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Monday, 25 October 2010
Page: 649


Senator SHERRY (Minister for Small Business, Minister Assisting on Deregulation and Minister Assisting the Minister for Tourism) (6:06 PM) —I move:

That these bills be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speeches read as follows—

Carer Recognition Bill 2010

This bill is the Government’s commitment to enshrine in law the Australian Government’s national recognition of the exceptional contribution made by hundreds of thousands of carers across the country.

Every day they sustain and support the people they care for.

And through their dedication and hard work they enrich community life and are an inspiration to us all.

I am certain that every member in this place, representing electorates from the bush to the city, understands only too well the challenges and the sacrifices that come with the job of caring.

It’s a job where you can’t knock off at five o’clock - or six or seven. No public holidays.

No annual leave, no time off when you’re sick.

Mr Speaker, this Bill recognises in legislation the contribution by the mums and dads, the grandparents, the sons and daughters, the brothers and sisters and partners who every day get on with the job of caring.

We are determined to give carers the acknowledgement of their role that they have asked for - and which they so clearly deserve.

Last year, carers told us they wanted greater acknowledgement and increased recognition.

This message came through loud and clear when the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Family, Community, Housing and Youth tabled its report, Who Cares? Report on the inquiry into better support for carers.

Central to the Government’s response to this Inquiry was a commitment from the Commonwealth to lead the development of a National Carer Recognition Framework.

The National Carer Strategy will deliver on this commitment and will place the needs of carers at the centre of government policy so that they have the same opportunities as other Australians to live healthy, happy lives and reach their full potential.

This Bill is the first element of the Framework.

It formally acknowledges the vital contribution that carers make to Australian society and complements carer recognition legislation already in place in some States and Territories.

There are several key elements to the Bill.

Firstly, the Bill establishes a broad and encompassing definition of carer. This definition captures the diversity of carers and care relationships.

Secondly, the Bill sets out a Statement for Australia’s Carers.

The Statement contains ten key principles that set out how carers should be treated and considered in policy development and program and service delivery.

This includes the fundamental principle that all carers should have the same rights, choices and opportunities as other Australians.

All public service agencies will be required to take all practicable measures to ensure their staff have an awareness and understanding of the principles in the Statement.

This includes a direction that all public service agencies should have due regard to the Statement for Australia’s Carers when developing human resource policies that significantly affect an employee’s caring role.

Public service agencies with responsibility for policies, programs and services that affect carers and the people that they care for will have additional obligations under the legislation.

These agencies need to ensure that their staff take action to reflect the Statement’s principles when developing, implementing, providing or evaluating policies, programs or services directed to carers or the people for whom they care.

These agencies will also be required to consult with carers, and the bodies that represent them, in the development and evaluation of relevant policies, programs and services.

And they will be required to report publicly, in their annual reports, on their compliance with their obligations under the legislation.

Critically, the legislation also extends to associated providers, people or bodies contracted or funded by Australian Government public service agencies with responsibility for policies, programs and services that affect carers and the people that they care for, and their immediate subcontractors.

These associated providers will need to ensure staff and agents have awareness and understanding of the Statement’s principles and take action to reflect the principles when they develop, implement, provide or evaluate policies, programs or services.

The Bill supports the work the Government is undertaking to reform the system of supports for carers and the people for whom they care.

It recognises that carers should have the opportunities and the capability to enjoy optimum health and wellbeing, and social and economic participation.

Implementation of the Bill will drive increased awareness and understanding of the role and contribution of carers.

As well as a much-needed cultural and attitudinal shift so that carers’ interests are taken into account by public service agencies and service providers.

Raising the status and profile of the caring role builds on the Government’s practical measures to improve the lives of carers.

Members will also be aware that Government has commissioned a Productivity Commission inquiry to examine the feasibility, costs and benefits of a National Long-term Disability Care and Support Scheme that would provide an entitlement to services over a person’s lifetime, with a focus on early intervention.

This is a complex area that has the potential to transform the lives of people with disability and their carers - a transformation I am sure you all will agree will be for the better.

The Productivity Commission has been asked to report their findings to the Government in July 2011.

But, Mr Speaker, we know there is still much more to be done to achieve our vision of a fairer Australia for carers.

Which is why, as part of the National Carer Recognition Framework, we are developing the National Carer Strategy to be delivered early next year.

Working with the States and Territories, the National Carers Strategy will shape our long-term agenda for reform.

It will guide policy development and the delivery of services by government agencies and non-government organisations that work with carers.

The National Carers Strategy will include many of the issues raised by carers through the Inquiry into Better Support for Carers.

We have already identified that the strategy will consider, among other things, the training and skills development needs of carers and the adequacy of case management and care coordination for carers.

Addressing the needs of young carers and carers in rural and remote communities will be also be key priorities of the Strategy.

Mr Speaker, this Bill is the first part of a fundamental reform process for carers through the National Carer Recognition Framework.

It recognises in law, the valuable social and economic contribution, as well as the many personal sacrifices that carers make.


Civil Dispute Resolution Bill 2010

I am pleased today to introduce the Civil Dispute Resolution Bill 2010 into the Parliament.

The Bill encourages parties to take genuine steps to seek to resolve their dispute where possible, before commencing proceedings in the Federal Court or Federal Magistrates Court.  It builds upon the enhanced case management powers that were legislated by this Government in the previous Parliament.

The Bill will encourage parties to turn their minds to the issues in dispute, the outcomes they are seeking and how this can best be achieved before commencing litigation.

Launching into litigation is not always the best approach.  Parties can benefit from exchanging information, narrowing the issues in dispute and exploring options for resolution will lead to more matters being settled by agreement earlier on, before significant costs have been incurred and positions become entrenched.  Even if matters progress to court, costs will be saved as the issues in dispute will be better understood and narrowed.

