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Tuesday, 15 June 2010
Page: 3286


Senator STEPHENS (Parliamentary Secretary for Social Inclusion and Parliamentary Secretary for the Voluntary Sector) (6:11 PM) —I table a revised explanatory memorandum relating to the International Arbitration Amendment Bill 2010 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—

Airports (On-Airport Activities Administration) Validation Bill 2010

The Airports (On-Airport Activities Administration) Validation Bill 2010 will validate potentially invalid infringement notices and other matters done by persons not validly authorised under the Airports (Control of On-Airport Activities) Regulations 1997 in relation to certain activities at the following Commonwealth leased airports:

Adelaide, Alice Springs, Archerfield, Bankstown, Brisbane, Camden, Canberra, Darwin, Essendon, Gold Coast, Hobart, Jandakot, Launceston, Melbourne (Tullamarine), Moorabbin, Mount Isa, Parafield, Perth, Sydney (Kingsford-Smith), Tennant Creek and Townsville.

Under the Airports (Control of On-Airport Activities) Regulations, ‘authorised persons,’ who must be appointed by the Secretary of the Department or the Secretary’s delegate, are empowered to issue infringement notices for contraventions of certain rules relating to the airport including parking infringement notices.

In addition, authorised persons may perform certain other actions and exercise certain other powers.

For example, under regulation 110, an authorised person for an airport may direct a driver of a vehicle used at the airport in contravention of a parking control to move the vehicle.

Following an examination of parking infringement notices issued at certain airports and other authorisations recently, it has become apparent that the appointment of authorised persons at a number of airports has not been kept up to date, going as far back as 2004.

In some cases, this was due to the administrative oversight by the Department and, in some cases, that of the airports.

As a consequence, parking infringement notices issued and other actions performed by persons without a valid authorisation may be invalid and of no legal effect.

Payment of a parking infringement notice provides a person with immunity from prosecution for an alleged offence at the relevant airport.

This significantly reduces the potential penalty which a driver may be required to pay for committing the parking offence.

A driver may face a penalty five times the amount of the parking infringement notice should the matter be taken to court and the driver found to have committed the offence.

This legislation will confirm immunity from prosecution from the relevant offences of persons who received the infringement notices and paid the corresponding amount.

It is therefore important for the Government to act quickly to bring forward this legislation.

The Bill will validate all actions performed and powers exercised under the Regulations, including the issuance of parking infringement notices, at any current or former leased federal airport up until the Bill commences, to the extent that those actions or powers were performed or exercised by persons not validly authorised.

The Bill will provide the necessary legal certainty that each parking infringement notice and relevant other action are valid and legally effective.

On my instruction, the Department took immediate steps to address this oversight prospectively, by seeking advice from each airport and appointing as authorised persons the appropriate persons at each airport.

The Department is undertaking a full review of all processes and procedures relating to its administration of the Parking Infringement Notices Scheme and the Regulations more broadly in order to meet the standard required by the Government.

The authorisations are now all up to date and all parking infringement notices issued since 25 March of this year are valid. In the interim, this legislation is required to address the uncertainty about the validity of parking infringement notices issued prior to 25 March.


Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation Amendment Bill 2009

The Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation Amendment Bill 2009 amends the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation Act 1980 (AWBC Act) to allow the Australia-European Community Agreement on Trade in Wine to enter into force, improve the Label Integrity Program and update the compliance provisions of the act.

The agreement was signed on 1 December 2008 in Brussels by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Stephen Smith, and the European Commissioner for Agriculture, Mariann Fischer Boel, who said ‘the agreement achieves a balanced result for Europe and Australia’.

It is a significant improvement on the first wine agreement between Australia and the European Community signed in 1994 which left several items of negotiation unresolved and exposed a number of loopholes. These have been addressed in the replacement agreement through protracted negotiations over the last 14 years and extensive consultations with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Attorney-General’s Department, IP Australia and the Australian Government Solicitor, all of whom support the amendment bill. In particular the Australian wine industry played a key role in the negotiating process and are keen to realise the benefits of the agreement.

Most notably, the agreement clarifies the original intention of the agreement by redefining, expanding and strengthening a number of provisions, the most notable intention being that of ensuring Australia’s reputation as a producer of wines of quality and integrity is preserved whilst promoting and enhancing access to this large and valuable market.

The key benefits to the Australian industry from the agreement include:

  • European recognition of 16 Australian winemaking practices;
  • a simpler and improved process for the approval of winemaking techniques that may be developed in the future;
  • European protection of 112 Australian registered geographical indications including the Hunter, South Burnett, McLaren Vale and Bendigo;
  • labelling requirements for Australian wine sold in European markets; and
  • an effective dispute resolution system for trade related disputes.

In broad terms, the implications of these benefits mean that Australian producers will have to make fewer changes and concessions to sell their wine in the European Community through the easing of trade barriers that previously existed. It also means that the European Community implicitly recognises the provenance and prestige of Australian wines, which means our wines do not need to hide behind European names; they can market themselves independently.

To bring the agreement to fruition, a number of proposed amendments were essential to the AWBC Act, and the Trade Marks Act, to realign our domestic legislation with our new international obligations. The first set of amendments is required to implement the agreement. The second set is a range of changes (non-agreement related) to update and modernise the act by making the provisions more clear and comprehensive thus enabling the industry to operate more efficiently and effectively.

Schedule 1 of the bill amends the AWBC Act so that Australia’s domestic laws comply with the agreement. The bill provides rules for the protection of geographical indications (GIs), translations of foreign country GIs and traditional expressions.

A geographical indication identifies a good where a given quality, reputation or other characteristic of the good is essentially attributable to its geographic origin, for example Champagne.

The bill also resolves issues around the meaning of false, misleading and deceptive practices in relation to GIs, traditional expressions and protected terms. This includes providing exceptions from the false and misleading provisions relating to the sale, export or import of wine, as they relate to GIs, for common English words.

The bill amends the Trade Marks Act 1995 so that its interpretation is consistent with that of the AWBC Act. This will entail amending common definitions relevant to the agreement and provide circumstances in which the Registrar of Trade Marks can amend the representation of a trademark or an application to register a trademark. The bill will clarify that trademarks which include a common English word that coincides with a geographical indication can be registered.

Some geographical indications are also common English words. Under the current system, using such words to present and describe a wine, even with their common meaning, may leave the owner open to prosecution in Australia. This is despite the fact that it would be unlikely consumers would be misled about the origin of the wine.

The AWBC Act and the Trade Marks Act are being amended so that this situation is avoided. The amendments will make it possible for common English words that are also geographical indications to be used as parts of the description and presentation of a wine, including in a trademark, as long as the use does not deceive or mislead the public as to the origin of the goods.

To give effect to our agreement obligations, the amendments provide a scheme to prevent the use of translations of registered geographical indications. The amendments provide for the registration of these translations on the new Register of Protected Geographical Indications and Other Terms so that Australian winemakers know the words they need to avoid using. For example, Burgundy, the translation of Bourgogne, will be registered.

Australia’s protection of geographical indications mean that registered trademarks containing a word or expression that is a registered geographical indication are in some circumstances not able to be used in the description and presentation of a wine. With additional geographical indications to be protected, more trademarks may be affected.

Currently, where a registered trademark contains a word or expression that is to be protected:

  • as a registered geographical indication,
  • as a registered translation of a registered geographical indication, or
  • as a registered additional term
  • the trademark may in some circumstances not be used in the description and presentation of a wine.

Consequently, the Trade Marks Act is also being amended to enable trademark owners to amend their marks without the need to apply for a new trademark. They will be able to remove the protected word or expression or substitute another term for it.

Minor changes are also being made to align the Trade Marks Act with the relevant provisions in the AWBC Act including the revised definition of geographical indications.

The act will provide the opportunity for producers in all foreign countries to register geographical indications and translations of those indications in Australia. The bill clarifies that the AWBC Act gives effect to Australia’s obligation, under other relevant international agreements, not to discriminate between countries—the most favoured nation obligation.

Geographical indications are determined by the Geographical Indications Committee (GIC), an independent statutory committee under the AWBC Act.

This bill extends the powers of the GIC to enable it to determine geographical indications, and translations of such indications, from foreign countries, regions and localities, while also providing the power to omit foreign geographical indications from the register.

The procedure for the determination of foreign country geographical indications and translations will be provided for in the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation Regulations 1981.

However, it is clear that this increased level of responsibility for the GIC represents an increase in the amount of work that it has to do. Therefore, this bill amends the act to allow the AWBC to charge cost based fees in relation to the work of the GIC.

The AWBC already has the capacity to recover costs in relation to determining Australian geographical indications, so this extension of the corporation’s ability to charge fees does not mark a significant change in operating procedures.

Traditional expressions are words or expressions used in the description and presentation of the wine to refer to the method of production, or to the quality, colour or type, of the wine; for example, claret.

While protection of these terms was agreed in the 1994 agreement, the new agreement clarifies the nature and extent of the protection provided.

Since 1994, industry and government have developed a greater understanding of what constitutes a traditional expression and agree it is not a concept that Australia wishes to use with relation to Australian wine. The provision for Australian traditional expressions has been removed from the new agreement and consequently the amendments remove it from the act.

The amendments implement Australia’s commitment in the agreement to protect European Community traditional expressions. Traditional expressions get a lower level of protection than geographical indications so:

business owners and trademark owners can continue to use, in Australia, business names and trademarks that contain or consist of a protected traditional expression and

producers from countries not party to this agreement can use traditional expressions under certain conditions.

Currently Australia protects geographical indications, traditional expressions and other terms through the Register of Protected Names. This bill replaces the existing register with a new Register of Geographical Indications and Other Terms that is structured to meet the needs of the Australian wine industry. It will include geographical indications, translations of geographical indications, traditional expressions, quality wine terms and additional terms.

Quality wine terms are terms that Australia would not otherwise be able to use because they are European traditional expressions. For example, makers of fortified wines can use the term vintage, which the Portuguese claim as a traditional expression for fortified wine.

Additional terms are words which will only be able to be used in accordance with registered conditions of use.

As for geographical indications, and in line with our other international obligations, the act will provide the opportunity for producers in all foreign countries to register traditional expressions and additional terms.

The bill also amends the offence provisions in schedule 1 to make it an offence to sell, export or import wine and be reckless to the fact that the wine has a false or misleading description and presentation. The purpose of this change is to ensure that the geographical indications, traditional expressions, quality wine terms and other terms that are protected under the agreement have adequate protection against misuse. The amendment also brings the offence provisions in line with the Criminal Code Act 1995.

To elaborate, under the current system the penalty provision for selling a wine with a false or misleading description and presentation is subject to the mental element of intention. The mental element of intention could allow a person to avoid liability by giving incontestable evidence that they had no intention to mislead. This barrier to prosecution has been the catalyst for this change.

Of course, this offence provision applies to all elements of the supply chain. However, the risk of prosecution for those who conduct their business in accordance with the rules and act in good faith is negligible.

For example, if a small wine retailer bought a bottle of wine with a false or misleading description and presentation, in good faith, from a wholesaler and sold that wine in their store, I am advised that they are unlikely to be liable for prosecution under the amended provision. To be liable for prosecution under the amended provision, the small wine retailer would need to be aware of a substantial risk that the wine from the wholesaler had a false and misleading description and presentation, and irrespective of that risk, sold the bottle of wine with that description anyway.

Schedule 2 of the bill amends the AWBC Act to strengthen the provisions of the Label Integrity Program (LIP).

The bill extends record-keeping requirements for those members of the grape and wine supply chain whose actions are captured by the Label Integrity Program. The amendments will benefit both consumers and the Australian wine industry by helping to ensure that Australian wine labels are truthful and accurate with regard to their origin and their characteristics.

Australian wine is known for the clarity and integrity of its labelling. The government is ensuring that this effective marketing advantage is retained by implementing a more robust LIP.

As there is no objective way to test wine to determine its origin, variety or vintage, the only way to give confidence to consumers that what they are getting is as displayed on the label is to have the information recorded.

The current LIP is limited to wine manufacturers and does not cover other players in the wine supply chain, such as people who crush grapes on behalf of others, people who bottle wine on behalf of others, agents, growers, wholesalers and retailers.

The current LIP does not ensure adequate traceability through the wine supply chain. This bill contains amendments to rectify this situation.

The bill aims to ensure that the AWBC can verify wine label claims by requiring people in the supply chain to make and keep records of the supply and receipt of wine goods and changes to wine goods (including volume or storage changes), ensuring an auditable trail along the supply chain from harvested grapes to the sale of the wine.

The proposed changes will:

amend the LIP to provide that those involved in the production, distribution and sale of wine and grapes used to make wine must keep a record of the date of receipt, quantity, vintage, variety, geographical indication and the identity of the supplier of those goods. Similar records must be made upon despatch of those goods, thus ensuring a traceable trail throughout the wine production process, and

create a new offence applying to a person who makes a claim relating to vintage, variety or geographical indication of wine goods when that claim is not supported by their records.

