Save Search

Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 10 March 2009
Page: 1045


Senator LUDWIG (Minister for Human Services) (3:43 PM) —I table a revised explanatory memorandum relating to the Tax Laws Amendment (2008 Measures No. 6) Bill 2009 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—

APPROPRIATION BILL (No. 3) 2008-2009

I rise to introduce Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2008-2009.

There are two Additional Estimates Bills this year: Appropriation Bill (No. 3) and Appropriation Bill (No. 4). I shall introduce the latter Bill shortly.

The Additional Estimates Bills seek appropriation authority from Parliament for the additional expenditure of money from the Consolidated Revenue Fund, in order to meet requirements that have arisen since the last Budget. The total additional appropriation being sought through Additional Estimates Bills 3 and 4 this year is $3.1 billion, or about 4.1% of total annual appropriations.

Turning to Appropriation Bill (No. 3), the total appropriation being sought this year is $2.05 billion. This proposed appropriation arises from changes in the estimates of program expenditure, due to variations in the timing of payments and forecast increases in program take-up, reclassifications and from policy decisions taken by the Government since the last Budget.

I now outline the major appropriations proposed in the bill.

AusAID will be provided with an additional $157.2 million as part of the Government’s commitment to increase Australia’s overseas development assistance over the long term.

Of this amount, $150 million will be contributed to the World Bank, as follows:

  • $50 million for the Trust Fund established to respond to the global food price crisis. This Fund will be used to help stimulate agricultural production in developing countries adversely affected by higher global food prices. Activities supported by the Multi-Donor Trust Fund will include improving access for small farmers to seed and fertiliser for the upcoming planting season; and
  • $100 million will be contributed to the Clean Technology Fund, which will offer development finance at highly concessional rates for transformative investments in low carbon technologies by developing countries in the transportation and power sectors and in energy efficient buildings, industry and agriculture.

AusAID will also be appropriated $1.6 million to develop a policy framework that enables the Government to rapidly deploy and sustain a trained civilian contingent in response to natural and man-made disasters in developing countries, and a further $5.6 million (including some capital) for a facility in Indonesia that will promote increased co-operation in responding to disasters.

An additional appropriation of $87.8 million is proposed for the Department of Defence to reimburse it for the cost of extending Australia’s military participation in stabilisation and reconstruction activities in Iraq to 30 June 2009.

The Department of Defence will also be provided with $153 million to meet additional costs arising from movements in the exchange rate, while an amount of $29.4 million is proposed to cover unavoidable overspends on operations in the previous financial year, which are funded by the Government on a no win - no loss basis.

In addition, the Department of Defence will be provided with $307 million to address pressures in a number of areas, including the Graded Other Ranks Pay Structure Review, Superannuation, Rental Allowances and higher fuel costs. This funding is matched by reduced estimates for Defence in later years.

For the Department of Climate Change, an additional $13.95 million is provided for a national advertising campaign to raise public awareness of climate change and the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. The campaign is being conducted through print, radio and television advertisements, a new website and publications for schools and households. The campaign aims to increase community understanding of the causes and impacts of climate change on Australia and to encourage participation in the development of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme.

The Government will provide an additional $21.3 million to the Department of Health and Ageing (including $3.9 million that has been reclassified from Appropriation Act No. 2) to increase the number of organ donations and transplantations across Australia by implementing a comprehensive set of initiatives including:

  • dedicated organ donation specialist doctors and other staff to work closely with emergency department and intensive care unit teams in selected public and private hospitals across Australia;
  • additional staffing, bed and infrastructure costs associated with organ donation in hospitals;
  • raising community awareness and building public confidence in organ donation and transplantation; and
  • counselling and support of potential donor families.

As part of this package, the Government will establish the Australian Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation Authority, which will commence on 1 January 2009. The Authority will coordinate clinicians and other hospital staff dedicated to organ and tissue donation in hospitals across Australia, and will also oversee a new national network of state and territory organ and tissue donation agencies. Of the total appropriation proposed for the Department of Health and Ageing for this package, $4.9 million will be set aside to fund the operations of the new Authority.

The Department of Health and Ageing will also be provided with an additional $7.5 million in 2008-09 to increase the number of places available under the Prevocational General Practice Placement Program, which provides opportunities for junior doctors to gain clinical experience in primary care with the aim of encouraging them to take up general practice as a career. This amount will be funded by bringing-forward unallocated funding from the Better Outcomes for Hospital and Community Health program from future years.

The Government has agreed to return $21.4 million to the diagnostic imaging industry, as part of the recently expired Memorandum of Understanding between the Commonwealth and the industry. The MOU managed the delivery of Medicare-funded diagnostic imaging services. This amount represents the estimated shortfall in expenditure on diagnostic services over the life of the agreement. An amount of $11.4 million is proposed for the Department of Health and Ageing to return to the industry in 2008-09, while the balance will be returned next financial year.

