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Tuesday, 12 November 2002
Page: 6095


Senator IAN CAMPBELL (Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer) (3:36 PM) —I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, I shall move:

That the provisions of paragraphs (5) to (7) of standing order 111 not apply to the following bills, allowing them to be considered during this period of sittings:

Australian Animal Health Council (Live-stock Industries) Funding Amendment Bill 2002

Health Care (Appropriation) Amendment Bill 2002

Higher Education Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 3) 2002.

I also table statements of reasons justifying the need for these bills to be considered during these sittings and seek leave to have the statements incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The statements read as follows

AUSTRALIAN ANIMAL HEALTH COUNCIL (LIVE-STOCK INDUSTRIES) FUNDING AMENDMENT BILL 2002

Purpose of the Bill

The Bill will enable livestock industries to repay the Commonwealth for the costs of dealing with animal disease outbreaks and emergencies. Livestock industries have agreed to impose a new levy by regulation under the Primary Industries (Excise) Levies Act 1999 and the Primary Industries (Customs) Charges Act 1999 to fund their liability to the Commonwealth.

It is intended that the new levy will be disbursed to Animal Health Australia (AHA) for administration purposes. AHA will, as necessary, make the required re-payment to the Commonwealth on behalf of the relevant livestock industry.

Reasons for Urgency

The Commonwealth government approved the Emergency Animal Disease Response Arrangements (EADRA) and the arrangements for repayment by industry (the Cost Sharing Agreement (CSA)) in March 2002. Following a lengthy and detailed process commencing in 1999, governments and industry determined that the cost sharing arrangements in place since 1955 were inadequate to deal with the scale of most existing or emerging exotic animal diseases. The arrangements provide for the sharing of the eligible costs of a disease response by governments and affected industries and will replace the current Commonwealth-States Cost Sharing Agreement. Under the terms of this new agreement, the Commonwealth may be required to underwrite a livestock industry's share of costs of an emergency animal disease response. The Commonwealth has agreed to underwrite the cost of reacting to an exotic animal disease outbreak on the proviso that livestock industries, who have signed the new cost sharing arrangements, agree to an appropriate repayment scheme.

The government decision provides that industry repayment of Commonwealth underwriting will be via statutory levy arrangements. The Commonwealth government, livestock industries, states and territories signed the CSA on 19 March 2002 binding them to the new cost-sharing arrangements, including the underwriting of industry contributions which may be necessary in some cases.

Amendments to the Australian Animal Health Council (Live-stock Industries) Funding Act 1996 and associated amendments to the levies and charges legislation need to be put in place to enable livestock industries to use the levy and charges mechanism to repay the Commonwealth for the costs of dealing with animal disease emergencies.

Livestock industries would be critical if specific purpose legislation to allow them to fund their liability to the Commonwealth is not implemented as soon as possible. For example, the poultry industry is likely to call on the cost sharing arrangements, ie levies, agreed to under the CSA, in order to repay their liability to the Commonwealth following the recent case of Newcastle disease in Meredith, Victoria.

(Circulated by authority of the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry)

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HEALTH CARE (APPROPRIATION) AMENDMENT BILL 2002

Purpose of the Bill

The Bill will:

· increase the ceiling to an amount which will allow the Commonwealth to discharge its responsibilities under the 1998-2003 Australian Health Care Agreements to provide financial assistance to the States and Territories for the provision of public hospital services; and

· introduce a requirement that the Minister tables, in both Houses of Parliament, a statement of the actual amounts appropriated and paid under the Agreements. This will enable public accountability requirements to be met and the Minister's authority to approve payments under the Agreements to be discharged, but not exceeded, in accordance with both the Act and the Agreements.

Reasons for Urgency

The Bill will provide the Commonwealth with the legislative authority to continue making payments from early 2003 to the States and Territories for the provision of public hospital services under the 1998-2003 Australian Health Care Agreements.

This financial assistance is payable in accordance with estimates approved by the Minister for Health and Ageing under the provisions of the Agreements and the Health Care (Appropriation) Act 1998.

Current approved estimates total over $31.7 billion over the five years of the Agreements, equating to payments to the States and Territories of approximately $130 million per week.

At this rate, the current ceiling specified in the Act will be reached in early 2003. Once the ceiling is reached, the Commonwealth will have no legislative authority to continue making payments to the States and Territories for the provision of public hospital services. If the legislative amendments are not made this year, the Commonwealth will not be certain it can make the payments from early 2003.

It is politically imperative that the Commonwealth continue to meet its responsibilities to make financial assistance available to the States and Territories in accordance with the provisions of the Australian Health Care Agreements. The total amount of funding to be paid out under the Agreements reflects Government decisions taken since the Act was passed in June 1998. Through clause 20 of the Agreements, the Government has already made a commitment to the States and Territories that its responsibilities will be fully discharged.

(Circulated by authority of the Minister for Health and Ageing)

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HIGHER EDUCATION LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL (No. 3) 2002

Purpose of the Bill

The bill will amend the Higher Education Funding Act 1988 to extend the application of the National Protocols for Higher Education Approval Processes (National Protocols) to Australia's external territories.

Reasons for urgency

Urgent action is required to stop damage to Australia's international education industry from the operations of unaccredited bodies. Unaccredited bodies (such as Greenwich University on Norfolk Island) have not demonstrated they meet the higher education quality standards set out in the National Protocols.

Delay in passage until 2003 will prolong and exacerbate the potential for damage to the reputation of Australia's international education industry.

If the legislation is not passed, the Commonwealth will be unable to prevent the operations of bodies which do not meet the National Protocols, such as Greenwich University and any similar bodies that might be established or operate in external territories.

(Circulated by authority of the Minister for Education, Science and Training)