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Monday, 9 December 2002
Page: 7404


Senator IAN CAMPBELL (Manager of Government Business in the Senate) (3:49 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:

Aviation Legislation Amendment Bill 2002

Copyright Amendment (Parallel Importation) Bill 2002

Crimes Legislation Amendment (People Smuggling, Firearms Trafficking and Other Measures) Bill 2002,

Financial Sector Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2002

Inspector-General of Taxation Bill 2002

National Environment Protection Council Amendment Bill 2002

Renewable Energy (Electricity) Amendment Bill 2002

Taxation Laws Amendment (Earlier Access to Farm Management Deposits) Bill 2002

Workplace Relations Amendment (Fair Termination) 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

AVIATION LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL 2002

Purpose of the Bill

The Bill:

· amends the Air Navigation Act 1920 to modernise the Australian aviation security regulatory framework;

· amends the International Air Services Commission Act 1992 to implement government decisions to simplify and streamline the processes for allocating capacity to Australian international airlines and promote economic efficiency through competition in the provision of international air services; and

· repeals the Federal Airports Corporation Act 1986 as the Federal Airports Corporation ceased operation on 25 September 1998.

Reasons for Urgency

Following the events of September 11, 2001 and the Bali bombings of 12 October 2002, there has been a significant shift towards increased aviation security in Australia and internationally.

The passage of this Bill will allow the introduction of an over-arching legislative framework for the handling of aviation security information. The framework is designed to further encourage industry to provide regular information on how it complies with the aviation security standards and help the Department of Transport and Regional Services (DoTRS) to better assess aviation security performance in the Australian aviation industry. This will also empower DoTRS to deal with, and help resolve, compliance problems (whether anticipated or actual) in a timely and effective manner.

(Circulated by authority of the Minister for Transport and Regional Services)

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COPYRIGHT AMENDMENT (PARALLEL IMPORTATION) BILL 2002

Purpose of the legislation

To amend the Copyright Act 1968 to allow the parallel importation of books, computer software, periodical publications, sheet music, and parallel importation of copyright material associated with these items and with sound recordings. To correct errors and misdescriptions in the Copyright Act 1968, arising from amendments in the Copyright Amendment (Digital Agenda) Act 2000.

Reasons for Urgency

The terms of the Bill have had substantial Parliamentary and community consideration. Further delay in its consideration may leave the issue as an unnecessary irritant for affected businesses and possibly the USA. The Bill was reintroduced in March 2002 after the Federal Election in October 2001. Its predecessor Bill which it almost substantially replicates was then awaiting debate in the Senate. The 2001 Bill was considered and reported on by the Senate Legal and Constitutional Committee in May 2001. The Bill proposes substantial changes to the importation provisions as they relate to printed materials and to computer software. Uncertainty over the passage of the legislation impacts on the business environment in the affected industries and should not be unnecessarily delayed.

(Circulated by authority of the Attorney-General)

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CRIMES LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (PEOPLE SMUGGLING, FIREARMS TRAFFICKING AND OTHER MEASURES) BILL 2002

Purpose of the Bill

The Crimes Legislation Amendment (People Smuggling, Firearms Trafficking and Other Measures) Bill 2002 contains new people smuggling offences, interstate firearms trafficking offences and makes minor amendments to a number of criminal justice Acts.

The firearms offences are an important part of moves by the Commonwealth, States and Territories to strengthen controls over the misuse of firearms, in particular, handguns. The offences in this Bill are designed to combat the increasing interstate trade in illicit firearms, which includes the trafficking of illicit handguns. Research indicates that those who engage in firearms crime are invariably sourcing their weapons illegitimately and do not comply with licensing and registration requirements. The offences in the Bill impose tough penalties on those who in the course of trafficking firearms across interstate borders breach State and Territory firearms laws.

The Bill's new people smuggling offences would cover smuggling activity not already covered by the Migration Act 1958. In particular, the offences would target the involvement of Australian citizens and residents in overseas people smuggling operations, and smuggling activities coordinated from Australia. Aggravated people smuggling offences would provide larger penalties for people smugglers who smuggle five or more people, and smugglers who endanger the life, plan to exploit or otherwise ill-treat those people being smuggled.

These offences would broaden the focus of Australia's people smuggling legislation, and would demonstrate Australia's commitment to combating people smuggling in both Australia and the region.

Reasons for Urgency

It is desirable that the measures in the Bill be in place as soon as possible, to strengthen firearms laws in line with agreement on 6 December 2002 by the Council of Australian Governments to improve community safety and control access to firearms, particularly handguns.

Timely passage of this Bill would implement an important measure in the combined Commonwealth, State and Territory effort to fight the spread of illegal firearms, and emphasises the priority the Commonwealth places on strengthening national firearms controls.

The Commonwealth's timely adoption of firearms trafficking offences is consistent with the aim of introducing increased penalties for trafficking. State and Territory maximum penalties for the illegal possession and sale of a firearm are generally significantly lower than those being proposed under the Commonwealth's legislative amendment.

Passage of the people smuggling offences by the end of this year would fulfil the commitment made by Australia at the Ministerial Conference on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime, held in Bali in February this year, to combat people smuggling in the region.

(Circulated by authority of the Minister for Justice and Customs)

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FINANCIAL SECTOR LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL (No. 2)

Purpose of the Bill

The Bill amends seven Acts relating to the financial sector. Amendments are aimed at improving corporate governance in the banking industry through introducing a `fit and proper' test for directors and senior managers, enhancing the ability of the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority to monitor the financial industry and ensuring that Australia is in compliance with international best practice standards in supervision, particularly in the banking industry. There are also many amendments of a minor and technical nature.

