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Tuesday, 3 December 2002
Page: 7008


Senator IAN CAMPBELL (Manager of Government Business in the Senate) (3:43 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:

Charter of the United Nations Amendment Bill 2002,

Family and Community Services Legislation Amendment (Special Benefit Activity Test) Bill 2002,

International Tax Agreements Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2002,

Medical Indemnity Bill 2002,

Medical Indemnity (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2002,

Medical Indemnity (Enhanced UMP Indemnity) Contribution Bill 2002,

Medical Indemnity (IBNR Indemnity) Contribution Bill 2002,

National Health Amendment (Pharmaceutical Benefits—Budget Measures) Bill 2002 [No. 2],

Trade Practices Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2002,

Trade Practices Amendment (Small Business Protection) Bill 2002 [No. 2], and

Workplace Relations Legislation Amendment Bill 2002.

I 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

CHARTER OF THE UNITED NATIONS AMENDMENT BILL 2002

Purpose of the Bill

The Bill will amend section 22 of the Charter of the United Nations Act 1945 to:

· clarify the section to ensure that the Minister would have authority to issue a permit under section 22 regardless of whether he has received an application for permission, as originally intended;

· provide for holders of freezable assets to apply to the Minister for a notice permitting the dealing in that asset; and

· provide for holders of assets to apply to the Minister for a notice permitting the giving of that asset to a proscribed person.

Section 22 was inserted into the Act by the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism Act 2002.

Reasons for Urgency

If the amendments are not made by 6 January 2003, section 22 of the Act will commence with the effect of removing the existing ability of the Minister for Foreign Affairs (under the Charter of the UN (Anti-terrorism Measures) Regulations to issue permits relating to dealings with freezable assets or proscribed persons; and key procedures relating to holders of freezable assets that cannot be included in regulations will not be able to be implemented. This could have adverse impacts on cooperation between a significant class of asset holders (the financial sector) and the Australian Federal Police in the investigation of the existence of terrorist assets in Australia.

(Circulated by authority of the Minister for Foreign Affairs)

—————

FAMILY AND COMMUNITY SERVICES LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (SPECIAL BENEFIT ACTIVITY TEST) BILL 2002

Purpose of the Bill

This Bill will give effect to the measure agreed to as part of the 2000-2001 Budget to introduce activity testing arrangements for special benefit recipients who hold a temporary protection visa and who are of work-force age.

Reasons for urgency

The initiative contained in this Bill is to commence on 1 January 2003. It is critical that the Bill is passed in the 2002 Spring Sittings ahead of the commencement date so as to have sufficient time to finalise supporting administration.

(Circulated by authority of the Minister for Family and Community Services)

—————

INTERNATIONAL TAX AGREEMENTS AMENDMENT BILL (No. 2) 2002

Purpose of the Bill

The Bill will give effect to Protocols amending the 1980 Double Tax Convention between Australia and Canada and the 1980 Double Tax Agreement between Australia and Malaysia; and make certain minor technical amendments to the International Tax Agreements Act 1953.

Reasons for Urgency

It is desirable that the Protocols take effect from the earliest possible date (witholding taxes must take effect from 1 January) to ensure that taxpayers obtain certainty and the benefit of lower withholding taxes. In the case of the Canadian Protocol, Canada has already taken steps to implement the agreement. It is desirable that we follow suit without delay. In the case of the Second Malaysian Protocol, it is desirable that the tax sparing provisions (which have retrospective application) take effect as soon as possible.

Early consideration of the technical amendments in this bill is desirable as the amendments are consequential upon the passage of the legislation containing the US Protocol (the International Tax Agreements Act (No. 1) 2002) and it should take effect at the same time as that Protocol.

(Circulated by authority of the Treasurer)

—————

MEDICAL INDEMNITY BILL 2002

MEDICAL INDEMNITY (CONSEQUENTIAL AMENDMENTS) BILL 2002

MEDICAL INDEMNITY (ENHANCED UMP GUARANTEE) CONTRIBUTION BILL 2002

MEDICAL INDEMNITY (IBNR INDEMNITY) CONTRIBUTION BILL 2002

Purpose of the Bills

These bills cover a package of measures which are designed to address medical indemnity issues. The main features of the package are:

· assumption by the Commonwealth of the liability for incurred but not reported liabilities (IBNRs) for those medical defence organisations (MDOs) which have not fully funded them;

· assumption by the Commonwealth of the liability for a portion of high cost claims of $2 million or above; and

· imposition of levies on members of those MDOs with unfunded IBNRs to recoup the liability of the IBNRs; on doctors benefiting from the extension of the guarantee to the provisional liquidator of United Medical Protection/Australian Medical Indemnity Limited to recoup costs arising from the extension; and on doctors to recoup future costs of the high cost claims scheme, once the IBNR levy has ceased to operate.