The Department of Health and Ageing will also be appropriated an additional $14.4 million to meet the costs associated with an increased uptake of the breast cancer drug Herceptin, provided under the Herceptin Program.

The Government will provide the Department of Human Services with an additional $39 million for the Job Capacity Assessment program. The additional funding is required to meet higher than expected demand for assessments, and will provide for an additional 139,000 assessments to be undertaken in 2008-09.

The Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts will be provided $101 million to meet the increased demand for household rebates under the Solar Homes and Communities Plan. Of this amount, $48.8 million will be brought forward from 2009-10, while $52.2 million is additional funding. The program provides rebates of up to $8,000 for the installation of solar power panels in homes and grants for up to half the cost of a 2 kilowatt system for community buildings.

The Government will provide $61.6 million to assist small block irrigators in the Murray Darling Basin affected by drought who wish to cease irrigation farming but stay on the farm. The program provides taxable exit grants of up to $150,000 to eligible irrigators with permanent water entitlements of at least 10 megalitres, on properties of 15 hectares or less, who sell their water entitlements to the Commonwealth and cease irrigation farming. The program also provides two complementary taxable grants of up to $10,000 each for advice and training, and removal of permanent plantings and other production-related infrastructure.

Of the total amount proposed for this program, the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts will receive $57.1 million. This will be funded by bringing forward an equivalent amount from 2009-10 from the Sustainable Rural Water Use and Infrastructure program. In addition, the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry will be provided with $4.5 million, including $4 million for Centrelink to deliver the program.

The Government proposes to provide $59.4 million to the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry to meet commitments for which funding was provided last financial year, but because of program delays, payments can not be made until the current year. Of this amount:

  • $43.4 million is proposed to fund drought assistance grants to irrigators in the Murray Darling Basin. Claims submitted under this program were not finalised by the end of 2007-08, and a reappropriation of unspent funding is required to clear the backlog.
  • $16 million is proposed for the Tasmanian Community Forest Agreement to enable the Department to meet commitments that were entered into in 2007-08.

An additional $93.3 million is proposed for the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research to meet the increased cost of the LPG Vehicle Scheme arising from additional customers who are expected to access the scheme in 2008-09. The LPG Vehicle Scheme is designed to encourage the uptake of LPG as an alternative transport fuel and to assist families facing high petrol prices.

The Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research will also receive an additional $37 million for the Ethanol Production Grants Program to meet an anticipated increase in expenditure due to: the New South Wales Government’s two per cent ethanol mandate; expansions at the Manildra Facility at Nowra and CSR’s facility at Sarina; and a new ethanol production facility at Dalby.

The Government will provide $16.4 million in 2008-09 to implement the Automotive Industry Structural Adjustment Program. Of this total, $7.9 million will be provided to the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research to encourage automotive industry consolidation by providing targeted assistance to address some of the costs of mergers. This is aimed at minimising company closures and achieving economies of scale.

The program will also provide labour market structural adjustment assistance, under which the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations will receive $8.5 million to provide displaced workers with training and other assistance to get them into alternative employment. Assistance will be available to workers who have been made redundant from 1 November 2008.

The Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations will also receive $24 million in conditional funding to support the ongoing operations of loss-making centres currently operated by ABC Learning. This funding aims to provide certainty in the provision of child care at affected ABC Learning Centres until at least 31 December 2008.

The Government proposes to reallocate $99.4 million for the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism to establish a Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute. The Institute will accelerate the take up of carbon capturing projects by facilitating demonstration projects and identifying and supporting necessary research on related topics, including regulatory settings and regulatory frameworks. Funding in 2008-09 will be provided by the redirection of amounts from the National Low Emission Coal Initiative, formerly known as the National Clean Coal Fund. This additional funding is also partially offset by savings in other programs.

The Government will provide $21.5 million in 2008-09 and $83 million over four years to Australia’s financial regulators to maintain the strength of Australia’s financial system during the global financial crises.

This initiative will provide the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority with an additional $9 million in 2008-09 to meet the increased demands being placed on it to undertake a range of additional supervisory services. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission will receive an additional $10 million to undertake market monitoring and enforcement activities, while the Department of the Treasury will receive $2.5 million to ensure Australia’s regulatory environment continues to be world’s best practice and to pursue reform of the global financial architecture.

The Government commissioned Sir Peter Gershon to undertake a review of the Australian Government’s use of information and communications technology, hereafter referred to as ICT. The Government asked Sir Peter to consider in particular, the efficiency and effectiveness of current ICT usage; whether the Government is realising the greatest return from its investments in ICT; and the scope to increase agency ICT capability in order to alleviate pressures caused by ICT skill shortages.

