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Thursday, 5 December 2002
Page: 7230


Senator IAN CAMPBELL (Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer) (9:46 AM) —I move:

That these bills be now read a second time.

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

Leave granted.

The speeches read as follows—

TRADE PRACTICES AMENDMENT BILL (No. 1) 2002

The purpose of this bill is to amend the Trade Practices Act 1974 to better protect consumers and to ensure that the Act remains relevant to business and consumers alike.

The reform contained within this bill will assist the community to better understand the law prohibiting the undesirable practice of pyramid selling and the distinction between pyramid selling and totally legal multi-level marketing schemes.

The plain-English re-write of the law banning pyramid selling is an initiative developed through the forum of the Ministerial Council on Consumer Affairs, and reflects a bipartisan approach to ensuring that consumer protection laws work effectively for the Australian community.

The pyramid selling provision in this bill was drafted by the Parliamentary Counsels' Committee, which comprises representatives of all jurisdictions, in a manner which will permit its adoption by States or Territories in their fair trading laws.

When this bill is passed, businesses and consumers will no longer be able to claim that they failed to understand the law in this area because it was too complex. And to aid the community and the courts in their interpretation of this law, a simple “Readers' Guide” with basic examples of how the provisions operate has been included in the bill's Explanatory Memorandum.

The bill also includes another amendment drafted by the Parliamentary Counsels' Committee, to ensure that persons are unable to avail themselves of a defence to a prosecution for an offence against the Act's consumer protection provisions in circumstances which were clearly not envisaged when the Act's statutory defences were initially framed. However, decisions by the Courts have made it necessary for the Act to be amended to spell out the defences more clearly. Again, this change can be adopted by jurisdictions which mirror the Trade Practices Act in their fair trading laws.

The final amendment comprises the correction of a drafting oversight which occurred when amendments to the Act were passed last year, and restores a sanction which was never intended to be removed. The amendment will ensure that the ACCC can seek an appropriate sanction from the Court if individuals deliberately resist the proper efforts of the ACCC to acquire information, documents or evidence necessary for its investigatory functions.

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CHARTER OF THE UNITED NATIONS AMENDMENT BILL 2002

In the post September 11 environment, we are all aware of the reality that terrorist groups are well organised and well financed. This reality was again brought home to us by the terrible events in Bali on 12 October this year. Australia has enacted a host of measures to counter terrorism and the financing of terrorism. One of these measures is the legislative regime which ensures that dealing with the assets of terrorists is a criminal offence.

On 28 June this year, the Parliament passed the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism Act. Australia ratified the International Convention on the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism on 26 September and became a party to that treaty on 26 October. This determination to counter terrorist financing is not only to be found in government. Australia's financial sector is also strongly committed to ensuring that terrorists cannot use its institutions for terrorist financing.

Officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Australian Federal Police and other agencies have consulted extensively with representatives from the private sector in developing a comprehensive and workable asset freezing regime. A joint public/private working group has been developing the regulatory and operational framework which will accompany that part of the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism Act which is to become the new Part 4 of the Charter of the United Nations Act. This new regime will replace the existing regime contained in the Charter of the United Nations (Anti-Terrorism Measures) Regulations.

Part 4 creates offences of dealing with freezable assets and of giving an asset to a proscribed person or entity. A proscribed person or entity is one the Minister for Foreign Affairs is satisfied is a terrorist entity. The freezing of terrorist assets is a crucial part of international efforts to suppress terrorism.

Under Part 4, the owner of a freezable asset can apply to the Minister for Foreign Affairs for permission to deal with the asset. The owner of an asset seeking to make the asset available to a proscribed person or entity can also apply in writing to the Minister for Foreign Affairs for permission to do so. The Minister can give such authorisations by written notice. Under the existing regime, holders of assets have the same ability to apply for authorisations and the Minister can grant such authorisations on his own motion. The amendment contained in this bill will ensure that this discretion to grant authorisations is replicated under the new asset freezing regime. Private financial institutions have highlighted the need for holders of assets, as well as owners, to have the capacity to apply to the Minister for permission to deal with freezable assets or give assets to proscribed persons in specific circumstances.

Under the updated regime, holders of assets such as banks and trustees can ask the Australian Federal Police (“the AFP”) for help in determining whether there is a likely match between a proscribed person and an owner or controller of an asset. Such a mechanism was recommended by the Senate Legal and Constitutional Committee in its Report of its Inquiry into the Security Legislation Amendment (Terrorism) Bill 2002 (Recommendation 7(a)). For this mechanism to be effective, section 22 must be amended to give the holders of assets the same ability as the owners of assets to apply to the Minister for Foreign Affairs for permission to deal with an asset that may be a freezable asset, or make an asset available to a person or entity who may be proscribed, while they seek the assistance of the AFP.

Part 4 of the Act will commence either on the making of regulations under Section 22A, or on 6 January 2003, whichever is earlier. Passage of the bill through Parliament is urgent, in order to prevent Part 4 from commencing unamended.

This amendment bill is part of Australia's ongoing commitment to combating terrorism and, in particular, terrorist financing.

I commend the bill to the Senate.

Debate (on motion by Senator Ludwig) adjourned.

Ordered that the bills be listed on the Notice Paper as separate orders of the day.

Ordered that the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for a later hour.