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Monday, 16 June 2003
Page: 11422


Senator KEMP (Minister for the Arts and Sport) (5:52 PM) —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—

WORKPLACE RELATIONS AMENDMENT (TERMINATION OF EMPLOYMENT) BILL 2002

This bill has three objectives: first, to improve Federal unfair dismissal law for small business; second, to improve Federal unfair dismissal law generally; and third, and most important, to widen very significantly the Federal law's coverage.

Since my predecessor, Peter Reith, launched a series of discussion papers in late 2000, it has been Government policy to explore options for working towards a simpler, fairer workplace relations system based on a more unified and harmonised set of laws. Maintaining six separate industrial jurisdictions makes as much sense as keeping six separate railway gauges. A national economy needs a national regulatory system and the sooner we can achieve this, the better. A more unified national workplace relations system means less complexity, lower costs and more jobs.

The Government would prefer to proceed by agreement and by referral of powers along the lines pioneered by Premier Kennett in Victoria. In the absence of referrals by other states, the Government proposes to use its existing constitutional powers, where it reasonably can, in a step-by-step progress towards a more unified system. In this case, the Government proposes to ensure that workers and business people operate, as far as is constitutionally possible, under one system of laws governing unfair dismissal.

At present, only workers employed on Federal awards or agreements have access to remedies under the Federal unfair dismissal laws (unless they happen to be employed in Victoria or the Territories). This legislation will ensure, in addition, that any worker employed by a corporation is within the scope of the Federal unfair dismissal jurisdiction and, further, that workers within the scope of the Federal system will be governed by it rather than any State unfair dismissal law. This “cover the field” provision means that the percentage of employees covered by Federal unfair dismissal provisions should rise from about 50 per cent to about 85 per cent and that the number of workers covered by Federal unfair dismissal provisions should increase from about 4 million to about 7 million.

If this Bill passes, the authority and coverage of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission will be strengthened. If the Bill passes, just 15 per cent of employees, mostly working in unincorporated small businesses, will remain covered by State unfair dismissal systems. The Government believes that an expansion of Federal jurisdiction on this scale should eventually lead to a “withering away of the states” at least in this aspect of workplace law.

Even as it stands, the Federal unfair dismissal law is generally less burdensome to employers and less destructive of employment growth than the State laws. Even if this were not the case, there would be advantages in having to deal with only one imperfect set of laws (rather than several). The Government hopes to achieve, not only one set of unfair dismissal provisions covering Australian workplaces, but also the best possible set of provisions covering Australian workplaces.

A new Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research study provides evidence of the confusion caused by overlapping Federal and State unfair dismissal laws and also of the damage these laws can do. Based on a Yellow Pages survey of nearly 2000 small to medium businesses, the study found that almost a third of businesses did not know whether they were covered by Federal or State unfair dismissal laws. If business managers are confused by this complexity, workers can be expected to be just as confused and, as a result, might fail to seek redress or to lodge an application in time.

The Melbourne Institute study also showed that the cost to small and medium sized businesses of complying with unfair dismissal laws is at least $1.3 billion a year and that these laws have played a part in the loss of over 77,000 jobs from small and medium business. This study amply justifies the Government's continued determination entirely to exempt small business from the reach of the unfair dismissal laws as well as the provisions in this Bill to make these laws less unfair to business and less damaging to job creation.

For small business, this bill:

· extends the standard qualifying period for employees' access to unfair dismissal provisions from three to six months;

· allows the Commission to deal with some claims `on the papers', that is, without a hearing;

· halves the amount of compensation that can be awarded to an employee;

· streamlines the criteria for determining whether a dismissal was unfair; and

· refines the penalty provisions for lawyers and agents who encourage unmeritorious claims.

For business generally, this Bill:

· requires the Commission to take into account any contributory conduct by an employee when determining compensation;

· limits dismissal claims where an employer no longer has work for an employee (in other words, redundant employees will not usually have access to unfair dismissal claims to supplement any redundancy entitlements);

· requires the Commission, when making an order for back pay, to take account of any income an employee who is to be reinstated may have earned since his or her dismissal;

· requires the Commission to consider whether the safety and welfare of other employees was a factor in the dismissal; and

· emphasises reinstatement as the primary remedy.