The Government has agreed to the Review’s recommendations and the Department of Finance and Deregulation will receive $13.5 million in 2008-09 to implement them.

In addition, the Government proposes to provide the Department of Finance and Deregulation with a total $10.2 million, including $6.1 million in capital funding, to establish a national intergovernmental telepresence system between the Commonwealth and the States and Territories. The proposal will provide high quality, secure telepresence video facilities connecting the Commonwealth and State and Territory Governments. The system will be used in inter-jurisdictional meetings, including Council of Australian Governments and Ministerial Council meetings.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade will receive:

  • an additional appropriation of $18.8 million to account for the impact of foreign exchange fluctuations on its ability to make payments to both International Peace-keeping organisations and other international organisations on behalf of the Australian Government; and
  • an additional $28 million to ensure that work can commence on the construction and fit-out of the Australian Pavilion at the Shanghai 2010 World Expo. Of this amount, $16 million will be brought forward from 2010.

An amount of $39.7 million is sought for the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government. Of this amount

  • $8 million is proposed to endow a major university to establish a new centre of excellence for local government, to showcase innovation and best practice across local government and to encourage the wider adoption of innovative practices and solutions; and
  • an additional $25.1 million, which represents the reappropriation of unspent program funds from 2007-08, required to fulfil program commitments, including under the Regional Partnership and Better Region programs.

A total of $11.8 million will be provided to the Attorney-General’s Department to reimburse the department for costs incurred through the provision of services to the Indian Ocean and Jervis Bay Territories, such as utilities, infrastructure and health services.

The appropriations that I have outlined so far are proposed to meet additional funding requirements that have arisen since the last Budget. There is a further category of requirement for additional appropriation, referred to as a ‘reclassification of appropriation’, that are also proposed in Appropriation Bill (No.3).

These amounts need to be re-appropriated to align the purpose of the proposed spending with the correct appropriation type. The additional appropriations are fully offset by savings against the original appropriations and thus do not lead to additional expenditure.

I now outline a number of material reclassifications proposed in Bill 3:

  • The Department of Defence will be provided with $278 million in Departmental Outputs appropriation to more correctly align its appropriations with its work program. This additional amount will be fully offset by reductions in its non-operating appropriations.
  • The Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs will be provided with $70 million for the Australian Remote Indigenous Accommodation program. This amount represents a reclassification of appropriation from the States, Territories and local government item to allow the Department to make payments directly to Non-Government Organisations.
  • The Bureau of Meteorology will be provided with $20 million for the Modernisation and Extension of Hydrologic Monitoring Systems program. This amount has been reclassified from payments to the States, Territories and local government item to an administered expenses appropriation in Bill 3 so that both public and private sector entities may participate in a merit based, competitive tender process for grants to assist modernisation and extension of their water resource monitoring systems.
  • An additional $23.7 million is included in Appropriation Bill 3 for the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations as a result of the Government’s decision to reclassify program payments relating to the National Skills and Workplace Development Agreement from special appropriations to an annual administered expenses appropriation. The reclassification will enable the Department to continue to make payments for the National Training System.
  • The Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy will be provided with $10 million of Departmental Outputs appropriation to meet the projected additional costs associated with the National Broadband Network project. This funding, which is for costs associated with the conduct and assessment of the Request for Proposal process, will be made available by reclassifying administered expense appropriations provided for the Connect Australia programs.

The remaining amounts that appear in Appropriation Bill (No. 3) relate to estimates variations, minor reclassifications and other minor measures.

I would like to turn now to changes we propose for the Advance to the Finance Minister, known as the AFM. Section 14 of Appropriation Act (No. 1) 2008-09 enables the Finance Minister to provide additional appropriation when satisfied that there is an urgent need for expenditure, and the existing appropriation is inadequate.

Based on current indications, we expect demand for issues from the Advance to be greater than the $295 million provided in Appropriation Act 1 and the $380 million provided in Appropriation Act 2. It is important that the Government can maintain its ability to issue amounts from the Advance in the event that there is an urgent need for expenditure. Accordingly, clause 13 of Appropriation Bill 3 provides that, irrespective of the amounts issued from the Advance, at the commencement of Appropriation Act No. 3, the amount available to be issued will be restored to the original limit of $295 million. A similar clause has been added to Appropriation Bill 4 which will restore the limit to $380 million.

In addition, a new clause is included in Bills 3 and 4 providing that where amounts included in those Bills have also been subject to an issue from the Advance, for example, where an amount is determined after the AEs Bills are finalised, then the appropriation in the bill will be reduced by the amount of the Advance. This change will prevent appropriations for the same expenditure from both the Advance and the bill.