A retailer or other person making a direct sale to a consumer is not required to keep a record of the person to whom the sale was made but must keep records including details of the total quantity and the vintage, variety and geographical indication of the wine goods sold.

The LIP only requires people in the wine supply chain to keep a record of the delivery to them and the supply from them. This information will allow the AWBC to audit the supply chain.

The changes to the LIP are significant but they will not place onerous requirements on the industry. Under current legislation, for every wine grape delivery the grower should be asked to declare the vintage, variety and geographical indication of the grapes because the wine manufacturer has to record that information.

While many wine grape growers make and keep their own records, the standard grape delivery docket issued by receiving wineries to wine grape growers and standard payment records provided by wineries will in most instances be sufficient record in themselves.

I do not expect that the amended LIP provisions will add to the administrative workload of growers, winemakers and others required to keep records but they will significantly enhance the ability of the AWBC to verify label claims.

Growers will be required to keep records for seven years. The records will typically be in the form of a grape delivery docket which is already kept by growers or their accountants for tax purposes.

Wholesalers and retailers typically keep the required records through bar codes or on paper. Most billable material should contain the information. Therefore, it is expected that the amended LIP provisions will not add to the administrative workload of wholesalers and retailers.

Schedule 3 of the bill amends the compliance provisions of the AWBC Act. The bill includes changes to the compliance provisions which will strengthen the AWBC’s ability to stop a person from engaging in action that may be contrary to the AWBC Act.

In particular the changes will expand the injunction powers so that the AWBC can apply for an injunction to stop or to direct a person engaging in action that may be contrary to:

  • the label integrity program,
  • the provisions relating to the protection of geographical indications and other terms,
  • the export control offence provision, or
  • the regulations made for the purposes of these provisions.

These amendments also align the penalties in the AWBC Act with government policy regarding offence provisions and the use of penalty units as a replacement for fixed dollar amounts.

The Australian wine industry is an incredible success story. It is an industry which has become increasingly export focused with more than 714 million litres of wine (about 60 per cent of production) exported in 2007-08 at a value of $2.67 billion by approximately 1,800 licensed exporters of Australian wine.

In the global marketplace, Australian wine is in demand because of its reputation for quality and value for money.

Europe is Australia’s largest export market and accounted for over half of all of Australia’s wine exports in 2007-2008. In fact, more wine is exported to Europe than any other Australian commodity (over and above dairy, meat and other horticultural products).

The Australia-European Community Agreement on Trade in Wine will protect and improve market access to our major wine export market and the Australian wine industry is eager to see the agreement enter into force.

The Joint Standing Committee on Treaties has recently reported on the wine agreement and recommended that binding treaty action be taken. The chair of the committee, the member for Wills, said ‘Accession to the agreement would strengthen trade between Australia and the European Community and will provide Australian winemakers with greater, and more secure, access to European wine markets.’

This bill is an essential step in the process of Australia acceding to the treaty and the Australian industry obtaining those benefits.

The industry will benefit from the enhanced Label Integrity Program and improved compliance provisions that will help prevent fraud that has damaged wine industries in other countries.

This bill has been developed in consultation with the Winemakers Federation of Australia and industry representatives on the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation’s Legislation Review Committee.

The Winemakers Federation supports the agreement and the bill, and has written to me to express its view by stating, ‘The wine agreement will significantly improve market access to one of our key export markets and the Australian wine industry is keen to see the entry into force of the agreement.’

The Legislation Review Committee also supports the bill and has advised that ‘the industry will derive considerable benefit from the enhanced Label Integrity Program and improved compliance provisions that will assist in preserving Australia’s reputation as a producer of wines of quality and integrity’.

I commend this bill to the Senate.


Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Digital Television) Bill 2010

The Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Digital Television) Bill 2010 amends the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 and related legislation to address areas of digital television signal deficiency, or black spots, and to enable the provision of all free-to-air television services to every Australian.

On 5 January 2010, the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy announced that the Government would fund a new satellite service to bring digital television to all Australians who cannot adequately receive terrestrial digital television services.

The new satellite service is intended to deliver the same number of digital television channels to these areas that are available in the metropolitan markets. In addition the service will provide regional viewers with access to the local news currently broadcast in their local terrestrial licence areas via a dedicated news channel.

This Bill introduces a legislative framework for the implementation of the new satellite service.

The amendments will create three new commercial television licence areas specifically for the new satellite service. These are:

Northern Australia which will encompass the Northern Territory and Queensland;

South Eastern Australia which will encompass the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria; and Western Australia.

There will be one new commercial satellite service licence per satellite licence area. Initially, only existing remote commercial television broadcasting licensees will be eligible to apply for the licences.

The satellite service will encompass both national and commercial channels, delivered over a common satellite platform. Access will be through a satellite dish and a set-top-box.

Satellite delivery of the national broadcasting services, the ABC and SBS, will be available to any viewer in Australia in their local time zone through the new satellite service. The main standard definition services offered by the national broadcasters, ABC1 and SBS ONE, would be delivered on an individual state and territory basis, with the exception of the Australian Capital Territory which would be served by the News South Wales services.

Access to commercial channels will be managed by a conditional access system administered by regional broadcasters, and overseen by the Australian Communications and Media Authority. All Australians living in remote television licence areas will have access to the new commercial satellite service. Any Australians in non-remote regional or metropolitan television licence areas, and who do not receive adequate terrestrial digital television, will also have access.

From the commencement of the satellite service, the licensee of the satellite service will be required to provide a service that offers an equivalent number of commercial digital television channels as is enjoyed in metropolitan markets - that is, three main channels, three standard definition multi-channels, and three high definition multi-channels.

It is expected that the commercial digital television channels on the new satellite service will be provided by existing remote commercial television broadcasting licensees using affiliation and supply arrangements agreed with metropolitan networks. To allow the licensee of each satellite service to meet its licence conditions in the absence of such arrangements, this Bill places an obligation on remote commercial television broadcasters to supply their digital television channels to the relevant satellite service licensee. There is then a corresponding requirement on the satellite licensee to broadcast them.

If, at the commencement of the satellite service, a remote commercial television licensee is unable to provide one or more digital television multi-channels, the satellite service licensee will be required to provide equivalent replacement channels from a metropolitan television broadcasting licensee.

Metropolitan commercial television broadcasting licensees will also be required to make their programming content available on the satellite service if requested by a satellite service licensee.

Satellite service licensees will not be required to provide identical programming to that provided in metropolitan areas. The satellite licensee will have the flexibility to adjust or substitute programming subject to commercial agreement, for example, to show sporting events or advertising that may be more relevant to the local audience served by the satellite service.

Importantly, the new satellite service will provide news and information sourced from the regional commercial television broadcasters operating in the relevant satellite licence area.

In the South Eastern Australia and Northern Australia satellite licence areas, the regional news service will be delivered via a dedicated channel that will aggregate local news content from the relevant regional commercial broadcasters. In Western Australia, a separate news channel is not required, as the satellite licence area will be geographically the same as the existing remote licence area. Hence the satellite licensee will be able to provide local news and information through the main channels of the relevant Western Australian remote broadcasters provided on the satellite service.

To support the news channel, regional commercial television broadcasting licensees will be required to make available local news and information program material to the relevant satellite service licensee. The satellite service licensee will be required to provide that local news on the satellite service as soon as practicable after the regional licensee begins to broadcast the program in the regional licence area. This addresses the cyclical nature of local news and information provided by regional broadcasters.

The Government expects that commercial agreements between broadcasters will underpin the delivery of programming to the satellite service licensee. In circumstances where appropriate commercial agreements are not in place, the Bill introduces amendments to enable the continued provision of television services. The Bill will insert a statutory licensing scheme into the Copyright Act 1968 to permit, subject to equitable remuneration, the use of programming provided to a satellite service licensee by the remote, regional or metropolitan broadcasters.

Should a satellite service licensee contravene its licence conditions about the provision of digital television services and local news, the Australian Communications and Media Authority may give the licensee written notice that if the contravention continues for more than 30 days, the licence may be cancelled. If the contravention continues, the Australian Communications and Media Authority must cancel the satellite service licence and commence a re-allocation process open to any applicant with the capacity to provide the satellite service.

Although unlikely, it is conceivable that there could be circumstances where, after the commencement of the satellite service, a remote television broadcasting licensee stops providing digital television services to their terrestrial licence area. This would mean that the remote commercial broadcaster would then be unable to provide their digital television channels for broadcast on the satellite service, potentially placing the satellite licensee in breach of its licence condition. In such a situation, satellite service licensees would not be required to immediately replace that remote broadcaster’s channels (although they could choose to do so). However, they would be required to broadcast them as soon as the remote broadcaster’s channels are re-established.

Satellite service licensees will be required to comply with the relevant program standards and captioning requirements that apply to terrestrial commercial television broadcasting licensees. But the Bill will also take into account the regulatory and technical complexities that satellite service licensees face when broadcasting across a number of time zones.

The Australian Content Standards, the Children’s Television Standards, and the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice, all impose requirements on broadcasters in relation to when certain material can be broadcast. This will cause difficulties for a satellite service transmitting a single program stream in several states or territories with different time zones (for example, across South Australia and New South Wales in the South Eastern Australia satellite licence area).

To address this, the amendments in the Bill will allow a satellite service broadcaster to nominate the time in a particular geographic location against which their broadcasting services shall be regulated.

The Bill will also ensure that the regulation that applies to the terrestrial transmission of anti-siphoning events will also apply to services provided by a satellite service licensee. This includes the rules that apply to the transmission of anti-siphoning events on digital multi-channel services.

The Bill also introduces measures to allow all commercial free-to-air digital television services, including digital multi-channels such as GO!, 7TWO and ONE HD, to be provided to Australians no matter where they live. Currently legislation does not allow commercial broadcasters to provide the full range of digital television services in a small number of licence areas where historically there were fewer than three commercial broadcasters. The Bill amends the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 to allow commercial broadcasters in regional South Australia, Griffith and Broken Hill to apply for a third, digital-only commercial licence.

This means that broadcasting licensees in such ‘underserved’ areas will have the same opportunity as other regional and metropolitan broadcasting licensees to provide a full suite of digital television services in their licence area.

Further, in recognition of the special circumstances of terrestrial broadcasters operating in these smaller markets, the amendments permit these broadcasters to provide all of their digital services in standard definition format only. These broadcasters will still have the option to provide high definition multi-channels but they will not be required to do so.

After switchover, commercial television broadcasters in these markets, like all other commercial television broadcasters, will have the option of providing any combination of standard and high definition channels within their allocated spectrum.

The measures in this Bill will help broadcasters provide the same range of digital television services to all Australians wherever they live, whether they access through terrestrial transmission or via satellite. It will dramatically improve the choice and quality of digital television services for regional Australia as we move towards digital switchover.


Child Support and Family Assistance Legislation Amendment (Budget and Other Measures) Bill 2010

This bill contains three measures affecting the family assistance law and child support legislation.

Firstly, the bill includes a measure from the 2009-10 Budget that aligns decisions about care of children for the purposes of family tax benefit and child support. This is designed to create simpler rules for separated families.

The Child Support Scheme aims to ensure that children receive the appropriate level of child support from their parents in accordance with their parents’ capacity to provide financial support. Family tax benefit assists with the costs of raising children, taking into account child support and other income available to meet these costs.

The bill makes amendments to provide for a single determination of care for both child support and family tax benefit purposes. Currently, care decisions are made by the Child Support Agency for child support purposes, while care decisions for family tax benefit purposes are made by the Family Assistance Office. This can mean that the Family Assistance Office and Child Support Agency recognise different levels of care for the same child. It can also mean that parents do not receive their correct assessments unless they separately notify each agency. This can put additional strain on separated parents who have to deal with two agencies, and two different sets of rules, when determining the care arrangements for their children.

Aligning the determinations of care between the Child Support Agency and Family Assistance Office will provide consistency in decisions about the level of care being provided by separated parents who have to deal with both agencies. This is intended to remove duplication of process and decision making by the Child Support Agency and Family Assistance Office. We also expect this will reduce objections and appeals flowing from the separate determinations in the two agencies.

Secondly, this bill also contains amendments to the income estimate process under the Child Support Scheme.

In determining their child support obligations, some parents use an estimate of their income. This estimated income is then reconciled against actual income to make sure that the correct amounts have been paid or received.

Currently, when a parent estimates their income for calculating their obligations under the Child Support Scheme, it is for a child support period of up to 15 months, which can cross over up to three financial years.

Estimating income over multiple financial years can be difficult for parents and often leads to inaccurate estimates. Reconciliation cannot occur until the parent’s actual income for each financial year is known. In those cases where the child support period spans up to three financial years, the current system can result in severe delays in reconciling estimates.