The Bill is a further step to moving from the adversarial culture of litigation to one where resolution is actively sought.  Of course, not all matters can be resolved, and some do need the clarity of a judicial ruling.  However, the general aim of considering resolution where possible should be fostered.  In doing so, this Bill does not undermine the critical role of the courts as ultimate adjudicators of legal issues.  Equally, courts are already taking a modern approach and actively promoting judges to facilitate agreements between parties, for example through court-referred ADR.  This Bill does not displace those processes, but encourages parties to genuinely negotiate before commencing litigation.  A further aim of the legislation is to encourage lawyers to fully inform clients about options to resolve disputes and alternatives to legal action. 

The Bill does not introduce mandatory ADR or prescriptive or onerous pre-action protocols, nor does it prevent a party from commencing litigation.  It is deliberately flexible in allowing parties to tailor the genuine steps they take to the circumstances of the dispute.  In doing so, it encourages parties to genuinely turn their minds to what they can do to attempt to resolve the matter.

I am pleased that other jurisdictions are taking a similar approach.  I note the passage of the Civil Procedure Bill 2010 in Victoria, and the consideration by the NSW Attorney-General of recommendations made in the Blueprint for Alternative Dispute Resolution.  It is heartening that other jurisdictions are seeking to take similar measures.

I commend the Bill.


Food Standards Australia New Zealand Amendment Bill 2010

I am very pleased today to be introducing the Food Standards Australia New Zealand Amendment Bill 2010 which implements a reform agreed to by the Council of Australian Governments on 3 July 2008.

This amendment reflects the Government’s strong commitment to microeconomic reform.  In particular this amendment supports the goal of reducing the level of unnecessary or poorly designed regulation, with its resulting negative impact on Australian business.

While regulation is essential for the proper functioning of society and the economy, the challenge for government is to deliver effective and efficient regulation.  In doing this, we must ensure that the regulation is effective in addressing an identified problem, and that it does this in a way that is not unduly onerous or duplicative in nature.

This amendment is part of a package of reforms being pursued by the Government in relation to the regulation of chemicals and plastics, which followed a study by the Productivity Commission in 2008.  The reforms have been agreed to by all States and Territories through COAG, as part of the “Seamless National Economy” reform agenda.

Specifically, this reform will address the delay and uncertainty for users of agricultural and veterinary chemicals, who are typically primary producers, which results from overlapping regulatory responsibilities for setting maximum residue limits of chemicals allowed to be present in food.

Under the existing arrangements, both the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) and Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) have a role in establishing safe limits for agricultural and veterinary chemical residues.  The APVMA does this in the course of issuing registrations and permits for agricultural and veterinary chemical products. FSANZ, with its role in establishing and maintaining food standards, is responsible for incorporating maximum residue limits into the Food Standards Code.

Both regulatory systems are charged with the protection of public health and safety.  Both rely on rigorous scientific assessment.  But while both systems work well to ensure the safety of Australians, the overlapping regulatory responsibilities of the two agencies lead, in certain circumstances, to significant delays in decisions which mean a product might be grown on a farm but cannot be sold as a food for some months later.

This results from the time-lag of nine to twelve months which occurs between when the APVMA establishes a maximum residue limit in relation to an agricultural or veterinary chemical product, and when FSANZ is able to effect a corresponding modification to the Food Standards Code.

Amendments to the Food Standards Australia New Zealand Act 1991, designed to improve the operation of the food regulation system in response to consumer, industry and government feedback, were most recently made in 2007.  These included changes intended to streamline the process for establishing maximum residue limits in the Food Standards Code.  The amendments achieved a modest reduction in the timelines for modifying the Food Standards Code, through giving FSANZ early notice of any applications to the APVMA for chemical products that would be likely to result in a change to a maximum residue limit. 

However, the 2007 amendments did not address the fundamental problem with setting maximum residue limits: the duplication of the scientific assessment and decision making process, and the resulting significant time delay for primary producers.

The amendments I am presenting to you today will fix this problem once and for all, by streamlining the decision making process for determining maximum residue limits.  Under the new system, if the APVMA makes a decision on setting a maximum residue limit, in the course of approving a chemical product registration or permit application, then the APVMA can use that decision to vary the maximum residue limits Standard in the Food Standards Code. FSANZ, as the scientific experts in food safety, will retain responsibility for the dietary modelling that the APVMA will rely on to establish safe chemical residue limits.

These amendments will not jeopardise the protection of public health and safety in any way.  In over ten years of the system’s operation, there has never been an occasion where FSANZ has not adjusted the Food Standards Code in line with the maximum residue limits set by the APVMA.  Instead, these amendments reduce duplicative administrative processes, and herald a new era of better integration of the roles of the two regulatory agencies. 

All States and Territories, which are partners in the joint food regulation system, have been consulted on the Bill and are committed to ensuring the system continues to protect public health and safety, whilst also promoting improvements in regulatory efficiencies.


International Tax Agreements Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2010

Today I introduce the bill to give the force of law to the second protocol to the tax treaty with Singapore which will upgrade the exchange of information provisions in that treaty to the internationally agreed tax standard.

The government is a global leader in the implementation of the international standard of tax transparency.  In line with this standard, the upgraded exchange-of-information provisions in the protocol between Australia and Singapore will allow the tax authorities of both countries to exchange a wider range of information on a wider range of taxes.

In particular, the new provisions will provide that neither tax administration can refuse to provide information solely because it does not require the information for its own domestic purposes or because the information is held by a bank or similar institution.

The government has taken an important leadership position to promote international cooperation to combat cross-border tax evasion.  The enhanced provisions in the second protocol to the tax treaty with Singapore are an important tool in Australia’s efforts in this regard, by increasing the probability of detection when taxpayers participate in abusive tax arrangements.  The protocol will further facilitate the prevention of tax evasion by facilitating the exchange of information that predates the protocol.