In the last Budget, the drafting of the legislation text contained in the appropriation Acts was simplified to streamline certain provisions and remove redundant references. Those changes have also been made for the Additional Estimates Bills.

These proposed improvements are canvassed in the Explanatory Memoranda.

I commend the bill to the Senate.


APPROPRIATION BILL (No. 4) 2008-2009

Appropriation Bill (No. 4) provides additional funding to agencies for:

  • expenses in relation to grants to the States under section 96 of the Constitution and for payments to the Territories, and local government authorities; and
  • non-operating purposes such as equity injections and loans.

The total additional appropriation being sought in Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2008-2009 is $1.04 billion.

The principal factor contributing to the additional requirement since the 2008-2009 Budget is a proposed increase of $791.2 million in payments to the States, Territories and local government authorities, the more significant of which I now outline.

The Government proposes an additional appropriation of $300 million for the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government for the Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program. Of this amount, $250 million will be distributed to local councils, with council and shire allocations based on a formula that recognises need and population growth. The balance of $50 million will be invested in larger-scale local projects such as new sports stadiums, entertainment precincts and cultural centres that require a larger Commonwealth contribution of $2 million or more. Funding under this element will be allocated on a nationally competitive basis, with projects assessed by the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government.

$227.1 million is proposed for the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry for drought assistance under the Exceptional Circumstances Interest Rate Subsidy program, of which;

  • $213.5 million will be provided for assistance for primary producers in regions that have been declared eligible for Exceptional Circumstances assistance; and
  • $13.6 million will be provided for continued support for small businesses with up to 100 employees that are dependent on business from farmers in regions declared eligible for Exceptional Circumstances assistance.

An additional $17.5 million is proposed for the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations to improve access to child care and early childhood services for indigenous Australians. This funding will contribute to the establishment and operation of 15 new children and family centres in urban areas and will expand the Government’s contribution to the establishment and operation of 20 centres in rural and remote communities that have indigenous populations.

$17.5 million is proposed for the Department of Families, Housing Community Services and Indigenous Affairs to further clarify roles and responsibilities in the disability sphere between the Commonwealth, States and Territories by transferring relevant Disability Assistance Package funds. Of the total amount, $12.6 million is transferred from the Additional Respite Services for Older Carers to the States and Territories, while $4.9 million is transferred from Targeted Support funding, which will enable clients who are no longer suited to business services employment to transfer to State and Territory run day service programs.

An amount of $334.9 million is provided for the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts for the Water for the Future package. $301.6 million of this amount will be made available by reclassifying administered expense appropriations provided for this program in Appropriation Act (No. 1), and $33.4 million is brought into 2008-09 from 2007-08 and 2009-10 for the Living Murray Initiative. Of the overall amount:

  • $152.4 million will be provided as an administered asset item to fund the purchase of water entitlements. This reclassification is based on advice from the Australian National Audit Office that water entitlements are intangible assets and should be funded by a non-operating appropriation; and
  • $182.5 million will be provided as a payment to the States, Territories and local government item to permit direct program payments to the States.

Turning to other appropriations in the bill, the Government will provide the Special Broadcasting Service Corporation with a loan of $15 million, to be repaid over five years, to advance sports broadcasting rights payments and infrastructure works.

Finally, a reallocation of appropriation is proposed between agencies implementing the COAG-endorsed Standard Business Reporting program. The Department of the Treasury will receive capital funding of $11.8 million, matched by reductions in the Standard Business Reporting funding of other agencies, to reflect the actual implementation costs and workload share between agencies following an internal review of the program.

The remaining amounts that appear in Appropriation Bill (No. 4) relate to estimates variations, minor reclassifications and other minor measures.

Similar changes proposed for the Advance to the Finance Minister in Bill 3 are proposed for Appropriation Bill 4. As outlined in the second reading speech for Bill 3, the changes will:

  • restore the limit of the Advance in Appropriation Act 2 to $380 million, upon commencement of Appropriation Act 4; and
  • prevent appropriations for the same expenditure from both the Advance and the bill.

I commend the bill to the Senate.


CUSTOMS AMENDMENT (ENHANCED BORDER CONTROLS AND OTHER MEASURES) BILL 2008

I am pleased to introduce the Customs Amendment (Enhanced Border Controls and Other Measures) Bill 2008.

Customs plays a vital role in preventing the illegal movement of people and harmful goods across Australia’s border. The border extends to Australia’s Exclusive Economic Zone where Customs has a key role in addressing threats to the maritime environment through its contribution to the Border Protection Command.

In performing its role, Customs works closely with a number of agencies and industry and is our trusted agent for border protection.

The measures contained in this bill, which have been developed in consultation with other Commonwealth agencies and industry, are designed to ensure that Customs can continue to effectively perform its law enforcement and regulatory roles and functions.