This amendment will align estimate periods with financial years.

This means that parents who estimate their income will be required to estimate for a shorter period of time. This measure will make it easier for parents to estimate their income and allow the Child Support Agency to reconcile the estimate automatically, once actual income is known.

These amendments do not affect the length of the child support period, which remains at 15 months. These amendments only change the period over which income estimates are reconciled from 15 months, to a financial year

This will help improve the accuracy of child support calculations to make sure that the correct information is used.

These changes have been thoroughly canvassed with the Child Support National Stakeholder Engagement Forum, a group jointly convened by the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and the Child Support Agency. The stakeholder engagement group includes representatives from a wide range of groups with a policy interest in child support matters.

Lastly, the bill contains amendments to the family assistance law to provide greater flexibility in dealing with family tax benefit non-lodger debts.

The 2008-09 Budget announced measures designed to address growing family tax benefit debts arising from circumstances where a family does not lodge their tax returns. Without lodgment of a tax return, the Family Assistance Office cannot reconcile a family’s entitlements to payments and ensure the correct amount of family assistance has been paid. Changes to this system were proposed by the Australian National Audit Office in its 2006 07 report, and implemented in January this year following passage of the Family Assistance Amendment (Further 2008 Budget Measures) Act 2009. Under those new rules, fortnightly payments of family tax benefit can be temporarily suspended if a person’s tax return has not been lodged within 18 months of the end of the financial year.

This bill amends these temporary suspension provisions so that they will not apply if there is no outstanding family tax benefit debt due to the failure to lodge a required tax return, and gives the Secretary the discretion to determine that certain provisions will not apply for a specified period where there are special circumstances.

These amendments do not affect the length of the child support period, which remains at 15 months. These amendments only change the period over which income estimates are reconciled from 15 months, to a financial year

This will help improve the accuracy of child support calculations to make sure that the correct information is used.

These changes have been thoroughly canvassed with the Child Support National Stakeholder Engagement Forum, a group jointly convened by the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and the Child Support Agency. The stakeholder engagement group includes representatives from a wide range of groups with a policy interest in child support matters.

Lastly, the bill contains amendments to the family assistance law to provide greater flexibility in dealing with family tax benefit non-lodger debts.

The 2008-09 Budget announced measures designed to address growing family tax benefit debts arising from circumstances where a family does not lodge their tax returns. Without lodgment of a tax return, the Family Assistance Office cannot reconcile a family’s entitlements to payments and ensure the correct amount of family assistance has been paid. Changes to this system were proposed by the Australian National Audit Office in its 2006 07 report, and implemented in January this year following passage of the Family Assistance Amendment (Further 2008 Budget Measures) Act 2009. Under those new rules, fortnightly payments of family tax benefit can be temporarily suspended if a person’s tax return has not been lodged within 18 months of the end of the financial year.

This bill amends these temporary suspension provisions so that they will not apply if there is no outstanding family tax benefit debt due to the failure to lodge a required tax return, and gives the Secretary the discretion to determine that certain provisions will not apply for a specified period where there are special circumstances.


Defence Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2010

The purpose of the Defence Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2010 (the Bill) is to address five separate measures:

The first measure amends the Defence Act 1903 to establish the Defence Honours and Awards Appeals Tribunal by legislation.

In 2007 the Australian Government, in accordance with an election commitment, undertook to establish an independent tribunal to consider longstanding Defence honours and awards issues and identified a number of priority issues to be considered by the Tribunal.

In July 2008 the Defence Honours and Awards Tribunal (the current Tribunal) was established administratively so that inquiries identified by Government could commence. As an administrative body the current Tribunal can inquire into and make recommendations relating to issues referred to it by Government. The Government has undertaken to be bound by the current Tribunal’s decisions. The current Tribunal has no authority to make separate decisions or to independently review Defence decisions concerning eligibility for Defence honours and awards.

Prior to the establishment of the current Tribunal in July 2008, there was no avenue of appeal open to Australian Defence Force members, ex-serving members, next of kin or others who had applied for medals and had their application declined. There was also no permanent body that could independently consider broader recognition issues relating to Defence service.

The establishment of the new Tribunal as a statutory body under the Defence Act 1903 will strengthen the Tribunal’s independence, make the Defence honours and awards decision making process more transparent and formalise the Government’s 2007 election undertaking.

In this context, this measure inserts a new Part VIIIC in the Defence Act 1903 to establish the Defence Honours and Awards Appeals Tribunal and provides for the:

  • functions of the new Tribunal:
  • what decisions are reviewable by the new Tribunal;
  • who may apply for review;
  • referral of general Defence honours and awards issues for inquiry and advice;
  • general provisions relating to the operation of the new Tribunal;
  • constitution of the new Tribunal and appointment of members; and
  • transitional provisions for the continuation of business of the current Tribunal and the automatic appointment of current members to the new Tribunal.

In particular the Tribunal will have the power to review Defence decisions concerning the eligibility of individuals for Defence honours and awards. The Tribunal will be able to hear appeals against a Defence decision in relation to eligibility for a medal and replace it with a new decision or confirm the Defence decision.

Individuals will be able to appeal directly to the Tribunal, which will be known as the Defence Honours and Awards Appeals Tribunal, about their eligibility for Defence honours and awards.

The Government will also be able to continue to refer Defence honours and awards issues to the Tribunal for inquiry and recommendation.

The Tribunal will not be reviewing eligibility to recommend a person for a Defence honour or award that was made before 3 September 1939 or for service rendered before 3 September 1939.

The Tribunal’s recommendations back to the decision-maker will be the final step in the review process. However, a person will be able to apply for review of tribunal decisions under the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977, and under section 39B of the Judiciary Act 1903.

The establishment of the Defence Honours and Awards Appeals Tribunal in legislation formalises the Government’s 2007 election commitment to establish an independent tribunal to consider longstanding Defence honours and awards issues. It will give applicants an opportunity to appeal Defence decisions concerning eligibility for medals and will make the decision making process more transparent and accountable.

The second measure - amends the Defence Act 1903 to ensure that there is procedural fairness in the termination and discharge process where a Defence member has tested positive for a prohibited substance.

Part 8A of the Defence Act 1903 provides for the testing of a person to determine whether they have used any prohibited substances. The Act also sets out who can perform those tests and the requirements for issuing a notice to show cause and the termination process.

The current provision does not provide for a step process between the issuing of the notice to show cause and the termination process (procedural fairness).

In its Report into Military Justice in the Australian Defence Force in 1999, the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade recommended that the Australian Defence Force review its current procedural arrangements to ensure organisational separation between the initiating officer and the decision maker for all administrative action involving the termination or discharge of a member’s service with the ADF. This would ensure procedural fairness in the termination and discharge processes.

The Government accepted this recommendation and agreed to amend the Act, as well as relevant Defence regulations and Defence instructions dealing with the termination of appointment of ADF members. The Defence Personnel Regulations and Defence instructions have been amended to take account of procedural fairness in the termination and discharge processes.

This amendment completes the Senate Committee’s recommendation in relation to procedural fairness in the termination and discharge process where a Defence member has tested positive for a prohibited substance. The amendment will also address the delegation provisions in relation to the issuing of a notice and the termination process.

The third measure - amends the Defence Act 1903 to make it absolutely clear that section 58B determinations made under the Act are subject to tabling and disallowance.

Prior to the commencement of Legislative Instrument Act 2003 (LIA), determinations made under sections 58B of the Defence Act 1903 were subject to tabling and disallowance. With the introduction of the LIA determinations made under section 58B of the Defence Act were expressly exempted by the LIA from being subject to the new Legislative Instruments regime. However, that exemption did not make it clear that 58B determinations were still required to be tabled and subject to disallowance.

This amendment will provide that a determination under section 58B is to be subject to tabling and disallowance in accordance with section 46B of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901. The amendment will provide that a 58B determination will be gazetted and also made available to the public on the Defence website.

The amendment will also provide that paragraph 46AA(1)(a) of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901 applies to make clear that determinations under section 58B can incorporate, by reference, material from other 58B determinations, 58H determinations and determinations made under section 24 of the Public Service Act 1999, as in force from time to time or as in force at a particular time.

The fourth measure - amends the Defence Home Ownership Assistance Scheme Act 2008 to ensure that it appropriately covers all Reserve members, regardless of the way they became a Reserve member.

The Defence Home Ownership Assistance Scheme was introduced on 1 July 2008. The scheme encourages retention by providing home loan subsidy assistance that increases as a member passes specified career points.

As at 31 January 2010, 18,363 subsidy certificates had been given to eligible ADF members. Of these, 10,273 members were in receipt of the subsidy assistance on a mortgage with a member of the home loan provider panel.

ADF member feedback indicates that the Defence Home Ownership Assistance Scheme is having a positive influence on retention.

The minor amendment to the Defence Home Ownership Assistance Scheme Act 2008 makes clear that members of the Reserves who had transferred from the Permanent Forces are subject to the same treatment regarding their Reserve service as members who were appointed or enlisted in the Reserves from the beginning of their service.

The amendment will not affect any person’s entitlements that have been recognised before the amendment takes effect.

The final measure in the Defence Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) - amends the Defence Force Discipline Act 1982 to enable the appointment of Chief Petty Officers and Flight Sergeants as discipline officers, to clarify the jurisdiction of discipline officers and to align the punishments available to be imposed in respect of certain ranks.

The current Discipline Officer scheme allows certain Australian Defence Force unit personnel to enforce discipline for minor disciplinary infractions without having to resort to summary authority jurisdiction.

This is a quick and effective method by which junior officers, non-commissioned officers and members below non-commissioned officers (who have pleaded guilty) are afforded the opportunity to learn from relatively minor disciplinary indiscretions.

The discipline officers scheme was amended in 2008 to give effect to a previous military justice review to expand the scope of the Discipline Officers scheme to include 'junior officers', namely, Lieutenant in the Navy, Captain in the Army and Flight Lieutenant in the Air Force. It was also extended to allow Warrant Officers to be appointed as Discipline Officers.

On 23 January 2009, the final report into the Health of the Reformed Military Justice System, recommended that the Discipline Officers scheme be extended to allow the Navy and Air Force equivalents of Warrant Officer Class 2 ranks to be discipline officers.

This amendment will give effect to that recommendation to allow the appointment of Warrant Officers, Chief Petty Officers and Flight Sergeants as Discipline Officers. The amendment will also clarify the jurisdiction of Discipline Officers and align the punishments available to be imposed in respect of certain ranks.

The five amendments addressed in Defence Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) will enhance the accountability and transparency of certain programs and schemes and entitlements for all ADF members.

I commend the Bill and the Explanatory Memorandum.


Family Assistance Legislation Amendment (Child Care Budget Measures) Bill 2010

The Family Assistance Legislation Amendment (Child Care Budget Measures) Bill 2010 will cap the Child Care Rebate annual limit at $7,500 for the next four years, as announced in this year’s Budget.

Our Government has a clear record in early childhood education and child care in supporting Australian families. We have prioritised affordable and high quality child care for Australian families and their children, and we remain committed to this.

Evidence of this commitment is clear in our investment of $17.1 billion in early childhood education and child care over the next four years, around $10 billion more than that provided in the last four years of the Howard Government.

In July 2008, we delivered on our election commitment to increase the Child Care Rebate from 30 to 50 per cent of parent’s out-of-pocket expenses. This extra supports goes directly to parents to help them with the cost of child care. We also met our election commitment to lift the maximum families could claim from $4354 as it was under the previous Government to $7500 per child per year - a substantial increase of $3146 a year, or some 72 per cent.

Last year 670,000 Australian families benefited from these significant reforms, enabling them to claim back half of their out-of-pocket child care costs up to $15 000 a year for each child in care.

And further, as a result of these changes ABS statistics also show that child care costs to parents fell by over 20 per cent.

Under the previous Government families were also forced to wait until the end of each year to access their Child Care Rebate payment. This put pressure on family budgets throughout the year. The Rudd Government committed to and changed the payment to quarterly - giving parents assistance closer to the time they incur their child care costs.

In addition to the Child Care Rebate we also provide an $8.4 billion in Child Care Benefit over four years for low and middle-income earners through the Child Care Benefit. This means we cover more than half of child care costs for these families.

In total, we will provide $14.4 billion over four years for parents through Child Care Benefit and Child Care Rebate. This is $8 billion more than the Howard Government provided in child care fee assistance in their last years.

We have shown time and again that we are committed to affordable and high quality child care, and we are putting our money where our mouth is.

In line with our commitment to deliver a responsible Budget that secures our economic future and brings the Budget back into surplus in three years, and three years early, and also as a result of our ambitious agenda for early childhood education and child care, we have made the decision to keep the Child Care Rebate cap at the level we committed to during the election - $7,500 a year. This is still some $3146 higher a year than it was when we were elected to Office.