The Joint Standing Committee on Treaties has considered this protocol and has recommended that binding treaty action be taken.

Full details of the amendments brought forward in the bill are contained in the explanatory memorandum.


National Health Amendment (Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme) Bill 2010

The National Health Amendment (Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme) Bill 2010 will amend the National Health Act 1953 (the Act) to achieve a more efficient and sustainable Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), better value for money for Australian taxpayers, and policy stability for the pharmaceutical sector.

The Bill underpins the Gillard Government’s commitment to reform of Australia’s health system, by ensuring that every precious health dollar is used as effectively as possible.

The Bill also embodies an historic level of cooperation and collaboration between the Government and the pharmaceutical industry, represented by Medicines Australia. Through jointly negotiating these reforms, the Government and the industry will help ensure the sustainability of the PBS for years to come.

The Bill sets out new PBS pricing arrangements aimed at reducing growth in PBS expenditure, ensuring access to quality medicines at lower cost to the taxpayer, and providing certainty to the pharmaceutical industry in relation to PBS pricing policy.

The PBS plays a vital role in Australia’s health system, particularly for the prevention and management of chronic disease, and for the treatment of life threatening conditions. The PBS provides reliable and timely access to a wide range of medicines at a cost individuals and the community can afford.

In the coming years, medicines will continue to be a significant and growing component of health expenditure. Since the previous major pricing reforms in 2007, the growth rate for PBS expenditure has increased from 4.3 percent in 2006 07 to an estimated 10.5 percent for the 2009 10 financial year.

The Report to Parliament on the 2007 PBS Reforms warned that the cost of the PBS is projected to grow significantly over the next few years. While those earlier reforms will provide more savings than originally estimated, these will be more than outweighed by higher growth in PBS costs. The PBS Reform Report estimates that PBS costs will reach $13 billion in 2018, compared to about $9 billion in 2010.

For the PBS to continue to provide access to medicines, increases in costs need to be managed. The viability of the medicines industry in Australia also needs to be maintained.

To this end, the Government has entered into a four year Memorandum of Understanding with Medicines Australia. Medicines Australia represents over 50 companies, which together account for 86 percent of total annual PBS expenditure and nearly 60 percent of sales of off-patent medicines.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) sets out the negotiated pricing reforms which are the subject of the Bill, and the policy innovations that will be introduced to improve the pathway for subsidy of medicines under the PBS.

Under the MOU, the Government will provide the industry with pricing certainty over the next four years. In return for implementing new pricing arrangements that are the subject of this Bill, the Government will undertake not to introduce further new policy to generate price-related savings from the PBS over the life of the MOU. This will provide stability to the industry, helping to foster investment and availability of new and innovative drugs in Australia, such as the $50 million biotech investment in Queensland announced by Eli Lilly in June this year.

Further process and policy changes for the listing of PBS medicines under the MOU will reduce red tape and further foster the availability of new medicines in Australia.

Under the MOU, the PBS will continue to support access to subsidies for new and innovative products. Price reductions are achieved as a result of competition between brands in the market, within a framework of policy certainty. These are good outcomes for all sectors of the medicines industry and for the Australian community in general.

The amendments in this Bill propose a significant broadening of current pricing arrangements which were originally introduced as part of the 2007 PBS Reforms.

The proposed changes to pricing policy recognise that competitive pricing already exists in the market for many PBS-subsidised medicines. The changes acknowledge that Australian taxpayers should be benefiting from that competition and the lower prices that result from it.

The principles which underpin existing price setting and maintenance mechanisms for PBS medicines will continue. In particular, the general separation of medicines between the pricing formularies for single brand drugs (F1), and drugs where there is competition (F2), will be maintained.

The application of price disclosure will be accelerated and expanded to include all drugs in the F2 formulary.

Price disclosure allows market forces to play a part in PBS pricing. Competition between pharmaceutical companies to gain market share for their products can result in significant discounting to pharmacies. The actual price of a brand of medicine may be much less than the Government PBS subsidy price.

Under price disclosure arrangements, pharmaceutical suppliers are required to advise the Government of the price at which PBS medicines are sold into pharmacies. The information is used as the basis for possibly adjusting the price for all brands of a medicine to the weighted average price. Price disclosure ensures that, over time, Government prices reflect more closely actual market prices. This is a fairer deal for taxpayers.

Since it was first introduced in 2007, price disclosure has only been applied to medicines after a new brand lists.

Under these further pricing reforms, price disclosure will become mandatory from 1 December 2010 for all drugs on the F2 formulary. This will increase the number of brands subject to price disclosure from 162 to over 1,600 brands.

The Bill also provides that, for the cycle commencing on 1 December 2010, an average price reduction of at least 23 percent is to be achieved across all the brands in that cycle. These price reductions will occur on 1 April 2012 and represent a very large saving in PBS costs. In the event that the price reductions delivered under the normal operation of price disclosure do not yield an average of a 23 percent price reduction across the formulary, prices for medicines in this cycle will be reduced a little further to achieve the required 23 percent reduction overall. However, this provision will only apply to the price disclosure cycle commencing on 1 December 2010, and no medicine will be reduced to less than the lowest disclosed price for a brand of that medicine.

Expanding price disclosure is a fair and equitable way of achieving value for money for PBS medicines. It allows competition to play a real part in pricing for the PBS and allows taxpayers to benefit from discounting practices in the market. Companies can continue to compete for market share for their products as prices are generally reduced to the weighted average price, and not the lowest price.

In addition, under the further pricing reforms being introduced today, all medicines on F2 will experience a price reduction of two or five percent on 1 February 2011. The level of price reduction for each medicine reflects the level of discounting the medicine has been experiencing in the market.

In a further reform, the price reduction that occurs when the first new brand of a PBS medicine is listed will increase from the current 12.5 percent, to 16 percent as of 1 February 2011. Medicines that have already taken a 12.5 percent price reduction will not be required to take the balance of the 16 percent price reduction.