The bill will amend the Customs Act 1901 to:

  • clarify the current powers to patrol areas and moor Customs vessels;
  • provide that the current power to board ships without nationality can be exercised in any area outside of the territorial sea of another country;
  • clarify that the current power to board vessels in the safety zones surrounding Australia’s offshore facilities relates to offences committed within those zones;
  • clarify that the current power to use reasonable force as a means to enable the boarding of a pursued ship encompasses the use of devices designed to stop or impede a ship;
  • require infringement notices issued by Customs to state the legal effect of the notice;
  • modernise the language relating to the requirement for a ship or aircraft to only be brought to a proclaimed port or airport.

To strengthen Customs ability to effectively operate in the offshore maritime and sea port environments, the bill will:

  • align the requirements of Customs boarding powers with other Commonwealth legislation and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea;
  • place a requirement on the Master of a vessel that’s to be boarded at sea to facilitate the boarding;
  • introduce a new requirement for port and port facility operators to facilitate the boarding of a vessel that is located in port;
  • modernise Customs arrest and warrant powers to ensure consistency with the Crimes Act 1914;
  • create a new offence for intentionally obstructing or interfering with the operation of Commonwealth equipment located at Customs Places; and
  • remove the requirement for copies of warrants to be marked with the seal of the relevant Court.

To recognise practical constraints in providing reports to Customs, the bill also provides more flexibility for reporting arrivals of vessels, pleasure craft and cargo.

In line with community expectations, the bill will:

  • strengthen Customs ability to request an aircraft to land to include circumstances where it is suspected that the aircraft is carrying goods that are related to a terrorist act or are likely to prejudice Australia’s defence or security
  • protect the Australian community from goods which if imported, would be prohibited imports. This will be achieved in two ways. First, Customs officers will be able to seize, without warrant, goods that are located onboard a ship or aircraft and are not listed in part of the cargo report, not claimed as baggage belonging to the crew or passengers or otherwise accounted for. This may include items such as certain types of pornography or weapons located by Customs officers during a ship search but not claimed by the crew. Second, all items onboard a ship or aircraft that has arrived in Australia that are either stores or personal effects of the crew, and would be considered a prohibited import if imported into Australia, will now be required to either be locked onboard the ship or aircraft or taken into custody by Customs until the ship or aircraft departs Australia.
  • create a new offence of failing to keep goods which are subject to the control of Customs safely or failing to account for such goods if required to do so.

In conclusion, this bill allows Customs to perform its roles more effectively and efficiently to protect the community at the same time as continuing to support legitimate trade and travel.


LAW AND JUSTICE LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (IDENTITY CRIMES AND OTHER MEASURES) BILL 2008

I am pleased to introduce the Law and Justice Legislation Amendment (Identity Crimes and Other Measures) Bill. The bill implements the identity crime offences recommended in the Model Criminal Law Officers’ Committee Final Report on Identity Crime. The report was released by the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General in March 2008.

The bill inserts three new identity crime offences into new Part 9.5 of the Criminal Code Act 1995. With the exception of South Australia and Queensland, it is not currently an offence in Australia to assume or steal another person’s identity, except in limited circumstances.

Existing offences in the Criminal Code, such as theft, forgery, fraud and credit card skimming, do not adequately cover the varied and evolving types of identity crime such as phishing and malicious software.

The offences can be implemented by the Commonwealth within the Commonwealth’s constitutional powers by linking them with an intention to commit a Commonwealth indictable offence, and by confining the ‘victims’ provision to victims of Commonwealth identity crime offences.

The proposed offences are framed in general and technology neutral language to ensure that, as new forms of identity crime emerge, the offences will remain applicable.

The offences include:

  • dealing in identification information with the intention of committing, or facilitating the commission of a Commonwealth indictable offence, punishable by up to 5 years imprisonment;
  • possession of identification information with the intention of committing, or facilitating the commission of, conduct that constitutes the dealing offence, punishable by up to 3 years imprisonment; and
  • Possession of equipment to create identification documentation with the intention of committing, or facilitating the commission of, conduct that constitutes the dealing offence, punishable by up to 3 years imprisonment.

The identity crime provisions also contain measures to assist victims of identity crime. Identity crime can cause damage to a person’s credit rating, create a criminal record in the person’s name and result in tremendous expenditure of time and effort restoring records of transactions or credit history.

A person’s identity can be falsely used for citizenship, Centrelink payments and medical services and to gain professional qualifications.

It’s been reported that individual victims spend an average of two or more years attempting to restore their credit ratings.

That’s why the amendments will also allow a person who has been the victim of identity crime to approach a magistrate for a certificate to show they have had their identity information misused. The certificate may assist victims of identity crime in negotiating with financial institutions to re-establish their credit ratings and other organisations such as Australia Post to clear up residual problems with identity theft.