Prominent members of the Democrats have offered support for a single, more simplified unfair dismissal system providing a better balance between the interests of employers and employees without impeding job creation. This bill contributes substantially towards achieving that aim. The Bill is the first legislative step towards a single workplace relations system for the whole country.

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MURRAY-DARLING BASIN AMENDMENT BILL 2002

The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Murray-Darling Basin Agreement to enable the sharing between the States of water made available in the River Murray catchment above Hume Dam as a result of the corporatisation of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. The amendments also provide for the management of environmental flows in the River Murray.

The corporatisation of the Snowy Scheme, and the implementation of these amendments, provide good news for the River Murray's environment and the communities and industries that rely on the River. It means that for the first time, water users on the Murray and Murrumbidgee Rivers will receive guaranteed levels of annual releases of water from the Scheme. The River Murray will receive a significant boost in dedicated environmental water, sourced from increased efficiencies in the way we use the water in the River.

The governments of New South Wales, Victoria and the Commonwealth agreed to corporatise the Snowy Scheme for a number of very good reasons. The most significant is to ensure that the benefits of competition reform in Australia's electricity industry can be accessed by the Snowy Scheme. The legislation necessary to underpin corporatisation was debated and passed by this Parliament in 1997.

The Murray-Darling Basin Amending Agreement, through which governments agreed to the amendments to the Murray Darling Basin Agreement, is one of a series of intergovernmental agreements that will give effect to corporatisation. The Snowy Water Licence, issued by the New South Wales Government, provides for the operation of Snowy Hydro Ltd within the NSW regulatory environment. It specifies rights over water, consultation and direction processes, exchange of data, the annual water licence fee and water release obligations.

Under the Snowy Water Licence, Snowy Hydro is required to release minimum amounts of water into the Murray and Murrumbidgee Rivers each year. Irrigators and the environment will have `first call' on water under the control of the Scheme up to that level. This contrasts with the pre-corporatisation situation, where the volume of annual releases had to be negotiated with the then Snowy Mountains Council each year. The Licence also contains release rules designed to avoid unnecessary spills from water storages and to provide additional water security during summer.

As part of the corporatisation process, the governments of New South Wales and Victoria conducted a Snowy Water Inquiry to consider the benefits of additional environmental flows in the Snowy River to offset the impact of the diversion of water to the Murray and Murrumbidgee Rivers by the Snowy Scheme. The Commonwealth Government also conducted a comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement to assess all the environmental issues associated with corporatisation of the Snowy Scheme, and in particular, to focus on the impacts of additional environmental flows on the Murray-Darling Basin. The governments have decided on the basis of these inquiries to return substantial environmental flows to the River Murray, the Snowy River and key alpine rivers in the Kosciuszko National Park. These flows will be found principally from water efficiency projects in the River Murray and in the Murrumbidgee and Goulburn-Murray river systems.

The Commonwealth has agreed to provide $75 million to fund water savings of up to 70 gigalitres annually that, when released from the Snowy Scheme, will be dedicated to achieving environmental outcomes in the River Murray.

The New South Wales and Victorian governments have agreed to a long term staged process to return 28 percent of average natural flows to the Snowy River. As a first stage the two governments have agreed to provide $150 million each to achieve a target flow rate of 21 percent to be returned over 10 years.

Throughout the corporatisation process, the Commonwealth has insisted on a number of important safeguards. First, allocations of water to environmental entitlements must not adversely impact on irrigators. Second, the allocations must not adversely impact on the rights and interests of the State of South Australia. Third, the commercial viability of the Snowy Scheme will be maintained. Fourth, water for environmental flows will be sourced principally from verified water savings. Lastly, water for environmental flows in the Snowy and Murray cannot be consumed—they must flow through the river systems to the sea.

In summary this Bill asks the Parliament to approve the Murray-Darling Basin Amending Agreement, which will, in turn, amend the existing Murray-Darling Basin Agreement.

These amendments to the Murray-Darling Basin Agreement are necessary in part because of the revocation of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Power Act 1949 and to implement agreed outcomes from the corporatisation of the Snowy Scheme, which occurred on 28 June 2002. The amendments make arrangements for the sharing of water from the Snowy Scheme by New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. They will protect Victoria's and South Australia's right to water from the Murray River if New South Wales fails to ensure necessary water releases from the Scheme. The amendments also set out arrangements for the transfer of verified water savings and water entitlements into environmental entitlements for the Snowy River and the River Murray.