It is also important to note that the reforms embodied in this Bill preserve features of the PBS that make it such a valued part of Australia’s health system.

Under the new pricing arrangements, medical practitioners will continue to be able to prescribe PBS medicines that are clinically appropriate. The robust process for listing new medicines on the PBS will continue. Only medicines recommended by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) will be considered for listing by the Government.

There will be no extra costs for patients. Some non-concessional patients may pay less, for example, where price reductions cause the price of a medicine to fall below the general co-payment amount. My Report to Parliament on the 2007 PBS reforms estimated that consumers will benefit from those reforms via direct reductions in prices for some prescriptions by $600 to $800 million over the ten years to 2018. The additional direct saving to consumers from these new measures is independently estimated to double this previous estimate, to save general patients an average of almost $3.00 per prescription.

To support awareness of brand choice under the PBS, the Government will invest $10 million, through the National Prescribing Service, to provide factual information to inform consumers that generic medicines are an equal choice in terms of quality and effectiveness, and that some brands of a medicine may cost less than others.

The Bill does not prevent the generic medicines industry from competing for a growing share of PBS scripts. In 2008-09, member companies of the Generic Medicines Industry Association had a share of 33.8 per cent of PBS scripts, up from 27 per cent in 2005-06. Generic manufacturers will also benefit from some $2.3 billion worth of medicines coming off patent over the next 12 years.

The proposed amendments to the Act will also streamline the way drugs are listed for supply under section 100 arrangements. Section 100 of the National Health Act applies to certain specialised medicines with specific supply arrangements, such as chemotherapy or HIV/AIDS medicines. The amendments will make clear how general PBS provisions apply to drugs supplied under those arrangements. The power to make special arrangements under section 100 will be clarified and broadened.

The wider scope of section 100 will mean arrangements such as the revised Intravenous Chemotherapy Supply Program announced in the 2010 11 Budget can be made. Under the new chemotherapy arrangements, the method for supply and pricing of combinations of vials required for single infusions will reduce unnecessary wastage of these expensive chemotherapy drugs. As a result, savings of around $75.4 million are expected over the next four years.

In addition, the Bill contains provisions that address gaps in the current PBS prescription data captured by Medicare Australia. Currently, community and hospital pharmacies supplying PBS medicines only provide data for PBS prescriptions for which the Commonwealth pays a subsidy. The changes being introduced will result in data also being provided for prescriptions when a subsidy is not paid - that is, under co-payment data. For these ‘under co payment’ prescriptions, the cost to patients is below the co-payment amount, currently $33.30 for general patients. The collection of this information, in common with all other PBS prescription data, will give the PBAC and others a more complete picture of PBS medicine prescribing, dispensing and usage. Provision for this change is also included under the Fifth Community Pharmacy Agreement announced in this year’s Budget.

This Bill also makes explicit price reductions related to the 25 percent staged reductions that were put in place at the time of the 2007 PBS Reform. Price reductions required on listing of a new brand of a drug affected by staged reductions are currently occurring administratively and through serial amendments to Regulations. Including these reductions in the Act will make the provisions clearer for industry and easier to administer.

In conclusion, the reforms in this Bill provide a firm basis for achieving a more efficient and sustainable PBS while, at the same time, providing a period of certainty to industry in relation to medicines pricing policy.

The reforms have been collaboratively and closely negotiated with the pharmaceutical industry to provide benefits for taxpayers and stability for the sector. I would like to acknowledge the important role of Medicines Australia in developing this package of reforms for the benefit of all Australians.

Consumers will pay no more for their medicines, and some may pay less. A choice of medicines and brands will still be available. Medical practitioners will be able to prescribe medicines that are clinically appropriate.

Australians will benefit as consumers and taxpayers from a more sustainable PBS through lower prices for medicines and access to new medicines sooner.

I commend the Bill.


Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Management Amendment Bill 2010

The Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Management Act 1989 (the Ozone Act) gives effect to Australia’s international obligations under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, to phase out the use of ozone depleting substances and to minimise the emissions of synthetic greenhouse gases.

The Bill will improve the effectiveness of the Act by introducing a civil penalty and infringement notice scheme and will address a number of issues that have arisen from the practical application of the Act and its subordinate legislation.

The most significant amendment made to the Act is in relation to the compliance and enforcement framework.

The Act currently contains several criminal offences for breaches of the legislation.

For example, the Act and regulations prescribe a number of conditions that must be met by holders of the various permits and licences.

Currently, the only penalty available for breach is the suspension or cancellation of a permit.

This would mean a permit holder could no longer run their business - irrespective of the severity or nature of the breach.

The Bill will introduce a civil penalties regime so that there will be for each offence, an equivalent civil penalty provision.

Other enforcement measures include the ability to issue infringement notices for some offences under the Act.

These measures will ensure that appropriate action can be taken in respect of breaches of the Act.

The Bill includes measures to improve the enforcement of the Act.

As it stands the Act is difficult to enforce, and after 20 years of operation is out of date.

The Bill improves the qualification and conduct requirements for inspectors and clarifies the role of the Minister in compliance under the Act.

The Bill will clarify the powers of inspectors, to allow for them to assess on site if a breach has occurred.

In limited circumstances, an inspector may be assisted. This acknowledges the expertise required to undertake an effective search under the Act.

There are also new provisions in the Act setting out the rights of private individuals, for example, the procedural aspects relating to the collection, handling and return of evidence and warrants and notices for seized and forfeitable material.

The Bill also fully articulates the way material seized or collected under the Act is to be treated—be it returned, used as evidence in a civil or criminal proceeding or forfeited to the Commonwealth.

Although these provisions are new within the Act they are consistent with other Commonwealth legislation.