Some departures from the MCLOC model have been necessary because of Constitutional limits on the Commonwealth’s power. However, the spirit and intention of the MCLOC offences are maintained in this bill.

I look forward to my State and Territory counterparts, with the exception of Queensland and South Australia who already have such offences, implementing identity crime laws so that we have uniform national coverage.

The bill also contains amendments to the Australian Federal Police Act 1979 to streamline the processes for alcohol and other drug testing under the Act, and expand the range of conduct for which the Commissioner may make awards.

The amendments to the Director of Public Prosecutions Act 1983 will put beyond doubt that the Director of Public Prosecutions can delegate both functions and powers under the Act. This position was previously unclear on the face of the legislation.

Second, the amendments ensure that the Director can delegate functions and powers relevant to the conduct of joint trials with his or her State and Territory counterparts.

While the DPP Act allows the Director to authorise a person to sign indictments on his or her behalf, this authorisation is very limited in its scope. For example, the authorisation does not extend to summary offences, committal proceedings or appeals.

Finally, the amendments provide immunity from civil proceedings to individuals (such as the Director, or a member of the staff of the Office) and to the Australian Government Solicitor, carrying out (or supporting) functions, duties or powers under the Act.

The immunity will only apply if the acts or omissions were done in good faith and in the performance or exercise of the person’s functions, powers or duties under, or in relation to, the Act.

As well as providing certainty to the CDPP in carrying out its functions and duties under the DPP Act, the immunity provision will give legislative protection to State and Territory prosecutors who conduct Commonwealth matters (for example, under joint trial arrangements).

This amendment will bring the DPP Act into line with most State and Territory Offices of Public Prosecution, as well as section 222 of the Law Enforcement Integrity Commissioner Act 2006, and section 59B of the Australian Crime Commission Act 2002.

The next significant amendments concern the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act. This Act establishes a robust regime for detecting and deterring money laundering and terrorism financing.

Schedule 4 to the bill contains several amendments which will:

  • establish a more consistent approach to the restrictions placed on the disclosure of sensitive AUSTRAC information, and
  • strengthen safeguards to protect against the disclosure of sensitive AUSTRAC information.

AUSTRAC, as Australia’s financial intelligence unit, processes and analyses information obtained under suspicious matter or suspicious transaction reporting provisions and passes on intelligence information to investigative and law enforcement agencies to assist their operational activities.

As information held by AUSTRAC relating to suspicious matters and suspect transactions is sensitive, the Act prescribes who can access this information and imposes a number of stringent restrictions as to what they can do with the information once accessed. A person who breaches these requirements commits an offence.

The amendments ensure these requirements are now stipulated under both the AML/CTF Act and the Financial Transaction Reporting Act.

The bill also increases the penalties for the offences of perverting the course of justice and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice from 5 years to 10 years imprisonment.

This reflects the Government’s view that defendants who seek to obstruct or pervert the course of justice should be subject to strong criminal sanction. The amendment will also bring these penalties into closer alignment with the penalties for similar offences in other jurisdictions.

In addition, each administration of justice offence contained in Part III of the Crimes Act 1914 has been updated to bring it in line with settled principles about framing Commonwealth criminal offences.

First, the offences have been reframed to bring them into line with Chapter 2 of the Criminal Code, which requires the physical elements of an offence to be separated. This promotes consistency between the drafting of Commonwealth offences.

Second, the amendments apply absolute liability to the jurisdictional elements of each administration of justice offence. A jurisdictional element of an offence is an element that links the offence to the legislative power of the Commonwealth.

The amendments overcome uncertainty about the operation of the existing offences. For example, because absolute liability does not apply to the jurisdictional element of the section 46 offence of aiding a prisoner to escape, a defendant may be able to avoid conviction because he or she did not know that the prisoner they assisted was in custody for an offence against Commonwealth or Territory law.

Finally, the bill amends the definition of ‘enforcement body’ in subsection 6(1) of the Privacy Act 1988 to include the Office of Police Integrity (OPI) in Victoria.

This provides OPI with the same status that similar law enforcement bodies have under the Privacy Act, such as the Police Integrity Commission of New South Wales and the Crime and Misconduct Commission of Queensland.

The bill also contains several minor amendments to:

  • correct a drafting error in the Criminal Code Act 1995, and
  • repeal a provision in the Judiciary Act 1903 which is no longer necessary.

In summary, this bill contains important measures to rectify deficiencies in current legislation relating to identity crime offences. The bill also contains measures designed to improve the administration of justice and the effective operation of the AFP and CDPP.

I commend the bill to the Senate.