It is important to note that under the adjustment to the Child Care rebate featured in the Bill - the vast majority of Australian families will not be affected by this change.

In fact only about 3 per cent of families currently receiving the rebate will be affected. The vast majority of families will not be affected.

In order to reach the cap most families would need to be placing their child in care for 10 to 12 hours a day for more than four days week, at average fee levels.

In fact, the average use of child care in Australia is much lower -with most parents using around two and a half days a week with the average Child Care Rebate claim last year being less than $2000, well below the cap of $7500.

Overall less than 1% (0.67) of families using child care who earn less than $100 000 a year will be impacted by this change in 2010-11.

We also know that as a result of our Child Care Rebate increase, a family earning $80,000 with one child in full time care receives $2239 more a year in Child Care Rebate than they would of under the previous Government.

In addition to affordable child care, we have also prioritised improvements to the quality of child care and early education. International studies such as the Perry Preschool Project, the Chicago Parent-Child Centre, and the Effective Provision of Preschool Education have demonstrated that if you invest early in high quality services, children have better outcomes at school and into their life.

This has been backed up by local experts such as Fiona Stanley, Frank Oberklaid and Alison Elliot - who tell us the early years shape the future happiness, health and wellbeing of children.

That is why we took the important decision to invest in the quality of child care, and our decision regarding the Child Care Rebate cap will help support this investment. Quality changes will deliver better staff to child ratios, so each child gets more individual care and attention, and improved qualifications so staff can lead activities that help children learn and develop.

In the 2010-11 Budget we announced that we will provide $273.7 million to support the introduction of the Government’s new National Quality Framework for early childhood education and child care and our commitment to improve the quality of child care in Australia. This includes funding so we can continue to cover 50% of parents out-of-pocket expenses.

And we are also providing $59.4 million to improve the quality of 142 Budget Based Funded early childhood services located in rural and remote Australia to improve infrastructure and staff qualifications in rural and remote services so all children can benefit from improvements to the quality of child care.

We know that children in these areas are not doing as well in these urban areas. This was clearly detailed in the community profiles of the Australian Early Development Index that I released last week.

The AEDI measures how children are developing in their early years and provides crucial information to Governments, to service providers and communities. It shows that 23.5 per cent of all Australian children are developmentally vulnerable on one or more domains.

While many Governments would run and hide from collecting and publishing this information we are embracing it. Such is our commitment to the early years that we want to know where the problems so we can work with local communities to fix the problems, so our kids get the best start to life.

The Rudd Government is clearly prioritising high quality, affordable and accessible child care for Australian families. We are preparing our country for the future by investing in our most important resource - our children. We are doing this because we know if kids start right they are set for life.

Our record in this area is clear. Again, we are clearly putting our money where our mouth is by investing $17.1 billion over the next four years in this critical area - around $10 billion more than the last four years of the previous Government.


Health Legislation Amendment (Australian Community Pharmacy Authority and Private Health Insurance) Bill 2010

The Health Legislation Amendment (Australian Community Pharmacy Authority and Private Health Insurance) Bill 2010 (the bill) will amend the National Health Act 1953 and the Private Health Insurance Act 2007.

The bill provides for amendments to the National Health Act 1953 to extend the authority of the Pharmacy Location Rules and the Australian Community Pharmacy Authority from 30 June 2010 to 30 June 2015.

The bill also introduces amendments to the Private Health Insurance Act 2007 that will ensure the lifetime health cover policy is applied fairly and consistently to all residents of Australia who are eligible for Medicare. The bill addresses some anomalies currently in the Private Health Insurance Act 2007 that may inadvertently advantage or disadvantage some people with respect to the application of the lifetime health cover policy.

Australian Community Pharmacy Authority

This bill proposes amendments to the National Health Act 1953 relating to the arrangements for approving pharmacists to supply pharmaceutical benefits subsidised by the Commonwealth. These amendments are the result of the Fifth Community Pharmacy Agreement negotiated between the Pharmacy Guild of Australia and the Government, and are aimed at ensuring that all Australians, particularly those in rural and remote areas, have reasonable access to the supply of pharmaceutical benefits. Significantly, this bill will extend the operation of the Pharmacy Location Rules and their administration by the Australian Community Pharmacy Authority.

These Rules prescribe location based criteria that must be satisfied in order for a pharmacist to obtain approval to supply pharmaceutical benefits at particular premises. Once approved, a pharmacist is entitled to be paid by the Commonwealth for the supply of pharmaceutical benefits. The extension of these Rules and its administration by the Authority until 30 June 2015 will provide stability in the pharmacy sector and help to ensure that an accessible network of pharmacies exists to dispense pharmaceutical benefits to the Australian public.

The amendments to the National Health Act 1953 will commence on Royal Assent.

Lifetime health cover and new migrants

Under lifetime health cover policy, people who do not take out private health insurance hospital cover by their ‘lifetime health cover base day’ are required to pay a 2% loading on their premium for every year they are aged over 30 when first taking out hospital cover. For most people, the lifetime health cover base day is the 1 July following their 31st birthday. The maximum loading a person may be required to pay is 70% and is payable by people who first take out private health insurance hospital cover at age 65 or older.

However, for migrants who enter Australia after 1 July following their 31st birthday, their ‘lifetime health cover base day’ is the first anniversary after they are registered for full Medicare benefits (their ‘Medicare eligibility day’) and they need to take out private health insurance hospital cover before this date in order to avoid the application of a lifetime health cover loading.

This bill amends the legislation relating to lifetime health cover to ensure it is consistent and fair for all new migrants to Australia who are over 31 years of age and have full access to Medicare benefits. The amendments only apply to people whose ‘lifetime health cover base day’ falls after 1 July 2010. The amendments do not affect Australian citizens.

The bill resolves some anomalies that currently exist in the present legislation relating to new migrants. Currently, the Private Health Insurance Act 2007 refers to ‘new arrivals’. A ‘new arrival’ must have arrived in Australia for the first time on or after 1 July 2000 and is not an Australian citizen or permanent resident. This has the effect of excluding people who temporarily visited Australia before that time, for example, as a tourist, and of excluding people who migrate to Australia with a permanent residence visa, even though they may be entering Australia for the first time.

The bill removes an anomaly that allows migrants who turned 31 on or before 1 July 2000, and who were overseas on that day, to have access to ‘permitted days without cover’, without ever actually holding private health insurance hospital cover. The Private Health Insurance Act 2007 allows people who hold private health insurance hospital cover to cease their cover in specific circumstances and for a limited period of time without incurring a lifetime health cover loading, known as “permitted days without cover”.

“Permitted days without cover” are:

  • days on which a private health insurer has granted a suspension in accordance with Private Health Insurance (Lifetime Health Cover) Rules;
  • days on which the person is overseas for a continual period of more than one year; and
  • the first 1,094 days that the person is without hospital cover.

The “permitted days without cover” provision recognises that there may be circumstances when it is difficult or impractical for people to maintain their hospital cover (for example, if facing temporary financial hardship) and is intended to make reasonable allowance for these unforseen eventualities.

Because migrants who turned 31 on or before 1 July 2000 and who were overseas on that day were taken to have private health insurance hospital cover on their ‘lifetime health cover base day’, they have access to a substantially longer period of time (in some cases up to almost four years) instead of the intended 12 month period from their registration for full Medicare benefits in which to take out private health insurance hospital cover without incurring a lifetime health cover loading. The amendment corrects this unintended outcome. Instead, such people will have 12 months from their ‘Medicare eligibility day’, the same as all other migrants, and consistent with the original policy intention.

The amendments in the bill will ensure that in the future, the lifetime health cover provisions have the same effect for all migrants. The change will ensure that the legislation relating to lifetime health cover is consistent and fair for all migrants. Additionally, the amendments will benefit the private health insurance industry by removing inconsistencies, which will result in simplified administrative procedures.

The amendments to the Private Health Insurance Act 2007 commence on 1 July 2010. The amendments do no affect Australian citizens, nor any migrants who have had a ‘lifetime health cover base day’ on or before 30 June 2010.

I commend the bill to the Senate.


International Arbitration Amendment Bill 2010

INTRODUCTION

Over time, international arbitration has developed as a practical, efficient and well established method of settling commercial disputes without resorting to national courts.

Arbitration is typically faster, less formal and more tailored to the particular dispute than court proceedings whilst retaining the benefits of impartial adjudication.

Arbitral awards are also more readily enforceable around the world than are judgements of national courts.

Finally, arbitration is a method of dispute resolution that is chosen and controlled by the parties.

This helps the parties to preserve their commercial relationship and resolve their dispute in a manner that suits their needs.

THE NEW YORK CONVENTION AND THE UNCITRAL MODEL LAW

There are two pillars that underpin the modern system of international commercial arbitration.

The first is the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards done at New York on 10 June 1958 - commonly referred to as the New York Convention.

The Convention provides crucial support to international trade by ensuring that arbitral agreements and awards are enforceable as between the 144 Contracting States.

This means that commercial parties can turn to arbitration in full confidence that the award made by the arbitral tribunal will be enforceable throughout the world.

The second pillar is the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration.

The Model Law was developed by UNCITRAL as a basis on which countries may choose to draft their own legislation governing international arbitration.

The Model Law was developed to address the wide divergence of approaches taken to international arbitration throughout the world and to provide a modern and easily adapted alternative to outdated national regimes.

As the Explanatory Note to the Model Law prepared by UNCITRAL states ‘since its adoption by UNCITRAL, the Model Law has come to represent the accepted international legislative standard for a modern arbitration law’.

THE INTERNATIONAL ARBITRATION ACT

In Australia, international arbitration is primarily regulated by the International Arbitration Act 1974.

The Act implements Australia’s obligations under the New York Convention to enforce and recognise foreign arbitration agreements and arbitral awards.

The Act also gives the force of law to the UNCITRAL Model Law as the principal arbitral law governing the conduct of international commercial arbitrations in Australia.

Finally, the Act also implements Australia’s obligations under the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States done at Washington on 18 March 1965.

REVIEW OF THE INTERNATIONAL ARBITRATION ACT

On 21 November 2008, I announced a review of the International Arbitration Act and released a discussion paper to stimulate debate about the future of the Act.

The reform measures I am presenting today are the product of the Review’s work and have been developed following careful consideration of the more than 30 submissions made to the Review as well as academic literature, court decisions and approaches taken overseas.

THE INTERNATIONAL ARBITRATION AMENDMENT BILL

The reforms contained in the International Arbitration Amendment Bill will ensure the Act remains at the forefront of international arbitration practice.

It was very clear from the submissions received as part of the Review that there was strong support for the Act.

In particular, there was strong support for the retention of the UNCITRAL Model Law as the arbitral law governing international commercial arbitrations conducted in Australia.

Accordingly, rather than fundamentally alter the framework of the International Arbitration Act, the reforms to be enacted by the Bill augment the Act by addressing problems that have arisen in its application.

The reforms go further - however - by providing parties with a wider set of tools to help them resolve their disputes.

First, the Bill will repeal section 21 of the Act which allows the parties to choose to resolve their dispute under a law other than the Model Law - such as one of the State Commercial Arbitration Acts - a provision which has long been a source of confusion and concern.

Once amended, the Act will provide a clear distinction between the application of Commonwealth legislation and State and Territory legislation.

Secondly, the Bill includes new interpretation provisions that are intended to provide greater guidance to the courts in exercising powers and functions under the Act and in interpreting its provisions.

The Bill will also clarify the circumstances in which the courts can refuse to recognise and enforce foreign awards.

One concern expressed in submissions to the Review was that parties were finding increasingly novel ways to challenge awards and delay the arbitral process.

These provisions are intended to emphasise the importance of speed, fairness and cost-effectiveness in international arbitration, while clearly defining and limiting the role of the courts in international arbitration without compromising the important protective function they exercise.

Thirdly, the Bill will implement a number of amendments to the Model Law adopted by UNCITRAL in 2006.

These amendments concern interpretation of the Model Law, the introduction of a more sophisticated regime for making and enforcing interim measures and minor changes to authentication and translation requirements.

Further, the Bill will introduce additional provisions to supplement the operation of the Model Law.

At present, the Act includes a range of optional provisions that parties can use to help resolve their dispute.

These provisions address issues such as the consolidation of arbitral proceedings, interest and costs.

The Bill will add a number of new tools to this set of optional provisions.

The parties will be able to select new provisions that allow the parties to obtain subpoenas and other court orders to assist with the arbitration.

The Bill will enable the parties to select new provisions dealing with the disclosure of confidential information.

Other ‘opt in’ provisions address the death of a party to an arbitration agreement and revise the provisions concerning interest on a debt under an award.

Finally, the Bill includes a range of other measures directed at improving the general operation of the Act, including providing a more expansive definition of what constitutes an agreement in writing for the purposes of the New York Convention.

