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Wednesday, 14 May 2008
Page: 1790


Senator CARR (Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research) (4:21 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—

CLASSIFICATION (PUBLICATIONS, FILMS AND COMPUTER GAMES) AMENDMENT (ASSESSMENTS AND ADVERTISING) BILL 2008

The National Classification Scheme operates to classify the content of a range of entertainment media and provide important information to consumers about that content. 

The Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Amendment (Assessments and Advertising) Bill 2008 contains two areas of reform to classification procedures.  First, it changes the way the Classification Act deals with the advertising of unclassified product and, second, it changes the classification procedures for box sets of television series that are released for sale or hire. 

The Bill makes these amendments to improve the operation of the National Classification Scheme and to respond to the ever-changing technological environment for entertainment media. 

The first initiative is part of a package of reforms which, together with amendments to State and Territory legislation, will replace the prohibition on advertising unclassified films and computer games with a new scheme that will allow advertising, subject to conditions.  Those conditions will be set out in a new Commonwealth instrument.  The new advertising scheme was developed following public consultation on a discussion paper and has been the subject of discussions with State and Territory Censorship Ministers.

The package of reforms will update the definition of advertisement to explicitly include advertising on the Internet, and to exclude what is commonly known as product merchandising such as clothing.  This recognises where consumers get their classification information from.

Currently there is a prohibition on advertising unclassified films and computer games.  A limited number of exemptions is available for cinema release products.  The increasing risk of piracy and rapid advances in technology has led to products being available for classification very close to their release date.  The current system therefore causes difficulties for marketing of classifiable products.  In light of these changing circumstances, it is no longer tenable to prohibit the advertising of unclassified material. 

This Bill enables a legislative instrument to set conditions on advertising unclassified films and computer games.  The instrument will establish a strong new advertising message advising consumers to:

Check the Classification. 

The public expects, if a film is advertised before a film at a cinema, or on a DVD, that it will be suitable for the audience for the feature they have chosen to see.  The same applies to advertisements accompanying computer games.  So the instrument will permit unclassified films and computer games to be advertised only with films or computer games likely to be of the same or higher classification.

The instrument will establish an industry-based self assessment scheme whereby the likely classification of an unclassified film or computer game is assessed when advertising together with classified films or computer games.  The instrument will introduce a stronger commensurate audience rule so that advertisements for films likely to be classified ‘PG’ may no longer be screened to an audience for a ‘G’ film. 

The new scheme contains safeguards to ensure that audiences will not be confronted by advertisements for material likely to be classified at a higher level than the product they’ve chosen to view or play.  For example, the Classification Act will be amended to enable applications to be made to the Classification Board for an assessment of the likely classification of an unclassified film or computer game in difficult cases or where it is not cost effective for industry to self-assess.  Other safeguards include giving the Director the power to revoke an assessor’s status or, in serious cases, bar a distributor from accessing the scheme for up to three years.  These powers are designed to deter users from abusing the system or making lax or inadequate assessments.  Decisions by the Director to revoke an assessor’s status or bar someone from using the scheme will be reviewable by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. 

Further safeguards include initial and annual training for individual assessors, random and complaints-based auditing of advertising material and retaining existing powers which allow the Director to ‘call in’ advertisements.

The second initiative contained in this Bill is amendments to the classification procedures for films that are compilations of episodes of a television series that has already been broadcast in Australia.  This Bill enables a television series assessment scheme to be established.  Under the new television series scheme a person appropriately trained and authorised may provide a report and a recommendation to the Classification Board to assist them in their classification of a box set of episodes of a television series.  The Classification Board will retain responsibility for classifying the film.  But its consideration will be assisted by the assessment of an authorised assessor. 

To provide flexibility to respond to changing technology, and the increasing capacity of storage devices, the details of the scheme will be included in a legislative instrument. 

The television series assessment scheme also contains safeguards to ensure the integrity of the classification system and consistency of advice to consumers.  These include requiring the Board to revoke classifications in specified circumstances such as when the assessment on which the classification was based was highly unreliable.  For example, an assessment may have lacked enough information about classifiable elements, or been misleading, incorrect or grossly inadequate.