TAX LAWS AMENDMENT (2008 MEASURES No. 6) BILL 2009

This bill amends various taxation laws to implement a range of improvements to Australia’s tax laws.

Schedule 1 modifies the capital gains tax provisions in the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997 for corporate restructures. Companies will be prevented from obtaining a market value cost base for shares and certain other interests acquired in another entity following a scrip for scrip CGT rollover under an arrangement that is taken to be a restructure.

An arrangement will be taken to be a restructure if, broadly, the market value of the shares and certain other interests issued by the acquiring entity under the arrangement in exchange for similar interests in the original entity is more than 80 per cent of the market value of all the shares and other interests issued by the acquiring entity.

If an arrangement is taken to be a restructure, then the cost base of the shares and other interests that the acquiring entity acquires in the original entity will reflect the tax costs of the underlying net assets of the original entity (rather than its market value).

This is an important integrity measure which the former Government announced its intention to deal with in October 2007. However, the former Government’s proposal was poorly targeted and effectively stopped scrip for scrip arrangements causing disruptions in the market.

The Government’s measure has been refined through extensive consultation and will effectively target the mischief.

The amendments, which apply to arrangements entered into after 7.30 pm on 13 May 2008, will prevent companies from gaining significant unintended tax benefits by restructuring.

Schedule 2 amends the Taxation Administration Act 1953 to address a number of issues with the assistance in collection provisions. Specifically, these provisions enable the Commissioner to take action to collect or to conserve tax debts owed in another country where the debtor is resident in Australia or has assets in Australia.

These amendments provide for a new mechanism by which a debtor’s liability is reduced in certain circumstances, expands the type of payments that the Commissioner can make to a foreign country with which Australia has an international agreement and clarifies the role of the Foreign Claims Register, which records all the foreign tax debts that the Commissioner collects on behalf of foreign countries. Together these amendments will enable the assistance in collection provisions to more effectively be administered.

Schedule 3 amends the Superannuation Guarantee (Administration) Act 1992 with regards to the late payment offset. The offset allows an employer who makes a late superannuation guarantee contribution for an employee, to use that contribution to offset against part of their superannuation guarantee charge liability. There is currently no specified time limit in which the employer is required to make the contribution.

These amendments specify that an employer will be able to use the offset if they make the contribution before they are assessed with the superannuation guarantee charge liability. This will encourage employers to make their contributions in a more timely manner whilst still having the benefit of using the offset to reduce their superannuation guarantee charge liability.

Schedule 3 also amends the calculation of the general interest charge on an unpaid superannuation guarantee liability where the offset is used. The calculation of the general interest charge will be amended so that it accrues on the remaining amount of the unpaid liability after the offset has been applied. This reduces the amount of the general interest charge and acknowledges the fact that the employer has made a contribution for their employee.

These amendments commence from the date this bill receives Royal Assent.

Schedule 4 implements various minor amendments to the law and also some general improvements of a minor nature. These amendments reflect the Government’s commitment to the care and maintenance of the tax system.

Schedule 5 introduces taxation measures to alleviate the financial hardship being felt in communities affected by the 2009 Victorian bushfires and north Queensland floods.

Part 1 exempts the income recovery subsidy from income tax, and ensures the subsidy is not included in separate net income for the purposes of calculating an entitlement to certain tax offsets. The income recovery subsidy will provide financial assistance to employees, small business owners and farmers who can demonstrate they have experienced a loss of income as a direct result of the 2009 Victorian bushfires or North Queensland floods.

Part 2 makes amendments to allow the Treasurer to declare an event as a disaster for the purposes of establishing Australian disaster relief funds. The declaration of a disaster by the Treasurer will allow Australian disaster relief funds to receive tax deductible donations, and provide money for the relief of people in Australia in distress as a result of the disaster. Public benevolent institutions, which must normally operate for direct relief efforts, will also be able to establish Australian disaster relief funds for longer term recovery and community reconstruction efforts.

Part 2 also lists by name the 2009 Victorian Bushfire Appeal Trust Account as a deductible gift recipient in the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997. This will ensure the fund can use tax deductible donations for relief, recovery and community reconstruction efforts in communities affected by the 2009 Victorian bushfires.

Full details of the measures in this bill are contained in the explanatory memorandum.


URANIUM ROYALTY (NORTHERN TERRITORY) BILL 2008

Australia has over one-third of the world’s medium cost reserves of uranium which have the potential to make a major contribution to reducing global greenhouse gas emissions. As the world is moving to a low carbon future, the uranium industry in Australia is forecast to grow rapidly and could add an additional $14-17 billion to Australia’s GDP over the period to 2030.

The Australian Government’s policy is to allow the development of uranium mines, subject to world’s best practice environmental, health and safety practices. Exports of uranium are only allowed under very stringent conditions and only to countries which are members of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty.