JURISDICTION OF COURTS

The discussion paper I released in November 2008 raised the possibility of conferring exclusive jurisdiction under the Act on the Federal Court of Australia.

The primary advantage of this approach, identified in the discussion paper, was that it may lead to more consistent jurisprudence in applying the Act.

Since the discussion paper was released, the States and Territories have evidenced an intention to adopt the Model Law as the basis for redrafting the Commercial Arbitration Acts that apply to domestic arbitration in Australia.

This should result in a more uniform scheme at both the Federal and State and Territory level.

Over time, applying the Model Law to both domestic and international arbitration should result in more consistent interpretation of its provisions.

Given the intention to adopt the Model Law in this way, the Government has decided not to proceed with conferral of exclusive jurisdiction on the Federal Court of Australia at this time.

The Government understands the benefits that consistent jurisprudence would bring to the facilitation of international arbitration in Australia.

The Government therefore encourages all courts to adopt procedures that ensure international arbitration cases are heard by judges with particular expertise in this area.

One possibility for achieving this could be by having specialist international arbitration lists. 

CONCLUSION

Speaking on the 40th anniversary of the conclusion of the New York Convention   the then Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, stated:

international trade thrives on the rule of law: without it parties are often reluctant to enter into cross border commercial transactions and make international investments.

Arbitration is an essential tool for doing business across borders.

The Bill will not only assist Australian businesses in resolving their disputes but will ensure Australia is an attractive venue for parties from around the world to resolve their disputes.


Interstate Road Transport Charge Amendment Bill 2010

The Interstate Road Transport Charge Amendment Bill 2010 will ensure that heavy vehicle owners who operate under the Federal Interstate Registration Scheme are not unfairly levied with higher registration charge increases next financial year than vehicle owners who are registered in state or territory systems.

The bill will ensure that from 1 July 2010, heavy vehicle owners of trucks and trailers registered under the Federal Interstate Registration Scheme (FIRS) will pay a registration increase of only 4.2 per cent instead of 9.7 per cent.

This Bill proposes a minor, technical amendment to delete sub-section 5(6) of the Interstate Road Transport Charge Act 1985.

The Interstate Road Transport Charge Act 1985 imposes registration charges for heavy vehicles registered under the Australian Government’s Federal Interstate Registration Scheme, (FIRS), to recover the cost of road usage by heavy vehicles.

Sub-section 5(6) of that Act specifies that any regulations made for the purpose of Section 5 (Amount of Charge) must not take effect earlier than the first day after the end of the Disallowance Period.

The effect of sub-section 5(6) is that it prevents amended regulations that would lower the annual registration charges adjustment from a 9.7 per cent increase in registration charges to a 4.2 per cent increase from coming into effect on 1 July 2010.

Instead the adjusted, lower charge would come into effect after 15 parliamentary sitting days from when the new regulations are made - which would not be until late September 2010.

This would affect over one thousand FIRS vehicle owners who would be charged the higher 9.7 per cent registration increase (determined automatically under the current regulations) rather than the proposed 4.2 per cent increase because the adjusted charge would not come into effect until late September.

There is no administrative option available to deal with this issue. The Act does not provide a ‘refund’ power that could enable vehicle owners charged the 9.7 per cent increase to have the difference returned to them.

Deleting sub-section 5(6) will not in any way remove parliamentary scrutiny. The provisions of Part 5 of the Legislative Instruments Act 2003 that facilitate scrutiny by the Parliament will still apply to amendments to the Regulations. Those provisions could still operate to disallow an amendment to the Regulations that came into effect on 1 July 2010.

The Bill will help implement the agreement by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) that heavy vehicle charges should be adjusted annually to maintain cost recovery.

In February 2008, the Australian Transport Council adopted the 2007 Heavy Vehicle Charges Determination, which ensures that the Road User Charge and Heavy Vehicle registration charges achieve cost recovery from the heavy vehicle industry for its fair share of road infrastructure and maintenance costs incurred by governments in Australia.

In 2009 an agreed automatic adjustment formula was included in the Commonwealth Interstate Road Transport Charge Regulations 2009 for application to the twenty thousand five hundred heavy vehicles registered under the Federal Interstate Registration Scheme. That automatic annual adjustment to heavy vehicle registration charges applies from 1 July each year.

Adjustments to the heavy vehicle registration charge depend heavily on changes in the level of spending on roads and bridges and on changes in road usage by heavy vehicles.

Roads expenditure across all levels of government has increased significantly in recent years. At the same time, there has been a substantial growth in the number of higher-productivity heavy vehicles using the road network.

The effects of those factors in the current automatic annual adjustment formula results in a registration charge increase of 9.7 per cent and a potential national over-recovery of $116 million from heavy vehicle owners and operators in 2010-11.

All Transport Ministers agreed to address this over-recovery at their meeting of 30 April 2010 by amending their respective charges legislation to ensure the formula neither under nor over charges the trucking industry. They also agreed that industry should benefit from this lower adjustment from 1 July 2010.

State and Territory Governments will implement the adjusted 4.2% registration charge increase from 1 July 2010.

The adjusted 4.2 per cent figure has been calculated by the National Transport Commission following appropriate adjustments to the current charges formula to address any over-recovery resulting from changes in the heavy vehicle fleet mix.

I asked the National Transport Commission to undertake public consultation on the proposed charges adjustment, consistent with requirements under the relevant legislation.

It would be fair to say that industry acknowledges it needs to pay its fair share for road usage and that the 4.2 per cent adjustment is a preferable outcome for it than an adjustment of 9.7 per cent.

The principle of cost recovery has been broadly agreed by all governments and industry and the charges aim to recover, not over-recover or under-recover, the heavy vehicle industry’s share of aggregate government road expenditure.

Governments have been spending more on roads; more and heavier vehicles have been using roads. The charges need to reflect these factors.

This government is working successfully through COAG with all states and territories to deliver national, streamlined heavy vehicle regulation that will provide an even, certain and transparent playing field for the heavy vehicle industry.

We need to be sure that this extends to all areas of industry operations, including registration charges.

The passage of this bill is necessary to ensure that federally registered vehicles will be differently and unfairly charged compared to vehicles registered under state or territory law.

I commend the bill to the House.


Ministers of State Amendment Bill 2010

Section 66 of the Constitution prescribes the maximum annual amount that can be paid out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the salaries of Ministers of State, unless the Parliament provides otherwise.

The Parliament has otherwise provided for the maximum amount payable in section 5 of the Ministers of State Act 1952, which currently limits that amount to $3.2 million dollars each financial year.

This amount needs to be increased to $3.5 million dollars to pay ministerial salaries at current levels for 2009-2010 (and for future financial years), and to meet any additional expenditure, such as payment of additional salary for acting arrangements.

There have been 29 amendments to the amount set under section 5 of the Ministers of State Act 1952, since its introduction in 1952. This averages one amendment every two years. This section was last amended in 2006 and is therefore well overdue for the regular amendment. This constant cycle of amendments is not the most efficient way of dealing with this matter. Enabling the maximum sum available for ministerial salaries to be provided for by regulation obviates the need for recurrent amendments to the Act. As such regulations would be subject to disallowance, there will continue to be parliamentary scrutiny of any future changes to the amount.


Personal Property Securities (Corporations and Other Amendments) Bill 2010

The bill is the second suite of consequential amendments to Commonwealth legislation brought about by the passage of the Personal Property Securities Act 2009.

Personal property securities reform is an important part of COAG’s deregulation agenda.

By harmonising the current laws and creating a single national online register, the reform will have a significant positive impact on business and consumers.

Transaction costs will be reduced and businesses will be able to use more types of personal property to secure lending.

Consumers will be able to protect themselves by more easily checking whether major purchases, such as motor vehicles, have money owing on them.

The main purpose of the bill is to amend the Corporations Act 2001.

These amendments are necessary to establish a clear and consistent single national legal regime for security interests in personal property.

The bill will amend the Corporations Act to close the ASIC register of company charges once the new PPS register begins to operate.

The bill will also ensure the conceptual consistency between the Corporations Act and the Personal Property Securities Act.

Importantly, it will do this while preserving the rights of parties under the Corporations Act.

The bill also makes minor amendments to the Personal Property Securities Act.

These amendments will simplify the transitional provisions in the act.

The PPS Act will also be amended to clarify that the act is, in its application to the enforcement of security interests in agricultural products, consistent with the state and territory legislation it will replace.

Finally, the bill will make minor amendments to other Commonwealth legislation.

Before I turn to look at the bill in more detail, I must acknowledge the work of the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, which has taken a keen interest in PPS reform.

The bill I introduce today contains amendments to the PPS Act made as a result of submissions to the committee and to the Attorney-General’s Department following the committee’s August 2009 report on its inquiry into the PPS Bill.

The efforts of the committee and the wide range of stakeholders who have participated in the extensive consultation on PPS reform undertaken by the government have contributed much to the final form of the legislation.

I should also note that in relation to the Corporations Act amendments, the Commonwealth has complied with clause 506(1) of the Corporations Agreement 2002 and has obtained the approval of the Ministerial Council for Corporations prior to introducing this bill into parliament.

Amendments to the Corporations Act

The amendments to the Corporations Act will achieve four objectives.

First, Chapter 2K of the Corporations Act, which established the register of company charges, will be repealed.

When the new PPS scheme begins operation in 2011, registrable company charges will be registered on the PPS register.

Charges currently registered on ASIC’s register of company charges will be migrated to the PPS register.

The bill ensures that the data on the register of company charges will continue to be available as a record of existing charges for a period of seven years, should recourse to the original data be needed.

Second, the amendments will amend the terminology of the Corporations Act to make it consistent with the PPS Act. This will include removing the distinction between different forms of security interest, so as to treat transactions that secure payment or performance of an obligation as security interests, regardless of their legal form.

The third objective is to ensure the Corporations Act treats property provided by a supplier on a ‘retention of title’ basis as secured property. Many businesses supply goods on this basis, retaining title to the goods until the purchase price is paid. Treating such supplies as secured property is consistent with the PPS scheme’s approach of treating transactions that in substance secure payment or performance of an obligation the same way, regardless of the form of the transaction.

Finally, the amendments will ensure that certain existing rights under Corporations Act are not interfered with.

Importantly, the special priority in favour of employees to their employment entitlements over unsecured creditors will be maintained.

Amendments to the PPS Act

The PPS Act includes transitional provisions which deal with the status of security interests under the new law from the commencement of the PPS Act until the end of 24 months after the registration commencement time.

These provisions will have particular significance during the period when both old and new security interests are in existence. The government is therefore keen to ensure the provisions are as simple as possible.

Following stakeholder comment, this bill includes measures to streamline the transitional provisions.

The bill does this by treating all security interests during the ‘transitional period’ as if they were created under the PPS Act.

If enforcement action were to be taken in relation to a pre-PPS Act security interest in the ‘transition period’, they would be enforced under the current law, rather than under the PPS Act.

Similarly, where there is a priority contest between two pre-PPS Act security interests, the contest will be determined under the current law.

The bill also clarifies how crops and livestock may be used as security.

The proposed amendments reflect current state and territory law and will have the effect of ensuring there are enforcement rights for parties to security agreements involving crops and livestock.

Amendments to other Commonwealth legislation

The bill would make other minor amendments to Commonwealth legislation.

The Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 would be amended to ensure that the priority provided to amounts owing to the Commonwealth in relation to proceeds of crime actions would continue after the PPS Act commences full operation.

The Proceeds of Crime Act and Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act 1987 would be amended to ensure that the priority of the Commonwealth to amounts owing for action to recover the proceeds of crime would continue after the PPS Act took effect.

The Proceeds of Crime Act would also be amended to ensure that the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions could, subject to the PPS regulations, use the PPS register to protect property subject to proceeds of crime interests.

Finally, a range of other Commonwealth legislation would be amended to reflect changes made by this bill to the transitional provisions of the PPS Act.

Conclusion

This is the last significant bill to be introduced to implement the important PPS reforms. As the minister said when introducing the Personal Property Securities Bill in the House last year, PSS reform will increase certainty for all users of secured finance by removing barriers that preclude businesses and individuals from using personal property as security.

By reducing complexity and introducing greater consistency between the different kinds of security interests, the new PPS system will generate wide-ranging benefits for all parties who use their personal property to raise finance.

PPS reform will meet the needs of businesses and other users of secured finance.

It will simplify the way they conduct their business and, more importantly, it will contribute to the productivity growth and jobs in this country.

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Social Security Amendment (Flexible Participation Requirements for Principal Carers) Bill 2010

The Government’s Social Security Amendment (Flexible Participation Requirements for Principal Carers) Bill 2010 addresses the problems encountered by many parents who are income support recipients in meeting activity requirements.

According to the OECD, Australia has relatively low employment rates for mothers of school-age children compared to other OECD countries, particularly for single mothers.

