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Thursday, 8 February 2007
Page: 27


Senator IAN CAMPBELL (Minister for Human Services) (11:07 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—

CLASSIFICATION (PUBLICATIONS, FILMS AND COMPUTER GAMES) AMENDMENT BILL 2006

The Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Amendment Bill 2006 amends the Classification Act to implement Government policy on the accountability framework for statutory agencies and to ensure the National Classification Scheme’s on-going smooth operation in a changing technological environment.

The bill facilitates the integration of the Office of Film and Literature Classification into the Attorney-General’s Department.

Classification Board and Classification Review Board functions remain unchanged. But the Director of the Classification Board will cease to have agency management powers and financial responsibilities. The Attorney-General’s Department will provide staff to support each of the Boards and assume responsibility for their financial administration.

These changes reinforce the independent functions of the Classification Board and the Classification Review Board. The bill confines the existing powers of the Director to matters associated with the Board and gives separate statutory powers to the Convenor for matters associated with the Review Board.

The bill also transfers from the Director of the Classification Board to the Attorney-General, as the Minister administering the Act, responsibility for delegated legislation, consistent with ministerial responsibility.

This includes the power to determine markings to be displayed about classified material - to be exercised in consultation with State and Territory Censorship Ministers. The Minister, rather than the Director, will also determine fee waiver principles to be applied by the Director and the Convenor when waiving fees payable under the Act for applications.

The bill also makes amendments to improve the operation of the National Classification Scheme - responding to industry concern about marketing imperatives and the law’s application in light of changing technology. They streamline the classification process and reduce the regulatory burden on industry. These amendments have been the subject of consultation including with State and Territory Censorship Ministers.

Descriptions or translations such as sub-titling, captioning, dubbing or audio descriptions, and navigation functions such as interactive menus, are increasingly added to already classified films. Currently, these constitute ‘modifications’, necessitating the film’s reclassification.

However, descriptions or translations do not provide new content. They provide access to already classified material for the ageing population, and for people with language barriers, or visual or hearing impairments. Likewise, menu functions merely facilitate navigation around new media such as DVDs. They include ‘play’ or ‘fast forward’ functions, or menu options to navigate between selections.

Following amendment, such descriptions or translations and navigation functions will no longer be considered modifications requiring reclassification.

This bill also facilitates the addition of related but new material to already classified feature movies when they are re-released on disc for sale or hire. These include additional scenes, interviews with the Director, and even featurettes taking their meaning from the content of the film.

Currently, these additions mean that the disc constitutes a new ‘film’ as defined, and must be classified, even though the feature movie on the disc has already been classified. Additional content rarely results in a classification different from that of the feature film on the disc.

The bill provides for an additional content assessment scheme whereby a person appropriately trained and authorised by the Director may recommend to the Classification Board the classification and consumer advice for additional content released with already classified or exempt films. The Classification Board will retain responsibility for classifying the film. But its consideration will be assisted by the assessment of an authorised assessor.

The scheme contains safeguards to ensure the integrity of the system. These include requiring the Board to revoke classifications in specified circumstances which demonstrate that the assessment on which the classification was based was highly unreliable and the Board would otherwise have made a different classification decision.

In addition, the Director has a power to revoke, in specified circumstances, an additional content assessor’s status or, in serious cases, bar them from being an assessor for up to three years, or bar an applicant from using the additional content assessment scheme for up to three years. These powers are permissive, and only exercisable under certain conditions. They are designed to deter users from abusing the system or providing lax or inadequate assessments of additional content. Decisions by the Director to revoke an assessor’s status or bar an assessor or applicant from using the scheme may be reviewed by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

The additional content assessment scheme was developed following public consultation on a discussion paper released earlier this year. The amendments are modelled on the existing authorised computer games assessor scheme which has been operating successfully for some years.

The bill contains several other minor amendments which respond to changing technology and marketing initiatives and miscellaneous technical amendments.

The amendments contained in this bill will ensure the National Classification Scheme continues to serve both industry and the public well - responding to the needs of the rapidly evolving world of entertainment media but guaranteeing the reliability of classification information for consumers.

I commend the bill.

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VETERANS’ AFFAIRS LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (STATEMENTS OF PRINCIPLES AND OTHER MEASURES) BILL 2006

I am pleased to present legislation to give effect to minor but necessary measures that will correct a number of anomalies and improve administrative procedures in the Veterans’ Affairs portfolio.

The measures will improve the support we provide to our veterans and defence personnel.

The bill will amend the Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986 (the Veterans’ Entitlements Act) to enable the Repatriation Medical Authority to review one or a number of factors in a Statement of Principles, rather than the entire contents of the Statement of Principles.

The Repatriation Medical Authority’s medical and scientific experts formulate Statements of Principles that are used to assess whether or not a claimed injury, disease or death is war or service related.

The Repatriation Medical Authority reviews the Statements of Principles regularly to ensure they are based on the latest medical and scientific evidence, in other words, best practice.

The amendments will enhance the review process, making it quicker and more appropriately focussed.

This bill also amends the Veterans’ Entitlements Act to enhance the operation of rules on existing income streams and clarify policies relating to those income streams.

These changes include consequential amendments, in response to changes in the family law, to allow the means test to be applied to certain non-superannuation annuities that are split following a divorce property settlement.

Other amendments to the Veterans’ Entitlements Act will enable benefits and allowances, the rates or amounts of which are fixed by or calculated under Veterans’ Entitlements Act regulations or any other Veterans’ Entitlements Act legislative instrument, to be funded from the Consolidated Revenue Fund.

This bill also corrects minor errors and anomalies in the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 (the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act) and the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Act 2004.

These Acts provide treatment, rehabilitation and compensation for all permanent and reserve members of the ADF, cadets and cadet instructors who suffer an injury or disease as a result of service after 30 June 2004.

Benefits provided by the new scheme match and, in many cases, enhance those provided under previous arrangements.

However, certain unintended anomalies in the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act mean that the Act, in a small number of areas, does not truly reflect its original intentions.

This bill corrects those anomalies, including removing the age 65 age limit from the Special Rate Disability Pension which should be payable for life, consistent with the Special Rate or TPI pension under the Veterans’ Entitlements Act.

The bill will also correct the provisions covering liability by excluding the acceptance of a self-inflicted disease. This brings the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act into line with the Safety Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988.

The bill also includes amendments that will ensure that service personnel incapacitated by injury or disease during training are remunerated at levels commensurate with what they would have earned if they had completed their initial training and will provide for the payment of travelling expenses for claimants attending a hearing by the Veterans’ Review Board.

Amendments in the bill will re-open section 88A of the Veterans’ Entitlements Act to certain persons eligible under the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act. This will enable those eligible persons to receive treatment of a specified kind as determined by the Repatriation Commission.

Other amendments will clarify the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act in relation to who may lodge a claim on behalf of a member or a dependant who is under the age of 18 years and will remove the unnecessary requirement for the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission to determine a treatment path for a serving member.

The proposed changes and minor technical amendments contained in the bill will enhance my Department’s capacity to deliver benefits and entitlements for our veteran and defence force communities.

Debate (on motion by Senator Ian Campbell) adjourned.

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