The Uranium Industry Framework is one way the Australian Government is working closely with State and Territory Governments, Indigenous and other stakeholders and the uranium industry to ensure the sustainable development of the uranium industry in Australia. Indeed, the Australian Government has committed $10.6 million over four years from 2008/09 to meeting this objective.

One of the impediments identified under the Uranium Industry Framework was the uncertainty surrounding fiscal arrangements applying to uranium developments in the Northern Territory. The Commonwealth retained ownership of uranium and other prescribed substances such as thorium, as defined in the Atomic Energy Act 1953, when it granted self-government to the Northern Territory in 1978.

However, royalty arrangements for the current and previous uranium projects were made by the Australian Government on a project by project basis. This has led to different royalty rates being applied to different projects and a lack of certainty for companies looking to develop new deposits when calculating their costs.

The Uranium Royalty (Northern Territory) Bill 2008 will, for the first time, apply a uniform royalty regime to all new projects in the Northern Territory containing uranium and other designated substances. I note that work is currently underway to develop several uranium deposits in the NT.

The bill will do this by essentially mirroring the existing profits-based mineral royalty regime under the Northern Territory’s Mineral Royalty Act 1982 and applying it as a Commonwealth law.

This means that for the first time there will be a consistent regime between uranium and other minerals in the Northern Territory. This is particularly important in the case of polymetallic mines which contain both uranium and other minerals and could potentially have come under two different regimes.

The royalty regime will apply equally to projects on Aboriginal land, as defined by the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976, and non-Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory. Importantly, it will protect the existing rights on Aboriginal land such that royalty payments made by the mine operator will be passed to the Northern Territory and an equivalent amount will be paid into the Aboriginals Benefit Account which assists Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory.

The mining industry is an important part of the Northern Territory economy and is one of the few opportunities for employment of Indigenous Territorians, particularly those living in remote areas. The performance of mining companies in the area of Aboriginal employment and training is improving and this is something the Government is working hard to address.

There is one exception to the new royalty regime and that is the Ranger mine. This is because it is the only currently operating uranium mine in the Northern Territory and the royalty determination for that mine has been in place since it began operating in the 1980s.

A uniform royalty regime for designated substances will provide considerable certainty for industry at a time when expansion is expected to occur in respond to the world’s demand for low emission energy sources. In particular, this regime will provide administrative benefits to proposed poly-metallic projects containing designated substances as the royalty regime for all products produced at such mines will be consistent. This means where a mine is producing both copper and uranium it will come under one regime instead of two.

Importantly, the Northern Territory is the only Australian state or territory which has a profit based regime for mineral royalties. The Commonwealth’s position is that profit based royalty regimes are superior in that they are the most economically efficient form of tax. Profit taxes ensure that all publicly owned minerals are recovered where economical and minimises the possibility of project shut-ins during periods of low prices. This is one of the reasons we are seeking to apply a profit based regime to the Commonwealth owned mineral.

To provide further consistency with the existing royalty regime for other minerals, the Northern Territory Treasury will administer the royalty regime on the Commonwealth’s behalf. The bill provides the authority for the Northern Territory Treasury to collect, retain and make payments of Commonwealth money for the purposes of administering the royalty regime.

In addition, the Northern Territory’s judicial system and procedures will be used if prosecution is required. As such, the bill also provides for other Northern Territory laws related to the administration of the royalty regime to be applied as Commonwealth laws.

Administrative Arrangements will underpin the operation of the royalty regime and will outline a number of important processes including, but not limited to, how often the Northern Territory Treasury will report to the Commonwealth on the amount of royalties collected on the Commonwealth’s behalf; dispute resolution processes for disputes between the Commonwealth and Northern Territory on administrative matters and apportionment principles for poly-metallic mines. I will be negotiating these Arrangements with the Northern Territory Treasurer prior to this bill coming into effect. To ensure transparency of the regime, the Administrative Arrangements will be published in the Gazette.

As the bill will automatically remain consistent with the Mineral Royalty Act 1982 (NT), the bill provides for the Governor General to make Regulations as necessary. This is included to maintain and protect the operation of the Commonwealth law from any unintended consequences arising from any amendment or repeal of the Mineral Royalty Act 1982 (NT).

The proposal was developed in consultation with representatives from relevant Commonwealth and Northern Territory Government agencies; the two largest Aboriginal land councils in the Northern Territory - the Northern Land Council and the Central Land Council; and the uranium industry under the auspices of the Uranium Industry Framework. The passage of the bill will be a major milestone arising from the large amount of work undertaken over the last two years.

Debate (on motion by Senator Ludwig) adjourned.

Ordered that Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2008-2009 and Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2008-2009 be listed on the Notice Paper as one order of the day and the remaining bills be listed as separate orders of the day.