The Amending Agreement sets out arrangements for the management of the 70 gigalitres of River Murray environmental entitlements. Before 1 May 2004, the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council will be required to develop environmental objectives and a strategy for retaining and releasing the environmental entitlements. The environmental objectives for the environmental entitlements must be integrated with other environmental initiatives on the River Murray. The amendments will also require the Murray-Darling Basin Commission to release and manage the environmental entitlements in accordance with the strategy developed by the Ministerial Council.

The governments will be required to inform the Commission of proposals to achieve water savings or to purchase water entitlements for environmental entitlements to enable the Commission to assess the possible effects of the proposals on the flow, use, control or quality of water.

The Murray-Darling Basin Amending Agreement has been agreed by the Commonwealth Government and the governments of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. The Amending Agreement will also require the approval of the Parliaments of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia before it can be implemented.

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NATIONAL HANDGUN BUYBACK BILL 2003

The National Handgun Buyback Bill 2003 appropriates Commonwealth funds for the purposes of the national handgun buyback which is to commence on 1 July.

The bill fulfils the Commonwealth's commitment to the implementation of the Council of Australian Governments' handgun reforms. The reforms will remove from the community those handguns that are not used in genuine sports shooting.

Under the buyback, sporting shooters and dealers who surrender prohibited handguns, parts and related accessories will receive fair compensation.

The Government's commitment to the handgun reforms is based on the considered view that such reforms are necessary to improve public safety, whilst taking into account the interests of legitimate sporting shooters.

The handgun buyback forms a central element of the reforms and complements measures which will tighten licensing laws in Australia.

After the tragic Monash University shooting on 21 October 2002 the Howard Government acted swiftly and decisively to address the threat posed by the misuse of legally registered handguns in the community.

In November of 2002, State and Territory Police Ministers, along with the Commonwealth, agreed to a range of measures to restrict the availability and use of handguns and to tighten licensing laws.

The Prime Minister, Premiers and Chief Ministers endorsed those measures at the meeting of the Council of Australian Governments on 6 December 2002. COAG agreed to implement prohibitions on the import, possession and use, by sporting shooters, of small concealable handguns, those handguns above .38” calibre, and those with a magazine capacity exceeding 10 rounds.

On 20 December 2002 the Government amended the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations 1956 to give effect to the prohibitions at the border. By 1 July 2003 the States and Territories will have legislation in place to give effect to the reforms.

At the 6 December meeting of COAG, the Commonwealth committed to funding the cost of the handgun buyback firstly from $15 million remaining from the 1996 firearms buyback and then shared on a two-thirds one-third basis between the Commonwealth and the States and Territories. The bill gives effect to this commitment.

An Intergovernmental Agreement, setting out the administrative and accountability procedures for the buyback, will be entered into by the Commonwealth, States and Territories prior to the commencement of the buyback.

In developing the handgun reforms, the Commonwealth has extensively consulted with national representatives of the sports shooting community, as well as dealers and historical collectors. I am confident that the reforms represent an appropriate balance between public safety and the pursuit of legitimate interests by genuine sporting shooters and collectors.

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INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY LAWS AMENDMENT BILL 2002

This bill makes a series of technical amendments to several intellectual property Acts.

The bill amends the Patents Act 1990, the Trade Marks Act 1995 and the Designs Act 1906 to clarify that errors and omissions by people providing services to IP Australia, such as independent contractors and consultants, are encompassed by the existing extension of time provisions. Currently, these Acts provide that a person must be granted an extension of time if a relevant time period was not complied with because of an error or omission by the Commissioner of Patents, the Registrar of Trade Marks, the Registrar of Designs or an employee of the relevant office.

However, IP Australia often uses the services of independent contractors and consultants during the processing of applications, such as the use of a courier service to transport documents from a sub-office to the central office in Canberra, or a private company for maintenance of information systems or storage of data. These amendments will make it clear that the extension of time provisions encompass errors and omissions by these parties.

These amendments will therefore ensure that any person who is legitimately entitled to an extension of time will be granted one.

This bill also amends subsection 45(3) and section 101D of the Patents Act, which deal with the disclosure of information to the Commissioner of Patents that is relevant to the patentability of an invention.