The Government iscommitted to supporting the economic and social participation of both partnered and sole parents.

Participation requirements associated with receipt of income support are part of this commitment. However such requirements need to better take into account important and different circumstances associated with caring responsibilities.

The aim of the changes within the Bill is to make income support more effective by helping parents balance their parenting responsibilities with their participation requirements.

Parents on income support whose youngest child has reached school age will still be required to undertake 30 hours of a suitable activity each fortnight to meet their requirements.

In May 2008 the Government established the Participation Taskforce to consider whether there were better ways of balancing the participation requirements of carers and parents with their family and community responsibilities.

The feedback the Taskforce received from carers, parents and peak groups representing them was that some participation requirements are unduly onerous and add no value to their efforts to find work.

The Taskforce also found that the current participation rules are often counter-productive to their efforts to gain skills and find work.

The Taskforce reported to Government in August 2008.

The Bill is a response to that report.

The Bill, together with a legislative instrument and changes to the Guide to Social Security Law, will implement the 2009-10 Budget measure ‘More flexible participation requirements for parents’.

It will achieve our aim of creating more opportunities for parents to get skills, qualifications and work by providing flexibility in the activities that parents can undertake to meet their participation requirements.

The Bill and the legislative instrument support the Government’s productivity and education agendas by making education, training and relevant volunteering opportunities more readily compatible with caring responsibilities, including on a part time basis and through a combination of these activities.

Parents with participation requirements will be able to combine activities such as part-time study and part-time paid work to fully meet their participation requirements.

In addition, all parents, regardless of the payment they receive, will be able to participate in New Incentive Enterprise Scheme training on a part-time basis.

The legislative instrument and changes to the Guide to Social Security Law will replace ‘one size fits all’ participation requirements.

This Bill provides for new and extended exemptions for sole and partnered parents on income support payments to make them more responsive to individual family circumstances.

The home schooling, distance education and large family exemptions will be extended to parents with older school children in secondary education and will not cut out when the child turns 16 years even though the parent has high caring responsibilities.

This Bill provides support for all job seekers who provide emergency or respite foster care placements, by providing a new exemption to them while a child is in their care and for a period of time afterwards to support their availability for subsequent placements.

A new exemption will be introduced to support a relative who is caring for a child through a kinship care arrangement, where a care plan is in place that has been prepared or accepted by the State/Territory Government.

This will support many people, particularly women who provide care that is not formally recognised through a court order, including women in Indigenous communities in Australia.

Victims of domestic violence will be further supported through this Bill. Parents may receive a 16 week exemption regardless of whether they have left the violent relationship, recognising that for many women this is difficult.

Voluntary work will also be able to be used to meet participation requirements in some situations where a parent is connected to a Job Services Australia provider, particularly in areas of the country where the labour market is poor, there are limited training opportunities and where voluntary work will help build a parent’s skills.

Principal carer parents will be able to take a break from their part-time participation requirements over the Christmas/New Year fortnight, giving certainly and flexibility at a time when caring and other family responsibilities are greater.

Parents who have term-time work will also be afforded more flexible arrangements over the long school holidays when their caring responsibilities are also greater.

If they have a job to return to at the beginning of the new school year and they are unable to work through an employer initiated shut down, such as a parent who is a casual school teacher, they will not have to job search or connect to a Job Services Australia provider over the long school holidays.

A further component of the Budget measure will provide more flexible methods for parents to report their earnings and participation efforts to Centrelink through expanded access to existing facilities such as telephone-based Integration Voice Recognition and web-based channels.

The measure will reduce the need to come into a Centrelink office for face-to-face reporting.

The measure also supports communication of these changes and the exemptions available to parents, through Centrelink.

The Government believes that parents should have the flexibility to develop skills and find employment through individual pathways.

It also believes that caring responsibilities should be better recognised and participation in family and community life should be supported.

This Bill provides a sound balance between the role of parents on income support as carers, their participation in paid work, their skill development and their support of their local communities.

The Government does not support a rigid one size fits all approach, because parents gain skills and employment through many pathways.

The Government does support participation requirements.

We also recognise that parents have caring responsibilities that they are constantly balancing as well.

This caring load can change depending on many factors and the Government recognises and has responded to this.

This Bill provides carers and parents with flexibility and support for meeting their responsibilities to children, as community members and through participation in education, training and employment.


Social Security and Indigenous Legislation Amendment (Budget and Other Measures) Bill 2010

This bill introduces an important measure from the 2008 Budget supporting Australia’s carers. The bill also introduces two non-Budget measures.

The carers measure in this bill is the final instalment of the Government’s legislative commitment from our response to the Report of the Carer Payment (child) Review Taskforce, Carer Payment (child): A New Approach. These changes are part of a $294 million package from the 2008 Budget to better support carers of children with disability and serious medical conditions.

The Improved Support for Carers legislation was introduced and passed in 2009. The centrepiece of that legislation was a new assessment process to determine qualification for carer payment paid in respect of a child. Central to this new assessment process was the introduction of the Disability Care Load Assessment (Child) Determination 2009.

The Government is now pleased to introduce further amendments that will deliver consistency in the assessment of carers of children for carer payment and carer allowance.

This Disability Care Load Assessment (Child) Determination will now also be used for qualification purposes for carer allowance, bringing consistency to, and improving the overall efficiency and effectiveness of, assessments for carer allowance and carer payment paid in respect of children under 16. As is currently the case, the List of Recognised Disabilities will also continue in determining eligibility for carer allowance.

The Government recognises the demands on carers and we are pleased to introduce also an amendment that allows carers a further three months after the child or children they are caring for turns 16 in which to complete the Adult Disability Assessment Tool, to test their eligibility for Carer Allowance (adult).

Presently, when a child in respect of whom a carer is qualified for carer allowance turns 16, the carer loses their carer allowance unless they have been assessed and given a successful rating under the Adult Disability Assessment Tool. Under these changes, the carer has up to three more months in which to have the care receiver assessed and rated under the Adult Disability Assessment Tool.

A similar provision in relation to carer payment was introduced in 2009, and this amendment will align the provisions for carer allowance and carer payment paid in respect of children.

This bill will also include some minor improvements to the income management provisions in the social security law, on administrative matters such as appropriation, debt recovery and financial transactions.

For example, one of the amendments will apply when a third party organisation that holds income managed funds for a person, such as a community store, ceases to operate. Under current legislation, those amounts become debts to the Commonwealth and the person cannot be reimbursed until the debt recovery process is finished.

The amendment will make sure the customer can be reimbursed from the Consolidated Revenue Fund before the debt recovery action is completed. Then, once the debt recovery action has been completed, any recovered funds from third parties will be recredited to the Consolidated Revenue Fund.

Further income management amendments will include fixing some current debt recovery inconsistencies between people’s income managed funds and their substantive payments under the social security law. They will also remove any ambiguity about the appropriation for income management payments, and align the reimbursement processes for unauthorised transactions under the BasicsCard with the Electronic Funds Transfer Code.

Lastly, the bill will make amendments to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Act 2005 to ensure a reliable income stream for the Indigenous Land Corporation, which is established under that Act. The Corporation’s purpose is to help Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders to acquire and manage Indigenous-held land so as to provide economic, environmental, social and cultural benefits.

The Indigenous Land Corporation’s main source of funding in a financial year is a payment, made from the Land Account established under the Act, equal to the realised real return on the investments of the Land Account in the previous financial year. Over the past several years, the value of payments to the Corporation from the Land Account has fluctuated because of changes in the value of the realised real return. These fluctuations have caused difficulties for the Corporation in long-term strategic planning.

The Government is committed to securing for the Indigenous Land Corporation a more reliable level of funding. To achieve this, the bill introduces a guaranteed annual payment, of $45 million from 1 July 2010, and indexed for later years according to the Consumer Price Index. The bill will also provide for additional payments to be made to the Corporation where the actual capital value of the account exceeds the real capital value of the Land Account. The amount to be paid is the excess above the real capital value. The real capital value of the Land Account will be maintained. An independent review of the effectiveness of the funding arrangements after three years is also introduced.


Tax Laws Amendment (2010 GST Administration Measures No. 2) Bill 2010

The Bill amends the tax law to further progress a package of reforms announced in the 2009-10 Budget aimed at simplifying and streamlining the administration of the GST, this time in the area of grouping, invoices and rulings.

These amendments arose from recommendations of the Board of Taxation in its review of the legal framework for the administration of the GST.

Schedule 1 amends the A New Tax System (Goods and Services Tax) Act 1999 and the Taxation Administration Act 1953 to adopt more principled and flexible rules for GST groups and GST joint ventures. The measure applies from 1 July 2010.

In particular, Schedule 1 replaces the current inefficient system of requiring the Commissioner of Taxation to formally approve the formation and subsequent changes to a GST group and GST joint venture with a self assessment system. In future, entities will be able to self-assess their eligibility to form or change a GST group or joint venture and need only notify the Commissioner of their action provided this is done before the due date for lodgement of the GST return for the tax period. Entities will also be able to form or change a GST group or GST joint venture with a retrospective date of effect. However, to preserve the integrity of the GST system, such actions will require the Commissioner’s approval.

Schedule 1 also greatly increases the flexibility of the grouping rules. Entities will be able to form, change and dissolve a GST group or GST joint venture at any time during a tax period, rather than needing to wait until the beginning of a tax period or to unwind transactions back to the start of a tax period. This will greatly assist groups that acquire or dispose of entities by allowing a change in membership of the GST group or joint venture to take effect from the date of change of ownership of the entities concerned, regardless of whether or not that day happens to be at the beginning of a tax period. It will avoid delaying commercial decisions or unwinding transactions for GST purposes to the beginning of a tax period, as occurs under the current arrangements.

Finally, Schedule 1 further increases certainty for members in GST groups and participants in GST joint ventures in relation to their exposure to group debts. Entities will be able to enter into indirect tax sharing agreements to limit their joint and several liabilities in respect of indirect tax law liabilities to a contribution amount agreed with the representative member for GST groups or the joint venture operator for GST joint ventures. A particular benefit of indirect tax sharing agreements is that an entity can leave a GST group or GST joint venture clear of any indirect tax law liability that has not yet become payable.

Schedule 2 amends the Taxation Administration Act 1953, the A New Tax System (Goods and Services Tax) Act 1999, the Excise Act 1901 and the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997 to include indirect tax rulings and excise advice in the general rulings regime.

Schedule 2 addresses problems which arise from not having an express legislative framework for GST rulings, including no formal review rights and no framework setting out taxpayers’ rights and obligations.

Schedule 2 expands the income tax rulings regime to include GST, luxury car tax, wine equalisation tax and excise matters. In doing so, it simplifies the tax law and provides consistent rules that apply across different taxes. Specific differences between the rulings regimes are retained in cases where essential characteristics of the different taxes require a different approach. One such case is that unless otherwise provided for, indirect tax rulings will continue to apply unless withdrawn.

Schedule 2 applies to rulings made by the Commissioner on or after 1 July 2010. In order to reduce any transitional compliance costs resulting from the changes, the amendments also apply to rulings applied for before 1 July 2010. In addition, private indirect tax rulings in operation immediately prior to 1 July 2010 will be treated as if made under the revised rulings regime. This ensures that the rulings remain valid and do not impose additional compliance costs on affected parties by requiring new rulings to be obtained. Indirect tax rulings in operation immediately prior to 1 July 2010, that are gazetted or labelled as public rulings will also be treated as if made under the revised rulings regime.

Schedule 3 amends the A New Tax System (Goods and Services Tax) Act 1999 to introduce a more flexible set of requirements for tax invoices. It also allows recipients of supplies to disregard certain errors in a document intended to be a tax invoice where missing information can be obtained from other documents provided to the recipient by the supplier. These changes apply from 1 July 2010.

Tax invoices are a key element of GST integrity. A recipient must hold a tax invoice issued by the supplier in order to substantiate any claim for input tax credits in relation to a creditable acquisition. However, concerns have been expressed that the present requirements are overly restrictive, often invalidating tax invoices where all of the required information is available.

These amendments revise the requirements for a document to be a tax invoice so that key information will now need to be omitted before a document is not a tax invoice. Further, where recipients have received a tax invoice lacking required information, but can obtain this information from other documents issued by the supplier, then the recipient will be allowed to treat the document as a tax invoice.

These changes will ensure that, consistent with the recommendation of the Board, it is only significant errors involving key information that cannot be obtained from other sources that will prevent a document being a tax invoice.

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


Tax Laws Amendment (Medicare Levy and Medicare Levy Surcharge) Bill 2010

This Bill will increase the Medicare levy low-income thresholds for individuals and families in line with increases in the Consumer Price Index. The low-income threshold in the Medicare levy surcharge provisions will be similarly increased. These changes will ensure that low-income individuals and families will continue to be exempt from the Medicare levy and/or the Medicare levy surcharge.

