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Thursday, 13 September 2007
Page: 4


Senator ABETZ (Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation) (9:33 AM) —I table the explanatory memoranda relating to the bills and 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—

LANDS ACQUISITION LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL 2007

This bill makes a number of important amendments to the Lands Acquisition Act 1989.

The amendments proposed in the bill update the Act to:

  • enable Commonwealth Mining Regulations to be promulgated;
  • apply penalties to breaches of the Act with respect to mining that are commensurate with Commonwealth Criminal Law Policy;
  • make the Act more efficient by giving the Minister for Finance and Administration the power to initiate claims and making the Minister for Finance and Administration responsible for an administrative function;
  • eliminate an inconsistency by making the Cocos Islands land administration exempt from the Act, consistent with Christmas Island and Norfolk Island Acts;
  • to reduce the duplication of tabling of commercial, in the market transactions; and
  • repeal the redundant Lands Acquisition (Defence) Act 1968.

The amendment in relation to mining will enable the promulgation of Commonwealth Mining Regulations for the administration of mining on Commonwealth land. In particular, it will enable State and Territory legislation to be applied in a manner consistent with Commonwealth policy.

The amendment also empowers the Federal Court to have jurisdiction in matters arising under such regulations.  The amendment ensures the judicial and review process are consistent throughout the Act.

The amendment provides for a penalty regime for breaches of the regulations under the Act that is in line with the Commonwealth’s Criminal Law Policy.  The amendment imposes a maximum penalty of 50 penalty units for an individual and 250 penalty units for a body corporate for breaches of regulations made under the Act.

The process of promulgating Commonwealth Mining Regulations will entail extensive consultation and agreement with State and Territories.  

Enabling the Minister for Finance and Administration to initiate an offer of compensation to an interest holder without a claim being made promotes efficiencies and fairness in the application of the Act. 

This will also expedite the compensation process and eases financial and administrative burdens in relation to compulsory acquisitions.

The proposal will avoid delays to settlement of compensation in relation to acquisitions and provide certainty to the Commonwealth on its financial exposure.

The amendment provides that, in the absence of a claim for compensation, the Minister for Finance and Administration must wait twelve months from the date of acquisition before making an offer.

The Minister for Finance and Administration will also be  able to initiate an offer of compensation for losses arising from the Commonwealth’s activities on the land to be acquired prior to the acquisition, regardless of whether or not the acquisition proceeds.  

In relation to offers from the Minister for Finance and Administration, the rights of recipients of offers to review processes under the Act are preserved.

The amendment exempting land on the Cocos Islands from the Act will correct an anomaly.  Dealings in land on Cocos Island under the Cocos (Keeling) Islands Act 1955 has, by reason of oversight, not been made exempt from the Act. The amendment would bring the administration of land on Cocos Islands in line with land administration on Christmas Island and Norfolk Island, without the intervention of the Act.

The amendment which removes the tabling of commercial acquisitions in market of an interest in land reduces duplication and administrative burdens. Accountability and transparency of commercial acquisitions is provided by AusTender, which makes public commercial acquisitions of property by the Commonwealth. AusTender has a standard of transparency and accountability equivalent to that of tabling in Parliament.

This amendment brings the acquisition of land in line with the Commonwealth Procurement Guidelines.  This amendment accords with Government initiatives to reduce Red Tape.  It creates efficiencies by reducing duplication and associated administrative costs.

The amendment dealing with  the substitution of the Attorney-General with the Minister for Finance and Administration in connection with the cancelling and amending title documents relating to land held in trust,  creates further efficiencies, by bringing the administrative functions of the Act within the responsibility of the Minister for Finance and Administration. 

The Act presently enables the Attorney-General to cancel and amend titles to land when land is held in trust and the public purpose for the land is varied.

As the Minister for Finance and Administration has the responsibility for administering the Act, having the Minister for Finance and Administration assume that role from the Attorney-General will streamline the process and promote greater efficiencies.

The repeal of the Lands Acquisition (Defence) Act 1968 eliminates redundant legislation.  This legislation was created in order to acquire public parkland in New South Wales.  This acquisition has long since passed and the Lands Acquisition (Defence) Act 1968 can now be repealed.  This amendment would update Commonwealth legislation.

I commend the bill to the Senate.


COMMUNICATIONS LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (MISCELLANEOUS MEASURES) BILL 2007

The Communications Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures) Bill 2007 amends the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (the BSA) to give the Australian Communications and Media Authority (the ACMA) the discretion to consider late applications for renewals of community broadcasting licences that are made up until the expiry date of the licence. 

The Bill also makes minor technical corrections to the Broadcasting Amendment (Digital Radio) Act 2007, and the Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Digital Television) Act 2006.

Currently the ACMA has no discretion to accept an application for renewal of a community broadcasting licence after twenty six weeks prior to the licence expiry date, regardless of the circumstances giving rise to the late application. 

The amendments would give the ACMA the discretion to consider late applications for the renewal of a community broadcasting licence if:

(a)   the licensee makes the application before the licence’s expiry date;

(b)   the application is accompanied by a written statement setting out the licensee’s reasons for the lateness of the application; and

(c)   the ACMA considers that there are exceptional circumstances that warrant the consideration of the application.

Once a late application is made, ACMA may extend the current licence for up to 6 months while it considers the renewal application.  This provision will ensure that ACMA is not required to assess late applications in a shorter period and under the pressure of a deadline for the licence ending.

The purpose of the amendments is to give the ACMA the discretion to consider late applications while ensuring that the regulator still has adequate time to consider the merits of the renewal application.

It is not expected that the acceptance of late applications will be standard practice but instead that ACMA’s discretion to accept late applications would only be exercised in “exceptional circumstances”.

Ordered that further consideration of the second reading of these bills be adjourned to the first sitting day of the next period of sittings, in accordance with standing order 111.

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