These provisions were previously amended by the Patents Amendment Act 2001. Those amendments were intended to ensure that the Commissioner had access to as much relevant information as possible when determining whether an invention is patentable. However, based on initial experience with the new system, it has recently become apparent that those amendments will not achieve the Government's policy objectives because they lack certainty and impose an undue burden on applicants and patentees.

In order to maintain Australia's strong patent system, the Government has decided to take swift action to rectify this situation. The amendments in this bill narrow the scope of the information covered by these provisions to provide an effective disclosure regime that reduces the burden on applicants and patentees while still ensuring that relevant information is disclosed.

These amendments will replace the disclosure obligations that have applied since the commencement of the Patents Amendment Act 2001. That is, they will apply to any standard patent application that had not been accepted before 1 April 2002 and any innovation patent for which examination had not begun before 1 April 2002.

This will mean that the new disclosure arrangements will completely replace the current provisions and any applicant or patentee who has not complied with those provisions will no longer be obliged to. If they have complied with the current provisions then, for the purposes of the Patents Act, the information they have provided would only need to meet the requirements of the new provisions.

So, although the amendments will not commence retrospectively, they will have a retrospective effect.

This should not disadvantage any applicants or patentees because these amendments will be introducing an improved disclosure regime that imposes a significantly reduced burden on them. In addition, the bill provides that any information provided under the current provisions is taken to have been provided under the new provisions and therefore will not need to be re-submitted.

These arrangements will ensure that people are not adversely affected by the operation of these amendments.

I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the valuable contribution of representatives from the Institute of Patent and Trade Mark Attorneys of Australia and the Australian Federation of Intellectual Property Attorneys in the development of this bill. Their input is very much appreciated.

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MARITIME LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (PREVENTION OF POLLUTION FROM SHIPS) BILL 2003

The Maritime Legislation Amendment (Prevention of Pollution from Ships) Bill 2003 will amend two Commonwealth Acts, the Protection of the Sea (Prevention of Pollution from Ships) Act 1983 and the Navigation Act 1912. The bill's primary purpose is to ensure that changes to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, known as MARPOL 73/78, are reflected in Australian legislation.

A key issue to be addressed by the bill is the protection of the marine environment by ensuring that the level of environmental protection from marine sewage in Australia is consistent with internationally adopted standards. This is particularly important for sensitive marine areas, such as the Great Barrier Reef, which are vulnerable to pollution by sewage from ships.

In 1999-2000, 3,254 international trading ships visited Australian ports. The amount of sewage discharged from a vessel varies depending on the number of persons carried and the duration of the trip. The increase in the size and number of cruise ships visiting Australian ports, and regions such as the Great Barrier Reef, in recent years has resulted in a renewed focus on the issue of protecting the marine environment. Today's cruise ships, the largest of which can carry more than 5,000 passengers and crew, generate significant volumes of waste. For example, an average sized cruise liner discharges approximately 100,000 litres of sewage per day, while an average sized bulk carrier with a crew of 25 discharges approximately 300 litres per day.

The bill includes amendments setting out the condition in which a ship is to be maintained to ensure that it remains fit to proceed to sea without presenting an unreasonable threat to the marine environment. Other amendments include provisions prohibiting the discharge of mixed sewage into the sea and amendment of a condition specifying the distance from the nearest land that treated sewage can be released.

The bill contains some technical amendments reflecting the renumbering of regulations contained in Annex IV of MARPOL 73/78: Regulations for the Prevention of Pollution by Sewage from Ships, a change to the name of the International Sewage Pollution Prevention Certificate 1973 and provision of a new power for survey authorities to issue such certificates.

Other amendments are being proposed to ensure that purely technical and routine operational matters are removed from primary legislation and included in subordinate legislation. In the case of this bill, subordinate legislation will be in the form of Marine Orders.

Australia is a signatory to MARPOL 73/78 and has implemented annexes of the Convention dealing with the prevention of pollution by the discharge of oil, chemicals, harmful packaged substances and garbage from ships.

In 1985, Australia agreed to the adoption of Annex IV of MARPOL 73/78: Regulations for the Prevention of Pollution by Sewage from Ships. Following this agreement, the Commonwealth Protection of the Sea Legislation Amendment Act 1986 was passed to give effect to Annex IV along with a range of other amendments to MARPOL 73/78. However, the provisions relating to Annex IV have not been proclaimed to commence due to delays in the treaty gaining international acceptance.