The Bill will also increase the Medicare levy low-income threshold for pensioners below Age Pension age to ensure that individuals in this cohort receive the full benefit of the increase in the pension announced by the Government in the 2009-10 Budget and do not pay the Medicare levy when they do not have an income tax liability.

The amendments will apply to the 2009-10 year of income and later income years.

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


Tax Laws Amendment (Transfer of Provisions) Bill 2010

Today, I introduce a bill that rewrites five areas of income tax law. It removes 149 pages from the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936.

The rewrite of that Act began in 1993, when the Tax Law Improvement Project was set up in response to a recommendation from the Joint Committee of Public Accounts. In 1997, that project gave us a new Act: the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997.

The original intention had been for the Tax Law Improvement Project to continue working until it had completed the rewrite. But, in 1998, the project was subsumed into other tax reform work being done at the time and has not resumed since. That has left us today with two income tax assessment Acts.

Having two assessment Acts is undesirable. It is an unnecessary complexity, for taxpayers and for tax practitioners, in an area of our law that is already highly complex. Accordingly, we should strive to achieve a single income tax assessment Act as soon as is reasonable.

To that end, the Government is pursuing an approach of rewriting the law into the 1997 Act, or into the Taxation Administration Act 1953, whenever a particular area of the 1936 Act is being significantly reformed, or as resources otherwise permit.

Examples include the Government’s reforms of the income tax law’s various foreign source income attribution regimes and the research and development provisions, both of which have been the subject of extensive public consultation.

The provisions rewritten by the Bill were selected because they were already drafted in a style that was close to the style used in the 1997 Act, so would require less reworking than provisions drafted in an older style.

The five areas the Bill rewrites are:

1. Part VI, which contains rules about the collection and recovery of income tax, including rules about when income tax becomes due and payable, rules allowing the Commissioner to make estimates of certain tax debts and to take recovery action based on those estimates, and rules imposing penalties on directors of a company that fails to pay certain types of tax debts (e.g. amounts withheld from an employee’s wages).

One of the collection and recovery rules being rewritten gives the Commissioner power to seek security from a taxpayer for an existing or future tax liability in certain situations. The Commissioner may ask for security where he believes there is a serious risk of a tax liability not being paid or to protect the integrity of the tax system.

Examples of such situations include: where necessary to protect the integrity of the tax system against schemes such as ‘fraudulent phoenix activity’, which broadly involves winding up a company (with significant unpaid debts) but continuing the same business through a newly ‘risen’ company, where a taxpayer plans to temporarily carry on an enterprise in Australia and leave without returning, where the taxpayer has a history of non-compliance (including by defaulting on their tax liabilities) and where the directors of a corporate taxpayer have a history of non-compliance, where the Commissioner is granting a taxpayer the benefit of a payment arrangement.

Consistent with current tax administration policy about having a single set of general collection and recovery rules for all taxes, the effect of security deposits rules has been expanded to cover all taxes administered by the Commissioner. This will assist the Commissioner in ensuring that taxpayers cannot avoid any of their tax liabilities and will limit the effectiveness of tax avoidance schemes like ‘fraudulent phoenix activity’.

The rewrite of these provisions also includes new machinery rules and higher penalties for non-compliance.

Incorporating these machinery provisions provides certainty for taxpayers about their rights and obligations.

The current penalty has been largely untouched since 1936. The penalty no longer provides an appropriate deterrent for taxpayers who do not comply with a requirement to provide security. The penalty has therefore been increased to reflect changed circumstances since 1936.

These changes to the security deposits rules, and a closing of loopholes in the directors’ penalty rules, will contribute to deterring phoenix activity while the Government considers further policy options over the coming year (as part of a wider public consultation process) to address phoenix activity;

2. Schedule 2C, which contains the rules for the income tax treatment of the gain a debtor makes when one of their commercial debts is forgiven;

3. Schedule 2E, which ensures that a lessor and lessee of a luxury car get the same income tax treatment they would have got had the lessor sold the car to the lessee and lent the lessee the money for the purchase;

4. Schedule 2G, which establishes the farm management deposit (FMD) scheme that allows eligible primary producers to set aside pre-tax income in profitable years for subsequent withdrawal in low-income years.

Primary producers claim a deduction when they make FMDs and include an amount in assessable income on withdrawal.

This reduces the risk to eligible primary producers of income variability owing to factors such as drought.

5. Schedule 2J, which ensures that general insurance companies are taxed on premium income received, and can deduct liabilities for outstanding claims, over the period of risk under the policies to which the income and deductions relate.

The rewrites do not make any major policy changes. However, they do make changes to the structure and the text of the 1936 Act provisions so that they conform to the preferred drafting approach used in the 1997 Act. They also simplify the expression of the provisions and remove some redundant provisions.

Details of the changes made by the Bill are contained in the explanatory memorandum.


Veterans’ Affairs Legislation Amendment (2010 Budget Measures) Bill 2010

I am pleased to present legislation introducing measures announced in the 2010-11 Federal Budget that will increase access to Repatriation pensions and benefits and align eligibility for war widow or widower pension.

As a result of this Government’s reconsideration of the recommendations of the Clarke Review of veterans’ entitlements, two periods of service will be reclassified resulting in Repatriation benefits or improved Repatriation benefits becoming available for this service under the Veterans’ Entitlements Act.

Firstly, from 1 July 2010, service by former Australian Defence Force members involved in the British nuclear tests will be recognised under the Veterans’ Entitlements Act with benefits equivalent to those available for non-warlike or hazardous service.

A new category of service will be created under the Veterans’ Entitlements Act, to be known as British nuclear test defence service. British nuclear test defence service will provide eligible former members or their dependants with access to disability and war widow or widower pensions, treatment and a number of other associated benefits and allowances for incapacity or deaths that are accepted as related to that service.

The creation of this new category of service eligibility under the Veterans’ Entitlements Act recognises the unique nature of this peace-time defence service and will provide recognition of that service and appropriate Repatriation benefits.

In addition, pension claims relating to British nuclear test defence service will be determined using the reasonable hypothesis standard, being the more generous reverse criminal standard of proof.

In further recognition of the service undertaken by our Defence Force members, certain submarine special operations between 1978 and 1992 will be reclassified as operational and qualifying service under the Veterans’ Entitlements Act with effect from 1 July 2010. During this period, some Royal Australian Navy submarines were fitted with special intelligence equipment and were deployed regularly in areas to the north and west of Australia.

Eligible members under this measure will be those whose service on submarine special operations between 1978 and 1992, resulted in their being awarded, or being eligible to be awarded, the Australian Service Medal with Clasp Special Ops and includes those members who would have been eligible for the Australian Service Medal with Clasp Special Ops if they had not already received it for another period of service.

The reclassification of this service will provide eligible members with access to all pensions and associated benefits under the Veterans’ Entitlements Act and will provide access to subsidised home loans under the Defence Service Homes Act.

As a result of the reclassification to operational service, eligible members will gain access to disability pension and will be able to receive health care services for their accepted disabilities.

Disability pension claims relating to relevant submarine special operations service will also be determined using the reasonable hypothesis standard, being the more generous reverse criminal standard of proof.

As a result of the reclassification to qualifying service, eligible members will qualify for a Gold Card at age 70 and they and their partners will have access to service pension.

This Budget, continues this Government’s commitment to ensure that appropriate Repatriation benefits are provided based on the nature of service rendered, by reclassifying as qualifying service, certain service in Ubon in Thailand.

From 1 July 2010, service in Ubon in Thailand between 31 May 1962 and

27 July 1962 will be reclassified, under the Veterans’ Entitlements Act, as qualifying service. During this period, Australian Defence Force personnel in Ubon were on an operational footing to counter the level of imminent threat at the time.

Qualifying service for this period will provide eligible members and their partners with access to service pensions. Eligible members will also qualify for a Gold Card at age 70.

The last two measures in the bill also relate to this Government’s reconsideration of the Clarke Review.

Firstly, for the purposes of the Veterans’ Entitlements Act, the age of domicile of choice will be lowered from 21 to 18 years of age for veterans who served with British Commonwealth or allied forces during World War Two.

Before the concept of Australian citizenship, for a member of a British Commonwealth or allied force to be considered an Australian veteran for the purposes of the Veterans’ Entitlements Act, the person must have been domiciled in Australia immediately before the outbreak of war.

This measure will enable a small number of veterans of British Commonwealth or allied defence forces to gain access to pensions and benefits available under the Veterans’ Entitlements Act. Other common law rules relating to domicile will continue to apply. This measure will commence on 1 July 2010.

The final measure will align eligibility for the war widow or widower pension for widows or widowers who enter into a de facto relationship, with that of widows or widowers who marry or remarry.

From 1 October 2010, a widow or widower of a veteran or member who enters into a de facto relationship with another person, before claiming the war widow or widower pension, will be ineligible for the pension.

I want to make it clear that this measure will not affect any war widow or widowers existing pension, nor will it affect eligibility if the widow or widower enters into a de facto relationship after claiming the war widow or widower pension.

This measure will result in the equal treatment of widows or widowers regardless of whether the new relationship is a marriage or a de facto relationship.

These changes will ensure more veterans and members are recognised for their service to Australia and will deliver almost immediate benefits and entitlements.

This Bill continues this Government’s ongoing commitment to supporting Australia’s current and former service personnel and their families, ensuring their wellbeing now and into the future.


National Security Legislation Amendment Bill 2010

Introduction

An effective legal framework is fundamental to our ability to address Australia’s security environment.

In December 2008, the Government announced its response to a number of independent and bipartisan reviews of national security and counter-terrorism legislation, including:

The Clarke Inquiry into the Dr Mohamed Haneef case

The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, Review of Security and Counter-Terrorism Legislation

The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, Inquiry into the proscription of ‘terrorist organisations’ under the Australian Criminal Code, and

The Australian Law Reform Commission’s review of Australia’s sedition laws.

The National Security Legislation Amendment Bill 2010 implements the Government’s responses to these reviews. The Government will also be introducing the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement Bill as part of a package of reforms to Australia’s national security legislation.

Broad aims of the Bill

The proposed measures are well considered, balanced and suited to the achievement of a just and secure society.

The proposed amendments included in this package of reforms are designed to give the Australian community confidence that our counter-terrorism laws are precise, appropriately tailored and that our law enforcement and security agencies have the investigative tools they need to counter terrorism.

Public consultation

The legislative amendments contained in this Bill are the culmination of a close and measured examination of the laws and a public consultation process.

In August 2009, the Government released a Discussion Paper to seek public views on all the legislative measures contained in this Bill, as well as the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement Bill, apart from the proposed amendments to the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Act.

The Discussion Paper contained the exposure draft provisions as well as extensive explanatory material in order to provide for meaningful consultation.

The Government was encouraged by the level of public participation and submissions received in response to the Discussion Paper, including from interested members of the public, human rights advocacy groups, public interest bodies, law societies, legal academics and community interest groups.

The Government has taken into account some valuable suggestions made by those who provided feedback on the proposals.

Indeed, the process exemplified the level of consistent, well focussed community consultation and responsive participation that will ensure our counter-terrorism legislation is properly understood, appropriately framed and meets community needs and expectations.

I’d like to take this opportunity to outline some of the key amendments contained in this Bill.

1. Treason and sedition (urging violence)

As I have already mentioned, the Bill implements recommendations made by the Australian Law Reform Commission in its Review of Sedition Laws in Australia.

The Government supports the implementation of the Australian Law Reform Commission’s recommendations including repealing outdated provisions in the Crimes Act relating to unlawful associations.

The Bill will amend the treason and sedition offences in the Criminal Code in response to recommendations from this review and the reviews by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security and the Security Legislation Review Committee.

The name of the sedition offences will be changed to “urging violence” to better reflect the nature of the offences.

It is already an offence to urge force or violence against a group on the basis of race, religion, nationality or political opinion, where the use of the force or violence would threaten the peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth. The Bill will expand this offence to also cover urging force or violence on the basis of ‘ethnic’ or ‘national’ origin. The offence will also be expanded so that it applies to the urging of force or violence against an individual, not just a group, and covers the urging of force or violence, even where the use of the force or violence does not threaten the peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth.

2. Part 5.3 measures

The package of reforms contains several amendments to Part 5.3 of the Criminal Code.

Amendments will be made to improve the terrorist organisation listings provisions, including extending the duration of listings from 2 to 3 years, consistent with a recommendation of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security.

This change will be closely monitored to ensure terrorist organisation listings continue to meet the legislative requirements for listing in accordance with the current practice of keeping listed organisations under ongoing review.

The Bill will also make miscellaneous amendments to definitional provisions to implement the Government’s policy of ensuring equality of same sex partnerships in Commonwealth legislation.

A majority of the States and Territories have agreed to these proposed amendments to Part 5.3 of the Criminal Code in accordance with the Inter-Government Agreement on Counter-Terrorism Laws.