Reasons for Urgency

The reasons for urgency are:

· to honour public commitments that a comprehensive framework of measures to resolve medical indemnity issues would be in place by 31 December 2002;

· to provide certainty to the medical defence industry, and to potential new entrants to the medical indemnity insurance market; and

· to meet the expectations of the medical profession that the Commonwealth will respond quickly to medical indemnity issues and provide a stable insurance environment, so that doctors are reassured that they can continue to practise with adequate medical indemnity cover.

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

—————

NATIONAL HEALTH AMENDMENT (PHARMACEUTICAL BENEFITS—BUDGET MEASURES) BILL 2002 [No. 2]

Purpose of the Bill

The purpose of this Bill is to effect savings in the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme by increasing the general and concessional copayments, and general and concessional safety nets.

Reasons for Urgency

If the Bill is not introduced and passed in the 2002 Spring sittings, projected savings to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme will not be achieved.

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

—————

TRADE PRACTICES AMENDMENT BILL (No. 1) 2002

Purpose of the Bill

The Bill will correct a significant drafting oversight in a recent amendment Bill and improve the Trade Practices Act 1974 to facilitate its use as a model for national consumer protection laws.

Reasons for Urgency

Imprisonment as a penalty for a contravention of section 155 was inadvertently removed in redrafting the provision and its reinsertion is desirable as a matter of urgency.

(Circulated by authority of the Treasurer)

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TRADE PRACTICES AMENDMENT (SMALL BUSINESS PROTECTION) BILL 2002 [No. 2]

Purpose of the Bill

The proposed Bill will amend the secondary boycott provisions (sections 45D and E) of the Trade Practices Act 1974 to allow the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to take representative action and intervene in proceedings in matters of restrictive trade practice.

Reasons for Urgency

The Government has on several occasions sought the introduction of protections for business, and particularly small businesses, against secondary boycott actions. Most recently, the proposed amendment was rejected by the Senate on 19 August 2002.

Industry views the introduction of adequate protections for businesses against secondary boycott action as an important matter. Businesses, and particularly small businesses, continue to be effectively denied adequate protection from costs and damages produced by unlawful conduct.

(Circulated by authority of the Minister for Small Business and Tourism)

—————

WORKPLACE RELATIONS LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL 2002

Purpose of the Bill

To make a range of mostly minor and technical amendments to a variety of acts administered by the Employment and Workplace Relations portfolio, including (relevant to this context):

· an amendment to the Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business Legislation Amendment (Application of Criminal Code) Act 2001 to rectify a drafting error that had the unintended effect of possibly decriminalising three offences in the Industrial Chemicals (Notification and Assessment) Act 1989; and

· an amendment to the Workplace Relations Legislation Amendment (Registration and Accountability of Organisations) (Consequential Provisions) Act 2002 to ensure that section 317 of the Workplace Relations Act 1996 correctly identifies offences relating to secret ballots.

Reasons for Urgency

The reasons for requesting that this Bill be introduced and passed in the current Sittings revolves around the two amendments outlined above.

Regarding the change to the Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business Legislation Amendment (Application of Criminal Code) Act 2001, there is currently a possible (and unintended) gap in the Industrial Chemicals (Notification and Assessment) Act 1989 (the ICNA Act) which means that prosecutions in relation to contraventions of three provisions of the ICNA Act may not be able to be brought. The amendments proposed in the Bill to remedy this are to commence retrospectively, that is from immediately before the relevant amendments to the Criminal Code Application Act commenced on 2 October 2001. Although there appears to have been no contraventions of these provisions in the intervening period in respect of which prosecutions are contemplated, it is highly desirable that the amendment be passed and take effect as soon as possible. This will reduce, as far as possible, the extent of the proposed retrospectivity and return certainty to the operation of the provisions in the event that any breaches necessitating criminal prosecution occur.

The second reason in relation to the Workplace Relations Legislation Amendment (Registration and Accountability of Organisations) (Consequential Provisions) Act 2002 is to avert the need for the amendment to have retrospective effect. The 2002 Act will commence on 12 May 2003 and it is preferred that the amendment—proposed to commence immediately before relevant provisions in the 2002 Act—take effect before that date.

(Circulated by authority of the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations)

Senator O'Brien to move on 9 December 2002:

That the Primary Industries (Customs) Charges Amendment Regulations 2002 (No. 6), as contained in Statutory Rules 2002 No. 293 and made under the Primary Industries (Customs) Charges Act 1999, be disallowed.

Senator O'Brien to move on 9 December 2002:

That the Primary Industries (Excise) Levies Amendment Regulations 2002 (No. 10), as contained in Statutory Rules 2002 No. 294 and made under the Primary Industries (Excise) Levies Act 1999, be disallowed.

Senator O'Brien to move on 9 December 2002:

That the Primary Industries Levies and Charges Collection Amendment Regulations 2002 (No. 7), as contained in Statutory Rules 2002 No. 295 and made under the Primary Industries Levies and Charges Collection Act 1991, be disallowed.