When stored in bulk, ozone depleting substances and synthetic greenhouse gases are stored in pressurized containers. Where an inspector finds an unsafe container, they can make an application to the Secretary of the Department to have the container dealt with appropriately—including its destruction.

The Bill also amends provisions relating to forfeiture of goods, removing the nexus between conviction and forfeiture. The amendment is necessitated by the inclusion of civil penalties as, without this amendment, forfeiture cannot flow from a civil penalty order.

As a result, the forfeiture provisions in the Act will be amended and expanded, to ensure the system works and has appropriate checks and balances to protect private individuals and companies. As with other amendments covered in this Bill, although these provisions are new they are consistent with other Commonwealth legislation.

There are new offences in the Bill that arise from amendments to the compliance and enforcement framework. The offences relate to moving, altering or interfering with evidence that has been secured, but not yet seized, in the course of a search to monitor compliance with the Act.

These provisions have been introduced to ensure that seizure is done only under warrant—as is appropriate. Criminal provisions have also been introduced to protect the process of obtaining a warrant. While this is a new offence under this Act, it is a procedural offence common to other Commonwealth legislation.

The Bill also amends existing penalties to align penalties in the Act with comparable provisions in Commonwealth legalisation and to ensure they reflect the seriousness of the offence and provide an adequate disincentive.

The Bill will make several minor amendments to ensure the Act is administratively effective and simple for the covered industries.

The Bill will ban the import and manufacture of hydrochlorofluorocarbon refrigeration and air conditioning equipment in order to support Australia’s phase out of hydro-chloro-fluoro-carbons, or HCFCs, mirroring the successful approach taken to phase out chloro-fluoro-carbons in the mid-1990s.

This policy was widely consulted with industry and is appropriate considering the status of the technology in this industry. A ban is currently imposed for air conditioning equipment containing HCFCs as a licence condition. The Bill, however, also provides that exemptions to the ban can be made through regulations, to address cases where a ban would be impractical.

Several minor amendments will be made to the way licences are administered. In light of the introduction of the civil penalty regime, civil penalties can be taken into account when deciding to grant, cancel or suspend a licence under the Act. The time limits for reporting under the Act will also be amended to allow for flexible and robust reporting. 

Licence periods for the import of pre-charged equipment, for example, a domestic refrigeration unit, will also be altered to reduce cost for the licence holder. The matters to which the minister may have regard are also being amended in light of the new civil penalty regime.

In closing, this Bill will strengthen Australia’s implementation of our international commitments to phase out the use of ozone depleting substances and to minimise the emissions of synthetic greenhouse gases, through industry-supported and sensible regulation.


Primary Industries (Excise) Levies Amendment Bill 2010

The Primary Industries (Excise) Levies Amendment Bill 2010 amends the Primary Industries (Excise) Levies Act 1999 to increase the maximum allowable levy rate cap on the research and development component of the laying chickens levy from 10 to 30 cents per laying chicken.

Australian Egg Corporation Limited has requested on behalf of the egg industry that its operative research and development levy rate be increased from 10 cents to13.5 cents per laying chicken. To meet this request, a change to legislation is required as there is currently a maximum allowable cap of 10 cents under the Act.

The egg industry put forward this proposal to assist it in expanding the research and development objectives outlined in its 2008-12 Strategic Plan. The industry undertook an extensive period of debate and consultation in coming to its recommendation to increase its levy rate. The decision was ultimately put to a vote, conducted from December 2008 to January 2009, where egg producers representing almost 80% of the industry’s production supported this change. The Government has endorsed this recommendation from industry.

The Government has decided to increase the cap from 10 to 30 cents at this time to cover potential future levy increases that the industry may seek to accommodate for its new strategic directions and the impacts of inflation. Any change to the operative rate within the cap will require the industry to demonstrate compliance with the Levy principles and guidelines, particularly to demonstrate industry support for any change. It would then need to be approved by the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, with the necessary regulations then put to the Federal Executive Council and tabled in Parliament. Following the passage of this Bill, the Government intends to put forward amendments to the Primary Industries (Excise) Levies Regulations 1999 to give effect to the levy increase to 13.5 cents per laying chicken.

Australia’s primary industries have a strong tradition of being innovative and adaptive. The Government’s investment in research, development and innovation for agriculture, fisheries, forestry and food is vital for ongoing growth and improvement in the productivity, profitability, competitiveness and sustainability of Australian Primary Industries. Levies provide an effective system to support this. The Government remains committed to supporting jobs in rural industries through increasing productivity and vital research and development, including the egg industry.


Protection of the Sea Legislation Amendment Bill 2010

Today, I am introducing into the Parliament, the Protection of the Sea Legislation Amendment Bill.

This Bill was originally introduced into the House of Representatives on 3 February 2010.

It was agreed by the House on 18 March 2010 and introduced into the Senate on 11 May 2010 but was not debated.

The Bill lapsed when Parliament was prorogued for the general election.

The Bill that is being introduced today is essentially the same as the lapsed Bill, except for a minor amendment to the commencement provision which originally provided for Schedule 1 to commence on 1 July 2010.

Nearly 4,000 ships carry commodities to and from Australia’s shores each year, involving 99 per cent of our imports and exports, by volume.  Australia has the 5th largest shipping task in the world.

It is inevitable that with such a large amount of shipping there will be pollution of the oceans and the atmosphere.  As a Government, we are committed to preventing and reducing marine pollution where possible. 

This Bill will amend two Acts to strengthen Australia’s comprehensive marine pollution prevention regime.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has adopted a number of Conventions which are intended to reduce pollution by ships. 

The most important of these Conventions is the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships which is generally referred to as MARPOL. 

MARPOL has six technical Annexes which deal with different aspects of marine pollution.

These are pollution by oil, noxious liquid substances in bulk, harmful substances carried by sea in packaged form, sewage, garbage and air pollution.

About 150 countries have adopted at least some of these Annexes. 