The Government appreciates the support of the States and Territories which has enabled the Government to bring forward these amendments.

3. Part 1C of the Crimes Act

The proposed amendments in the Bill will also clarify and improve the practical operation of Part 1C of the Crimes Act which sets out the investigation powers of law enforcement officers when a person has been arrested for a Commonwealth offence.

The proposed amendments to Part 1C are in direct response to the issues raised in the Clarke Inquiry into the Case of Dr Mohamed Haneef.

4. Enhanced police powers to investigate terrorism

The Bill also introduces amendments which are designed to provide law enforcement officers with improved capacity to deal with terrorism, while ensuring that these extended powers are balanced by appropriate safeguards.

The Bill will amend Part 1AA of the Crimes Act to provide police with a power to enter premises without a warrant in emergency circumstances relating to a terrorism offence where there is material that may pose a risk to the health or safety of the public.

This is not a general search warrant power. The provisions are appropriately limited in terms of what police may do once they have entered the premises.

The Bill will also modify the existing general search warrant provisions in the Crimes Act so that, in emergency situations, the time available for law enforcement officers to re-enter premises under a search warrant can be extended to 12 hours, or, where authorised by an issuing authority in exceptional circumstances, a longer time not exceeding the life of the warrant.

5. Bail provisions for terrorism offences

Currently, State and Territory legislation is relied upon to provide appeal rights to the prosecution or defendant against bail decisions in relation to terrorism and national security offences.

The Bill will amend the bail provisions relating to terrorism and serious national security offences in the Crimes Act to include a specific right of appeal for both the prosecution and the defendant against a decision to grant or refuse bail.

This amendment will establish a nationally consistent right of appeal to overcome limitations and inconsistencies under State and Territory bail laws.

6. Charter of the United Nations Act 1945

The proposed amendments to the Charter Act of the United Nations Act 1945 will improve the standard for listing a person, entity, asset or class of assets by providing that the Minister for Foreign Affairs must be satisfied ‘on reasonable grounds’ of prescribed matters before they can be listed.

The Charter Act will also be amended to provide for the regular review of listings under the Charter Act.

7. National Security Information (Criminal and Civil Proceedings) Act 2004

The National Security Information (Criminal and Civil Proceedings) Act 2004 (National Security Information Act) provides a legislative framework for dealing with the disclosure, storage and handling of national security information in federal criminal proceedings and civil proceedings.

Since its commencement, the legislation has been invoked in a number of federal criminal matters and one civil proceeding.

While the experiences of these cases have demonstrated that the National Security Information Act is working well in practice, there are several aspects of the Act that could be improved.

The proposed amendments are designed to improve the practical operation of the regime, by, for example, clarifying court procedures to ensure processes are flexible and efficient, minimising unnecessary processes and facilitating consensual agreements between the parties about the disclosure of national security information in a proceeding.

8. Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Act 1986

Currently, the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security may only examine matters relating to the 6 Australian Intelligence Community agencies: ASIO, the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, Defence Imagery Geospatial Organisation, Defence Intelligence Organisation, Defence Signals Directorate and Office of National Assessments.

The Bill will amend the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Act to enable the Inspector-General, on the request of the Prime Minister, to inquire into an intelligence or security matter relating to any Commonwealth agency.

The amendment recognises the increasing cooperation between the intelligence community agencies and other Commonwealth agencies on intelligence and security matters, and will ensure that, in appropriate cases, the Inspector-General can conduct a thorough and robust investigation into an intelligence or security matter.

This is an important step in helping to improve accountability on national security matters.

The amendment is a key part of the Government’s response to the report of the Inquiry by the Hon. John Clarke QC into the Case of Dr Mohamed Haneef.

The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Act amendments were not included in the Discussion Paper. Although these amendments were announced at the same time as the Government responses to the reviews, they were initially intended to be taken forward in a separate Bill preceding this Bill. The other Bill has been delayed due to other legislative priorities.

As amendments to this Act are an important accountability measure, the Government has decided that they be taken forward as part of the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill.

Measures contained in the Discussion Paper which are not being pursued

I should take this opportunity also to point out that some of the measures that were included in the Discussion Paper are not in this Bill.

These include proposed amendments to the definition of terrorist act and the proposed new terrorism-based hoax offence.

These amendments will require the States to amend their legislation which referred power to the Commonwealth.

The Government will continue to work closely with the States to progress these measures.

Another measure which was canvassed in the Discussion Paper but is not being progressed as part of this package of amendments is the proposed humanitarian aid exemption to the providing training to a terrorist organisation offence under section 102.5 of the Criminal Code.

The public consultation process raised some issues about the practical application of the proposed scheme. As the Government needs to ensure that any such initiative is workable and properly responsive to aid delivery needs, the Government is committed to further consultation with NGOs and aid organisations to determine whether such an exemption scheme is the best solution.

Compliance with international human rights

The Australian Government is committed to fulfilling the Government’s responsibility to protect Australia, its people and its interests, while instilling confidence that our national security and counter-terrorism laws will be exercised in a just and accountable way.

By ensuring the laws are precise, clearly articulated and properly tailored, the proposed amendments make a real contribution to the fulfilment of this fundamental goal.

Concluding remarks

The measures outlined today are designed to give the Australian community confidence that our law enforcement and security agencies have the tools they need to fight terrorism, while ensuring these laws and powers are effectively framed.

In implementing the various reviews, the Government has taken the opportunity to re-examine key aspects of the legal framework to promote greater clarity, bolster existing safeguards and ensure the laws are appropriately accountable in their operation.

The Government is confident that this package of reforms delivers strong laws that protect our safety whilst preserving the democratic rights that protect our freedoms, and helps prepare us for the complex national security challenges of the future.

I commend this Bill.


Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement Bill 2010

The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement Bill 2010, along with the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill, forms part of the package of reforms being progressed by the government to Australia’s national security legislation.  These reforms are aimed at promoting transparency and ensuring that our laws are appropriately accountable in their operation.

The bill will improve oversight of the activities of the Australian Federal Police by establishing the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement which will replace and extend the functions of the current Parliamentary Joint Committee on the Australian Crime Commission. 

The new committee will be responsible for providing broad parliamentary oversight of the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Crime Commission.  It will continue the work of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on the Australian Crime Commission by also monitoring and reporting to parliament on the performance by the Australian Crime Commission of its functions.

The committee will also have the ability to examine trends and changes in criminal activities, practices and methods and report on any desirable changes to the functions, structure, powers and procedures of the Australian Crime Commission or the Australian Federal Police. 

The establishment of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement exemplifies the government’s commitment to improving oversight and accountability in relation to the exercise of the functions of Commonwealth agencies.

I commend this bill.


Renewable Energy (Electricity) Amendment Bill 2010

The Renewable Energy (Electricity) (Charge) Amendment Bill 2010 amends the Renewable Energy (Electricity) (Charge) Act 2000.

Together with the related Renewable Energy (Electricity) Amendment Bill 2010 and the Renewable Energy (Electricity) (Small-scale Technology Shortfall Charge) Bill 2010, it implements changes to enhance the Renewable Energy Target (RET) scheme to separate the existing scheme into two parts—the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme and the Large-scale Renewable Energy Target from 1 January 2011.

Combined, the three Bills further strengthen the Government’s commitment to ensure that at least the equivalent of 20 per cent of Australia’s electricity is supplied from renewable sources by 2020.

This Bill establishes a separate rate of shortfall charge of $65 per megawatt-hour to encourage compliance with obligations to surrender Renewable Energy Certificates created from large-scale renewable energy power generation.

The related Renewable Energy (Electricity) (Small-scale Technology Shortfall Charge) Bill 2010 establishes a similar shortfall charge in relation to the obligation to surrender certificates created from the installation of small-scale renewable energy systems.

Both shortfall charges encourage compliance with the Renewable Energy Target scheme, as liable parties who do not meet their obligations to submit certificates from small-scale or large-scale renewable sources will need to pay a charge.

The level of the shortfall penalty will be monitored to ensure it remains effective as an incentive for investment in renewable energy.

Along with the two other related Bills I am introducing today, this Bill represents a major step toward the transformation of the Australian economy and the building of Australia’s low pollution future, and I commend it to the Senate.


Renewable Energy (Electricity) (Charge) Amendment Bill 2010

The Renewable Energy (Electricity) (Charge) Amendment Bill 2010 amends the Renewable Energy (Electricity) (Charge) Act 2000.

Together with the related Renewable Energy (Electricity) Amendment Bill 2010 and the Renewable Energy (Electricity) (Small-scale Technology Shortfall Charge) Bill 2010, it implements changes to enhance the Renewable Energy Target (RET) scheme to separate the existing scheme into two parts—the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme and the Large-scale Renewable Energy Target from 1 January 2011.

Combined, the three Bills further strengthen the Government’s commitment to ensure that at least the equivalent of 20 per cent of Australia’s electricity is supplied from renewable sources by 2020.

This Bill establishes a separate rate of shortfall charge of $65 per megawatt-hour to encourage compliance with obligations to surrender Renewable Energy Certificates created from large-scale renewable energy power generation.

The related Renewable Energy (Electricity) (Small-scale Technology Shortfall Charge) Bill 2010 establishes a similar shortfall charge in relation to the obligation to surrender certificates created from the installation of small-scale renewable energy systems.

Both shortfall charges encourage compliance with the Renewable Energy Target scheme, as liable parties who do not meet their obligations to submit certificates from small-scale or large-scale renewable sources will need to pay a charge.

The level of the shortfall penalty will be monitored to ensure it remains effective as an incentive for investment in renewable energy.

Along with the two other related Bills I am introducing today, this Bill represents a major step toward the transformation of the Australian economy and the building of Australia’s low pollution future, and I commend it to the Senate.


Renewable Energy (Electricity) (Small-scale Technology Shortfall Charge) Bill 2010

The Renewable Energy (Electricity) (Small-scale Technology Shortfall Charge) Bill 2010 establishes a new Act which, together with the related Renewable Energy (Electricity) Amendment Bill 2010 and the Renewable Energy (Electricity) (Charge) Amendment Bill 2010, implements changes to enhance the Renewable Energy Target (RET) scheme to separate the existing scheme into two parts—the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme and the Large-scale Renewable Energy Target from 1 January 2011.

Combined, the Bills further strengthen the Government’s commitment to ensure that at least the equivalent of 20 per cent of Australia’s electricity is supplied from renewable sources by 2020.

This Bill establishes a separate rate of shortfall charge at $65 per megawatt-hour to encourage compliance with obligations to surrender Renewable Energy Certificates created from installations of small-scale renewable energy technologies such as rooftop solar panels and solar water heaters.

The related Renewable Energy (Electricity) (Charge) Amendment Bill 2010 establishes a similar shortfall charge in relation to the obligation to surrender certificates created from large-scale renewable energy generation.

Both shortfall charges encourage compliance with the Renewable Energy Target scheme, as liable parties who do not meet their obligations to submit certificates from small-scale or large-scale renewable sources will need to pay a charge.

The level of the shortfall penalty will be monitored to ensure it remains effective as an incentive for investment in renewable energy.

Along with the two other related Bills I am introducing today, this Bill represents a major step toward the transformation of the Australian economy and the building of Australia’s low pollution future, and I commend it to the Senate.

Debate (on motion by Senator Stephens) adjourned.

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

Airports (On-Airport Activities Administration) Validation Bill 2010

Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation Amendment Bill 2009

Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Digital Television) Bill 2010

Child Support and Family Assistance Legislation Amendment (Budget and Other Measures) Bill 2010

Defence Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2010

Family Assistance Legislation Amendment (Child Care Budget Measures) Bill 2010

Health Legislation Amendment (Australian Community Pharmacy Authority and Private Health Insurance) Bill 2010

International Arbitration Amendment Bill 2010

Interstate Road Transport Charge Amendment Bill 2010

Ministers of State Amendment Bill 2010

Personal Property Securities (Corporations and Other Amendments) Bill 2010

Social Security Amendment (Flexible Participation Requirements for Principal Carers) Bill 2010

Social Security and Indigenous Legislation Amendment (Budget and Other Measures) Bill 2010

Tax Laws Amendment (2010 GST Administration Measures No. 2) Bill 2010

Tax Laws Amendment (Medicare Levy and Medicare Levy Surcharge) Bill 2010

Tax Laws Amendment (Transfer of Provisions) Bill 2010

Veterans’ Affairs Legislation Amendment (2010 Budget Measures) Bill 2010.

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

(1)   National Security Legislation Amendment Bill 2010, and Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement Bill 2010; and

(2)   Renewable Energy (Electricity) Amendment Bill 2010, Renewable Energy (Electricity) (Charge) Amendment Bill 2010 and Renewable Energy (Electricity) (Small-scale Technology Shortfall Charge) Bill 2010.