In addition, the Director has a power to revoke, in specified circumstances, an assessor’s status.  In serious cases, the Director has the power to bar a person from being an assessor for up to three years, or bar an applicant from using the television series 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.

These amendments have been developed in response to concerns expressed by industry about the application of the existing laws in light of developing technology and changing marketing imperatives.  The purpose of this proposal is to reduce the cost to industry and to streamline the classification process for the Classification Board.

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 providing reliable classification information for consumers.


LANDS ACQUISITION LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL 2008

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 Deregulation the power to initiate claims and making the Minister for Finance and Deregulation 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 amendments 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 amendments also empower the Federal Court to have jurisdiction in matters arising under such regulations.  The amendments ensure the judicial and review process are consistent throughout the Act.

The amendments provide 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 States and Territories.  

Enabling the Minister for Finance and Deregulation 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 ease 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 Deregulation must wait twelve months from the date of acquisition before making an offer.

The Minister for Finance and Deregulation 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 Deregulation, 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 on 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 initiatives to reduce red tape in Government administration.  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 Deregulation in connection with 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 Deregulation.

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 Deregulation has the responsibility for administering the Act, having the Minister for Finance and Deregulation 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.


OFFSHORE PETROLEUM AMENDMENT (MISCELLANEOUS MEASURES) BILL 2008

Mr President, I move that this Bill be now read a second time.  This Bill was introduced during the last sitting of Parliament and was passed by the Senate, but not by the House prior to Parliament being prorogued.  Given the important, but technical nature of the amendments, I am now pleased to reintroduce it into the Senate.

Senators would be aware that the Offshore Petroleum Act 2006 received Royal Assent on 29 March 2006.  The Offshore Petroleum Act was a rewrite of the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act 1967, which has been the primary legislation for the administration of Australia’s offshore petroleum resources for 40 years. The Offshore Petroleum Act is a more user-friendly enactment that will reduce compliance costs for governments and the industry.

This Amendment Bill has three elements.  Firstly to clarify provisions to ensure they operate the way that was intended, to make some technical corrections and a minor policy change.  Secondly, a policy change repealing section 327 which gives the Minister certain emergency powers in the Bass Strait. Finally, to convert geodetic data references of the area descriptions in the Act from Australian Geodetic Datum to the current the Geodetic Datum of Australia. 

Mr President, I would now like to take Senators through some of the key measures contained in the Bill.

The Bill ensures that the duration of certain production licences remains unchanged. While it was the intention that production licences due for their first renewal be renewed for 21 years, the effect of amendments made in 1998 to the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act is that licensees on their first renewal are entitled to licences of an indefinite duration.  This error has been corrected in the Offshore Petroleum Act.  These amendments ensure that the licensees, who renewed their production licences for the first time since 1998 but before the Offshore Petroleum Act comes into force, will have the indefinite term licences they are entitled to.

The Bill also clarifies the definition of ‘coastal waters’.  The Offshore Constitutional Settlement provides that the States and the Northern Territory have control over the ‘coastal waters’ adjacent to their land territory.  These coastal waters are 3 nautical miles from a ‘baseline’; this is essentially the low water mark of the coast.  These amendments ensure that the baseline that the ‘coastal waters’ are measured from is the correct 3 nautical mile baseline.

The Bill also proposes a minor policy change and repeals section 327 which allows the Minister to exercise his emergency powers in the Area to be Avoided, offshore Victoria in the Gippsland Basin.  The Minister has never exercised these powers.  The section is proposed to be repealed because a more comprehensive and broader security regime has been implemented under Maritime Transport and Offshore Facilities Security Act 2003.

The amendments to the datum are part of the Government’s Australia Spatial Data Infrastructure Program. Amendments made to the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act in 2001, paved the way for the move to the Geocentric Data of Australia, known as GDA94.  GDA94 is essentially a response to increased use of the Global Positioning System for surveying, navigation and similar purposes. It is important to note that there will be no shift in the position in any petroleum title area as a result of the changes.

The Bill incorporates the conversion of all of the points describing the ‘offshore areas’ in Schedules 1 and the ‘area to be avoided’ in Schedule 2.

I commend the Bill to honourable Senators.

Debate (on motion by Senator Carr) adjourned.

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