In 2000, the International Maritime Organisation adopted a number of amendments to Annex IV that addressed several outstanding issues which had delayed its international acceptance. Annex IV will now enter into force internationally on 27 September 2003.

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HEALTH CARE (APPROPRIATION) AMENDMENT BILL 2003

This bill delivers on the Government's strong commitment to the principle of universality under Medicare. As promised by the Prime Minister a maximum contribution to public hospital funding over the 2003-08 period of $42 billion will be provided under this bill. This is $10 billion more than the funding provided under the last Australian Health Care agreements. Nationally, this represents a 17 per cent real increase in the Commonwealth's commitment.

We are introducing this bill to provide certainty for the people of Australia, who can rest assured that Commonwealth funding for their public hospital services will continue and that they will have free access to the services they require.

The Australian people deserve an accountable health system. Over the life of the current agreements, the Commonwealth's commitment to Australians needing health care has been transparent and unprecedented. The States' contribution is far less apparent.

Until now the Commonwealth's contribution to public hospital funding has been growing faster than the States. According to the latest Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data, the Commonwealth currently provides 48 per cent of public hospital funding compared with the States 43 per cent. Under the new agreements States will be required to match the Commonwealth's rate of growth in funding, so the onus on growth is shared. States will also be required to recommit to the Medicare principles enshrined in this Bill, and agree to a new performance reporting framework providing greater transparency of the shared arrangements.

Over the past five years, the Commonwealth has also introduced major private health insurance reforms, including the 30 per cent Rebate and Lifetime Health Cover, that have contributed towards a better balance between the public and private hospital systems. This has reduced pressure on public hospitals. Nonetheless the federal government demonstrated our commitment to public hospitals by choosing not to reduce state and territory funding under the last agreements, as we were entitled to do, because of the increase in the number of people with private health insurance.

This decision by the federal government meant that state and territory governments are around $2.5 billion better off over the last three years of those agreements. It also means that the new Australian health care agreements start from a much higher base than they otherwise would have been had we exercised our right to recover those funds.

Included in the Commonwealth contribution to public hospital services is a new `Pathways Home' program. This is a one-off contribution of $253 million nationally to increase efforts in the provision of rehabilitation and step-down services. This program will help people, particularly older people, to make a smooth transition back to their homes in the community following hospital treatment and, in doing so, optimise their potential to remain independent.

This bill also provides for minor legislative changes to enable the Minister for Health and Ageing to delegate powers with respect to certain limited matters to the Department of Health and Ageing and alters the definition of “eligible person” to reflect the current definition of the Health Insurance Act 1975. The delegation powers do not extend to grants to the States and Territories for provision of public hospital services, but are limited to grants for related projects and programs and are estimated to be 0.9% of total payments under the Act.

Once again I confirm the Government's strong commitment to the principle of universality under Medicare. This bill extends the period of operation of the Act for a second five year period commencing on 1 July 2003. This will enable the Commonwealth to enter into new Australian Health Care Agreements and maintain funding to the States and Territories pending settlement of Agreements.

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CUSTOMS AMENDMENT BILL (No. 1) 2003

The Customs Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2003 contains amendments to the Customs Act 1901. Those amendments provide the rules for determining whether goods originate in Least Developed Countries, in East Timor or in Singapore.

The amendments in Schedule 1 to this bill relate to the Government's decision to grant duty-free entry, from 1 July 2003, to goods that originate in a Least Developed Country or in East Timor. The Prime Minister announced this decision on 25 October 2002 during the APEC Leaders CEO Summit in Los Cabos.

This decision demonstrates Australia's commitment to the objectives of the Doha round of World Trade Organization negotiations to provide meaningful market access to the poorest countries, to help them trade their way out of poverty and to integrate into the world economy.

Goods will be considered to originate in a Least Developed Country or in East Timor if they are its unmanufactured raw products or if they are manufactured in a Least Developed Country or in East Timor.

To be `manufactured' in a Least Developed Country or in East Timor, the last process of manufacture of the goods must be performed in that country, and the goods must have a local content of 50 per cent.

Inputs from Least Developed Countries, East Timor, Forum Island Countries, other developing countries and Australia will count towards local content.

To ensure the benefits of the Government's initiative flow to Least Developed Countries and to East Timor, rather than to other developing countries, inputs from the other developing countries may be included in the calculation of local content, but only up to a maximum of 25 per cent of the total factory cost.