Australia has adopted all six.

Schedule 1 of this Bill will implement amendments to Annex VI of MARPOL.  Annex VI is intended to reduce air pollution by ships. 

Annex VI places an upper limit on the emission of nitrogen oxides from marine diesel engines, limits the emission of sulphur oxides by limiting the sulphur content of fuel oil and prohibits the deliberate emission of ozone depleting substances from ships.

Amendments to Annex VI, which were agreed to by the IMO in October 2008, entered into force on 1 July 2010.  The main effect of these amendments is to provide for a progressive reduction in the permitted sulphur level in fuel oil used in ships. 

The current maximum sulphur content of 4.5% will be reduced to 3.5% from 1 January 2012.  Subject to a review to be conducted in 2018 by the IMO, it is further proposed that the sulphur content of fuel oil be reduced to 0.5% from 1 January 2020.

The IMO has agreed that some parts of the seas which are close to heavily populated areas be designated as Emission Control Areas.  An Emission Control Area is an area in which there is a proven need for a further reduction of emissions from ships for health reasons.

At present, only two areas have been designated as Emission Control Areas - the Baltic Sea and the North Sea.

The permitted sulphur content in fuels used in Emission Control Areas was reduced from 1.5% to 1% from 1 July 2010 and will be further reduced to 0.1% from 1 January 2015.

In order to implement the progressive reduction in permitted sulphur content of fuel oil, the Bill provides for the maximum sulphur content to be set by regulation.

The proposed reduction in sulphur fuel content to 3.5 % from 1 January 2012 will have little practical impact on vessel operations in Australia.

That is because the average sulphur level in world-wide fuel oil deliveries and the sulphur levels in fuel refined in Australia currently fall below the 3.5% cap.

Another important aspect of this Bill is to provide protection for persons or organisations that assist in the cleanup following a spill of fuel oil from a ship. 

It is essential that persons or organisations not be deterred from providing assistance following an oil spill because they think they may become liable if their actions inadvertently lead to increased pollution.

The Bill includes a so-called responder immunity provision to protect persons and organisations who respond to a spill of fuel oil from liability provided they have acted reasonably and in good faith.


Superannuation Legislation Amendment Bill 2010

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

Schedule 1 to this Bill amends the Superannuation (Unclaimed Money and Lost Members) Act 1999, and the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997 to allow State and Territory authorities and public sector superannuation schemes to transfer unclaimed superannuation to the Commissioner of Taxation.

Currently, State and Territory public sector funds typically report and pay unclaimed superannuation moneys to the relevant State or Territory authority.  In contrast, private sector superannuation funds are required to pay unclaimed superannuation to the ATO.  

States and Territories currently also hold a stock of private sector unclaimed superannuation which was paid to the States and Territories prior to 1 July 2007.  Since that date all private sector unclaimed superannuation has been payable to the ATO. 

Individuals will still be able to claim back their money from the ATO at any time. 

The legislation will operate so that it only applies to those Commonwealth, State and Territory schemes that are prescribed in the regulations.

This schedule also contains amendments which will enable the ATO to subsequently pay out, and apply the correct taxation treatment to, amounts transferred from Commonwealth, State and Territory public sector schemes.

These amendments will facilitate more uniform treatment of unclaimed money across the public and the private sectors and assist in the central administration of unclaimed superannuation monies. 

These amendments will have an ongoing gain to revenue, estimated to be $29.6 million over the forward estimates. 

Schedule 2 to this Bill provides transitional relief for income tax deductibility of total and permanent disability insurance premiums, known as TPD insurance premiums, paid by superannuation funds.  To this end, the Bill amends the Income Tax (Transitional Provisions) Act 1997, and the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997.

The transitional relief will broaden the application of the current law regarding deductibility of TPD insurance premiums for the 2004-05 to 2010-11 income years.  It will allow complying superannuation funds to fully deduct TPD insurance premiums, regardless of the definition of TPD contained in the policy.

The provision of the transitional arrangements will minimise the disruption to the superannuation industry and will allow superannuation funds enough lead time to make the necessary administrative changes to apply the current law from 1 July 2011.

This is achieved by allowing, in the transitional period, broader definitions of ‘death or disability benefits’ in the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936 and ‘disability superannuation benefit’ in the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997 to the extent they relate to the deductibility of TPD insurance premiums.  For the transitional relief to apply to a TPD insurance policy premium, the insured permanent disability must be one that is described in regulations made for the purposes of the transitional provisions. The content of these regulations is being developed in consultation with industry.

By way of background, superannuation funds commonly take out death and disability insurance policies to insure their risk for a liability they may incur to their members.  Disability insurance taken out by superannuation funds includes TPD insurance.  The current law allows superannuation funds to claim an income tax deduction for TPD insurance premiums to the extent that the policies have the necessary connection to a liability of the fund to provide disability superannuation benefits. 

The amendments do not limit the operation of the current law.  The current provisions of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997 will apply throughout the transitional period.  Funds who have claimed a narrower deduction pursuant to the current law will be able to choose whether to amend their assessments to claim a broader deduction. 

This amendment will give certainty to the superannuation industry and allow lead time for arrangements to be put in place that will enable funds to comply with the current law upon the cessation of the transitional period.  There is at least one insurance provider has developed products to meet the requirements of the law from 1 July 2011.

In addition, as announced as part of the 2010-11 Budget, the Government intends to introduce a tax deduction in relation to the provision of terminal medical condition benefits.  This will be a new deduction which is consistent with retirement income policy objectives.

Schedule 3 to this Bill amends the Superannuation Industry (Supervision) Act 1993 to allow the trustee of a regulated superannuation fund to acquire an asset in-specie from a related party of the fund, following the relationship breakdown of a member of the fund.

