receipts, especially where premiums are paid by instalments, and the remission of premiums to insurers. Other proposals permit brokers to deposit funds with building societies and require brokers acting as agents of insurers under other than binding agreements to advise intending insureds.

Insurance Contracts Act 1984

The proposed amendments are designed to clarify certain provisions and reduce unnecessary administrative costs in complying with the Act.

The proposed clarifications aim to remove any uncertainty regarding the right of an insured to recover an amount greater than the amount of a loss, cover the position where more than one interest-holder is involved in a claim on an insurer and make it clear that notices regarding renewal should be provided even where a broker is acting for the insured.

The administrative changes relate, in the main, to the scope of the requirement to provide certain notices each time a contract is renewed, extended or varied.

Migration Act 1958

In April 1986 it was announced that the Government intended to introduce a more flexible re-entry policy for migrants. The new policy, to be introduced from 1 January 1987, will allow migrants multiple re-entry to Australia without having to reside in Australia for 12 months to obtain a re-entry visa.

The amendments will make it clear that different charges can be fixed for processing the new ``resident re-entry visas'' compared with other visas.

It is anticipated that the net effect of the implementation of new policy, in terms of revenue, will be a marginally reduced level of revenue in the transitional fiscal year of operation. However, in the longer term, it is expected that revenue will increase.

The amendments will also extend the operation of the Act to the Territory of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands and to the Coral Sea Islands Territory.

Ombudsman Act 1976

These are minor administrative amendments designed to delete obsolete provisions and to clarify the existing powers of the Ombudsman to decline to investigate certain complaints. They will also enable the Ombudsman to make preliminary enquiries when considering investigating action of his own motion, and to obtain information and documents from an agency when he does not know the identity of the officer holding the information or documents. In addition, the power to make acting appointments of Deputy Ombudsman is transferred from the Governor-General to the Minister to expedite the making of such appointments.

Postal Services Act 1975

The Special Premiers Conference on Drugs agreed on 2 April 1985 that the Commonwealth should create an offence of sending illicit drugs through the mail.

The amendment provides that it is an offence to send, without lawful authority, a prescribed narcotic substance as defined in the Customs Act 1901 through the mail. A penalty of a maximum of 2 years' imprisonment and/or a fine not exceeding $5,000 attaches to the offence.

This amendment will provide another weapon in the Government's fight against drug trafficking.

Public Order (Protection of Persons and Property) Act 1971

The amendments will place the Northern Territory on the same footing as the States under this Act, consistent with the grant of self-government to the Northern Territory.

Removal of Prisoners (Australian Capital Territory) Act 1968

The proposed amendments will enable Territory offenders to have their non-parole periods reduced by the remissions which are granted by State law. The Act already provides that their sentences are reduced by remissions granted by State law, but the High Court held in Paivenen's case that sentences did not include non-parole periods. The present policy in the legislation is that federal and Territory offenders should receive the same remissions granted by law to their State counterparts, whether on sentences or non-parole periods. Since the Probation and Parole Act, 1983 of New South Wales came into force on 27 February 1984 Federal and State offenders have their non-parole periods reduced by remission, whereas Territory offenders, as a matter of law, do not have their non-parole periods so reduced. The amendments will put Territory offenders on the same footing as New South Wales offenders.

Also, since the coming into force of the New South Wales Act courts in that State are required to set non-probation periods, not non-parole periods, where the sentences are 3 years or less. Where the sentences are more than 3 years the court may still set non-parole periods in New South Wales. Non-probation orders in New South Wales are reduced by the same remissions applying to non-parole periods. In the Australian Capital Territory, however, a court may only set a non-parole period. There are technical differences between a non-probation period and a non-parole period, particularly relating to release. The amendments will therefore ensure that Territory offenders sentenced to 3 years or less will have their non-parole periods reduced by remission. At common law, it has been held that where a prisoner escapes while serving a term of imprisonment he cannot be detained under the sentence once the term has expired. The amendments will make it clear that a Territory offender's sentence will cease to run for the period he is at large.

Trade Practices Act 1974

The first amendment rectifies a possible unintended limitation on what bodies corporate may be considered to be associated with an acquirer. The words to be deleted were originally added during the Senate debate and could operate to create a significant loophole in merger regulation. As the Act now stands it may not apply to takeovers where the takeover vehicle has no market activities. The amendment will correct this.

Consistent with existing provisions, the second amendment prohibits a corporation converting an existing credit card so that it can be used as a debit card, or vice versa, without a prior request from the consumer.

The final amendment will enable an applicant to bring an action to seek certain relief in respect of a contravention of the consumer protection provisions. Under existing law a consumer would have to commence an action for damages or injunction before seeking this relief. The amendments do not involve any policy changes.

Wheat Marketing Act 1984

The proposed amendment is to redefine wheat of a season. The redefinition would include wheat which has been sown after 1 January, but harvested before 1 October, in a particular year. This will have regard to the practices of the Australian Wheat Board and has industry support.

The proposed amendment is to be retrospective to the commencement of the Wheat Marketing Act 1979 to cover the full period of that Act, and includes wheat pools already realised by the Board as well as one pool which is yet to be closed.

Repeal of spent and inoperative Acts

No comment is necessary about most of the Acts being repealed. As 1986 is the International Year of Peace, it is appropriate that I briefly mention the background to the repeal of the Trading with the Enemy Acts. The Acts were passed to provide for offences during the period of war in respect of trading with the enemy, and also to provide for the control of enemy property. The period of war was proclaimed to exist from 3 September 1939 until 8 May 1952 when, by proclamation, the state of war was declared no longer to exist. No enemy property from the war period is now held or administered by the Commonwealth, and the Acts have been inoperative for a number of years. I commend the Bill to the Senate.

Senator GRIMES —As this Bill was amended in the House of Representatives and therefore has to be reprinted by the House, copies of it will be circulated to honourable senators as soon as those stocks are received. The Government will not seek Senate consideration of the Bill until honourable senators have had the normal time to study it. I table the explanatory memorandum to the Bill and the revised explanatory memorandum to the Bill.

Debate (on motion by Senator Kilgariff) adjourned.