Reasons for Urgency

Appropriate corporate governance practices in financial firms and the ability of regulators to thoroughly monitor the financial industry are recognised as very important features in encouraging a sound and efficient financial sector. The passing of this Bill will particularly improve the environment for Australia's banking (or deposit taking) industry through ensuring that regulation and corporate governance practices comply with international best practice standards. Improved corporate governance and regulatory practices have recently been introduced to other financial industries, such as insurance, and it is desirable that these improvements extend to the banking industry as a matter of urgency.

(Circulated by authority of the Treasurer)

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INSPECTOR-GENERAL OF TAXATION BILL 2002

Purpose of the Bill

The Bill establishes the office of the Inspector-General of Taxation as an independent statutory authority. The Inspector-General will provide a new source of advice to the government on tax administration. The Inspector-General will identify systemic issues of concern in tax administration.

Reasons for Urgency

The office of Inspector-General of Taxation is intended to be operational by the end of 2002 and funding was included in the 2002-03 Budget for the establishment of the office.

There is a government commitment and community expectation that the office will be established and operational by the end of 2002. The creation of the office of Inspector-General is a response to serious concerns of taxpayers and tax professionals regarding tax administration. The urgency of the Bill stems from a need to address systemic problems in taxation administration without further delay.

(Circulated by authority of the Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer)

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NATIONAL ENVIRONMENT PROTECTION COUNCIL AMENDMENT BILL 2002

Purpose of the Bill

The National Environment Protection Council Act 1994 is being amended:

· to allow for the National Environmental Protection Council (NEPC) Service Corporation to provide Secretariat support to the new Environment Protection and Heritage Council;

· to permit variations agreed unanimously by NEPC to be of a `minor' nature, to be made through less complex notification and consultation procedures; and

· to provide for another review of the operations and achievements of the Act after a further five years.

Reasons for Urgency

The Bill was introduced into the House of Representatives on 26 June 2002. States and Territories need to pass mirror legislation based on a final Commonwealth Act to enable the Act to come into force 12 months after Royal Assent.

Some States and Territories have now drafted mirror legislation but await the passing of the Bill (to be certain of the final text for their Bills) before introducing the corresponding legislation into their Parliaments.

(Circulated by the authority of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage)

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RENEWABLE ENERGY (ELECTRICITY) AMENDMENT BILL 2002

Purpose of the Bill

The Bill will clarify key definitions in the original legislation and provide for greater efficiency and effectiveness in the administration of the legislation.

Reasons for Urgency

At present there is considerable uncertainty that is negatively impacting on the business sector and investment in renewable energy. The uncertainty arises from the lack of clarity in various provisions of the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act 2000 and in the context of longer term energy market reform. Resolving these administrative issues in advance of the mandated independent review of the Act, scheduled to begin in January 2003, will enable market participants to focus on policy issues and plan for the future. The potential exposure of business and government to legal challenge will also be reduced as a result of the Bill.

(Circulated by the authority of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage)

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TAXATION LAWS AMENDMENT (EARLIER ACCESS TO FARM MANAGEMENT DEPOSITS) BILL 2002

Purpose of the Bill

The Bill will provide for earlier access to Farm Management Deposits (FMDs). This will be achieved by providing an exception to the 12-month waiting period for access to FMDs for farmers in Exceptional Circumstances area. This will help farmers manage the cash flow impact of the drought.

The Bill also includes a number of technical amendments to ensure the law operates as intended.

Reasons for Urgency

The legislation is required to be enacted by the end of the Spring sittings so as to provide farmers with the necessary assistance.

(Circulated by authority of the Treasurer)

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WORKPLACE RELATIONS AMENDMENT (FAIR TERMINATION) BILL 2002

Purpose of the Bill

The Bill will amend the Workplace Relations Act 1996 (the WR Act) to: restore the exclusion of short term casual employees from termination of employment provisions to the position that applied before the Federal Court decision in the Hamzy case; and make the filing fee for lodgement of termination of employment claims a permanent requirement and to provide for annual indexation of this fee.

Reasons for Urgency

The Bill was introduced in the House of Representatives on 20 February 2002 and subsequently referred to the Senate Employment, Workplace Relations and Education Legislation Committee which reported in May.

The Bill principally seeks to restore the provision that prevents short-term casual employees from accessing termination of employment remedies otherwise available under the WR Act.

In the Hamzy case in November 2001, the Federal Court invalidated Workplace Relations Regulations excluding specified categories of casual employees from the termination of employment provisions of the WR Act, including the unfair dismissal provisions, because they went beyond what was authorised by the regulation-making power provided for under the WR Act.

The Federal Court's decision raised significant concerns in the business community about their liability under unfair dismissal laws.

On 7 December 2001, replacement regulations came into operation, preventing casuals who have been working for their employer for less than 12 months from accessing termination of employment remedies. However, these Regulations do not fully restore the short-term casual exclusion as it operated from 1996 until the decision in Hamzy.

The Bill has now been before the Parliament for some months, has been considered by a Senate Committee and is still necessary to address specific ongoing employer concerns about the operation of unfair dismissal laws. Recent independent research has confirmed the negative influence that these laws have on business and employment. The sooner this legislation is passed, the sooner the benefits will flow to business and the wider community.

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