This Schedule also amends Subdivision D of Division 1 of Part 8 of the Superannuation Industry (Supervision) Act 1993 to ensure equitable application of the transitional arrangements in relation to in-house assets where an asset transfer occurs as the result of the relationship breakdown of a member of the fund. Relationship covers those in respect of marriage, and opposite sex and same-sex de facto relationships.

These amendments will ensure that section 66 is not an impediment to separating partners achieving a ‘clean break’ from each other in terms of their superannuation arrangements, and does not discriminate against opposite-sex and same-sex de facto relationships.

Schedule 4 to this Bill makes a number of minor amendments which will:

  • Allow an individual to give a notice of intent to deduct a contribution to a successor superannuation fund where the contribution was made to the original superannuation fund;
  • Increase the time limit for deductible employer contributions in respect of a former employee;
  • clarify that the due date of the shortfall interest charge for the purposes of excess contributions tax is 21 days after the Commissioner of Taxation provides notice of the amount payable;
  • allow the Commissioner of Taxation to exercise discretion to disregard or allocate to another financial year all or part of a person’s contributions for the purposes of excess contributions tax before an assessment is issued;
  • provide a regulation making power to specify additional circumstances when a benefit from a public sector superannuation scheme will have an untaxed element; and
  • streamline references to the Immigration Secretary and the Immigration Department in relation to disclosure of migration and citizenship information for the legislated purposes.

These amendments will improve the operation of superannuation provisions of the income tax legislation.

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


Telecommunications Interception and Intelligence Services Legislation Amendment Bill 2010

This Bill reintroduces measures contained in the Bill which was introduced into the House on 24 June 2010 and which lapsed when Parliament was prorogued. 

The Bill amends three Acts to facilitate greater co-operation between law enforcement and intelligence agencies and removes legislative barriers to information sharing within Australia’s national security community. 

Interception Assistance

Currently, under the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act, law enforcement agencies can seek the assistance of other law enforcement agencies in exercising an interception warrant. 

This ability has enabled smaller agencies with limited interception capacity to rely on larger agencies to intercept on their behalf. 

However, ASIO does not fall within the group of agencies from whom assistance can be sought.

The Bill will amend the Interception Act to enable ASIO to intercept on behalf of other agencies and to ensure that ASIO has greater flexibility to support whole-of-government efforts to protect our communities. In assisting law enforcement agencies, ASIO will continue to be subject to the existing legislative requirements set out in the Interception Act and ASIO Act. 

Other Assistance

The Bill also contains amendments to the ASIO Act and the Intelligence Services Act to enable the intelligence agencies to cooperate more closely and provide assistance to one another in a wider range of circumstances than is possible under the existing legislative framework.

This will facilitate greater interoperability in multi-agency teams and enable agencies to harness resources in support of key national security priorities.

Amendments are also included to enhance information and intelligence sharing among Australia’s national security community.

The amendments set out in this Bill retain the important accountability frameworks within which the agencies are required to operate.

Other amendments

The Bill also makes several amendments to the Interception Act that will improve the operation of that Act.

Carriers and carrier service providers will be required to inform the communications access coordinator of proposed changes, such as maintenance and support, that could significantly affect their ability to comply with their statutory obligation to assist interception agencies. 

Early notification of such changes will avoid the need for costly alterations once a change has been implemented.

Amendments are also contained in the Bill that will support police forces to find missing persons and to solve crimes where the victim cannot be found or cannot consent to their communications being accessed. Constraints on the disclosure of this information are also included in the Bill as there are circumstances in which missing persons may not want their location revealed.

The operation of the Act will also be improved by allowing a carrier or service provider representative who has been authorised by the managing director to receive notice of the issue of an interception warrant.

Finally, the Bill makes several minor and technical changes to address formatting and typographical errors and to better reflect plain English drafting conventions.

Conclusion

Ensuring our national security and law enforcement agencies have the ability to respond to threats to our national security is a key priority for this Government.

By shaping and supporting a national security community we will strengthen the capacity of all agencies to protect our communities from criminal and other activities threatening our national and personal wellbeing.


Tradex Scheme Amendment Bill 2010

This bill will clarify the eligibility of partnerships for the Tradex Scheme and remove redundant provisions. 

The Tradex Scheme was introduced as a streamlined program for providing relief to businesses paying customs duty and GST on imported products that are to be exported or incorporated into other goods that are to be exported.

Currently the Tradex Scheme Act 1999 (the Act) requires an applicant for the Tradex Scheme to be a ‘legal’ person who proposes to import goods.  The Acts Interpretation Act 1901 provides that a person generally includes a body politic or corporate as well as an individual.  While a partnership is a relationship recognized by the law, it is an unincorporated body. Coverage of partnerships under the Tradex Scheme is therefore unclear.

While partnerships were not explicitly referenced in the legislation, they were not, and are not, intended to be excluded the Tradex Scheme. This Bill seeks to clarify this position in law. 

The Bill also contains a minor amendment aimed at removing redundant parts of the Act consistent with the Government’s objective of reducing the regulatory burden.  The Tradex Scheme will continue to provide real benefits to Australian industry and improve our international competitiveness as a trading nation.

I commend the bill.


Veterans’ Affairs and Other Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures) Bill 2010

This legislation will benefit a number of deserving Australians and address some anomalies to make the system work better for the very people that it is designed to serve.

These measures will improve support services for veterans and serving Australian Defence Force personnel.

For example, under the Veterans’ Entitlements Act, the Bill will extend the period for lodgement of claims for non-treatment related travel expenses, from three to twelve months.

This change creates greater flexibility for veterans and their dependants who, for example, are required to travel to attend review meetings or obtain medical evidence. 

In addition, the Bill will extend eligibility for non-liability health care for malignant neoplasia under the Australian Participants in British Nuclear Tests (Treatment) Act to certain Australian Protective Service officers involved in British nuclear tests between 20 October 1984 and 30 June 1988. 