The amendments in Schedule 2 to this bill will give effect to Australia's obligations under Chapter 3 of the Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement. Chapter 3 provides the rules for determining whether goods originate in Australia or Singapore for the purposes of preferential, duty-free admission under the Agreement.

The Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement is expected to enter into force later this year.

The Free Trade Agreement is a comprehensive and wide-ranging agreement that provides Singapore and Australia with more liberal access to each other's goods, services and investments markets. The agreement re-affirms the close relationship between Australia and Singapore, and will contribute to greater growth, prosperity and security in the region. It is also consistent with our APEC commitments to broader trade and economic reform, and is a positive initiative to advance the Bogor goals of free and open trade and investment.

Goods will be considered to originate in Singapore for the purposes of duty-free entry if they are wholly obtained or manufactured in Singapore or if they are partly manufactured in that country.

For most goods that are partly manufactured in Singapore, a local content of 50 per cent will apply. For a limited range of electrical and electronic goods, as well as for goods subject to Australian Tariff Concession Orders (that is, goods not manufactured in Australia), a local content of 30 per cent will apply.

The rules of origin for Singapore include accumulation provisions for manufactured goods in recognition of Singapore's special offshore processing arrangements.

The accumulation provisions will allow the value added in Singapore and in Australia before and after overseas processing to be included in the calculation of local content. These provisions will not apply to textiles, clothing or footwear, to passenger motor vehicle products, or to jewellery.

The rules of origin for Singapore also include special consignment and origin certification provisions. Those provisions are aimed at ensuring that goods transported through Singapore cannot be claimed to originate in that country.

The amendments also include some additional obligations on exporters of Australian goods to Singapore so that preferential duty-free entry into that country can be secured for those goods. These amendments will apply only to a limited range of exporters, as the only Australian goods that are currently dutiable on entry into Singapore are beer and stout.

This bill is cognate with the Customs Tariff Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2003.

I commend the Bill.

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CUSTOMS TARIFF AMENDMENT BILL (No. 1) 2003

Customs Tariff Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2003 contains amendments to the Customs Tariff Act 1995.

First, the bill will add East Timor to the List of Developing Countries in Schedule 1 of the Tariff. This will enable exports from that country to receive preferential duty treatment under the Australian System of Tariff Preferences for Developing Countries which will allow goods originating in East Timor to benefit from a five percentage point reduction on the general tariff rate.

Secondly, the bill amends the Tariff to implement the Government's decision to give duty-free access to goods originating in Least Developed Countries, as designated by the United Nations, and in East Timor.

This decision was announced by the Prime Minister at the APEC CEO Summit in Los Cabos, on 26 October 2002. It demonstrates Australia's strong commitment to opening markets to the world's poorest countries and is consistent with Australia's obligation under the Doha Declaration. The amendments to the Tariff will take effect from 1 July 2003.

The bill also amends the Tariff to allow goods originating in Singapore duty free access to Australia. These amendments will give effect to the recently signed Singapore Australia Free Trade Agreement, which reaffirms the close relationship between Australia and Singapore, and will contribute to building a stronger bilateral partnership. These amendments will come into effect when the Agreement enters into force.

The above amendments are complementary to, and cognate with, amendments contained in Customs Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2003.

The bill contains a number of other amendments to Schedule 1 of the Tariff, which contains lists of countries and places to which preferential rates of duty apply under the Australian System of Tariff Preferences.

To reflect its status as an independent state, Palau is to be removed from the list of “Places Treated as Developing Countries” in Schedule 1 and to be added to the list of Developing Countries in that Schedule. Papua New Guinea is to be added to the list of Forum Island Countries, which also appears in Schedule 1 of the Tariff. The changes to the listings of Palau and Papua New Guinea in Schedule 1 do not alter the treatment of imports from those countries to Australia, but improve the accuracy of the Tariff.

The country codes for each country listed in Schedule 1 and elsewhere in the Tariff are to be changed from the current four alpha codes to the two alpha codes used by the International Standards Organization. This brings Australia into line with international practice and will reduce administrative and financial burdens for Australian importers and exporters.

A number of minor and related Tariff amendments are also contained in this bill.

I commend the bill.

Debate (on motion by Senator Buckland) adjourned.

Ordered that the Customs Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2003 and the Customs Tariff Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2003 be listed on the Notice Paper as one order of the day, and the remaining bills be listed as separate orders of the day.