The Bill will also tighten the processes regarding the serving of legal documents and notices.  Protection of these processes will assist the delivery of services under the Veterans’ Entitlements Act and the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act. 

Importantly, amendments in the Bill will ensure that the policy relating to the aggravation of an initial war or defence-caused injury or disease by service under the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act, and the payment of a pension to the dependant of a veteran who was a prisoner of war, operate as originally intended. 

The Bill will also enable Defence Service Homes Insurance to collect a State Emergency Service levy from policy holders, to assist the New South Wales Government with the cost of providing emergency services in that State. 

The Bill will also enhance the operation of  the Specialist Medical Review Council by making it clear that the Specialist Medical Review Council may review a decision of the Repatriation Medical Authority to not amend a Statement of Principles.

Furthermore, the Specialist Medical Review Council will be able to review both versions of a Statement of Principles even if the applicant has requested a review of only one of the Statements.

This will protect the integrity of the regime and ensure that  the Statements of Principles for a particular condition are aligned. 

Importantly proposed amendments will protect the interests of certain compensation recipients under the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act by requiring that compensation payments are made to bank accounts in the recipients’ names.

Finally, Victoria Cross and decoration allowance recipients will be eligible for both a Victoria Cross or decoration allowance under the Veterans’ Entitlements Act plus a similar allowance or annuity from a foreign country. These proposed changes, although relatively minor, will result in more positive outcomes for the veteran and service communities.

Ongoing review of the system that serves those who have served us is a promise this Government will keep.  With this Bill, I present changes that are not just of benefit today but will secure essential support for our veterans and members in the future.


National Security Legislation Amendment Bill 2010

Today I introduce the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill, which lapsed when Parliament was prorogued on 19 July 2010. 

The Bill implements the Government’s responses to a number of independent and bipartisan reviews of national security and counter-terrorism legislation, including:

  • The Clarke Inquiry into the Case of Dr Mohamed Haneef
  • 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 Government announced its response to these reviews in December 2008. 

Public consultation

A key part in the development of this Bill involved a public consultation process.  In August 2009, the Government released a Discussion Paper which contained 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.  The Government took into account some valuable suggestions made by those who provided feedback on the proposals.

Senate Committee report

The Bill was also considered by the Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs before Parliament was prorogued.  I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Senate Committee for its detailed consideration of the Bill.

In re-introducing the Bill, the Government has considered the recommendations of the Senate Committee.  

In response to Recommendation 1 of the Committee’s report, the Explanatory Memorandum now clarifies the reasons for including the proposed urging violence offences in Chapter 5 of the Criminal Code.

The Government has also decided to accept in principle Recommendation 3.  The Attorney-General’s  Department will arrange a broader review of pre-charge detention once there has been further operational use of, and experience with, the provisions in Part 1C of the Crimes Act. 

The Government does not accept Recommendation 2, as it considers that it is desirable to retain the ‘good faith’ defence to the urging violence offences. 

The Government also does not accept Recommendation 4 in relation to the period of specified disregarded time in the investigation of terrorism offences.  The Government considers that a maximum 7 day cap is reasonable and appropriate.

Specific amendments

I will only briefly outline the measures proposed in this Bill.

1. Treason and sedition (urging violence)

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

The urging violence offence will be expanded to include urging force or violence on the basis of ‘ethnic’ or ‘national’ origin. 

The urging violence 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 Bill will make amendments to improve the terrorist organisation listings provisions and some other provisions in Part 5.3 of the Criminal Code.  This includes extending the duration of listings from 2 to 3 years, consistent with a recommendation of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security. 

3. Part 1C of the Crimes Act

The Bill will also clarify and improve the practical operation of the investigation powers in Part 1C of the Crimes Act, 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 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. 

The Bill will also modify the existing general search warrant provisions in the Crimes Act to provide more time for law enforcement officers to re-enter premises under a search warrant in emergency situations.

5. Bail provisions for terrorism 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. 

6. Charter of the United Nations Act 1945

The Bill will amend the Charter Act of the United Nations Act 1945 to improve the standard for listing a person, entity, asset or class of assets, and to provide for the regular review of listings under the Charter Act.

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

The Bill will amend the National Security Information (Criminal and Civil Proceedings) Act 2004 to improve the practical operation of that Act. 7. Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Act 1986

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 extend inquiries beyond the six Australian Intelligence Community agencies and inquire into an intelligence or security matter relating to any Commonwealth agency. 

Concluding remarks

The Australian Government is committed to fulfilling its 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.

I am 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

Today I introduce the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement Bill, which lapsed when Parliament was prorogued on

19 July 2010. 

This Bill, 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.


Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures) Bill 2010

This bill amends the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2006 (the Act). This is a relatively small Bill making a number of minor policy and technical amendments.

It is nevertheless an important Bill as it will augment the existing functions of the National Offshore Petroleum Safety Authority (NOPSA) to include non-occupational health and safety (non-OHS) aspects of structural integrity for facilities, wells and well-related equipment in Commonwealth waters.

Since its establishment on 1 January 2005, NOPSA has had structural integrity functions relevant to occupational health and safety for petroleum facilities, including for pipelines, and associated wells.

The amendments introduced in this Bill clarify NOPSA’s role and strengthen their ability to fully carry out their functions in relation to all facilities, wells and well-related equipment - including during the drilling and construction of wells and whether or not wells are associated with a facility.

The augmentation of NOPSA’s functions to include non-OHS aspects of structural integrity is not to extend NOPSA’s responsibilities into environmental management or resource management regulation but to allow NOPSA to more effectively carry out its responsibilities as an occupational health and safety regulator.

This is particularly the case where a structure used in petroleum operations such as a well or a pipeline is on the sea floor and contact between people and the structure is only occasional.

To a large extent, the structural integrity of a pipeline or a well is an OHS matter, as it is central to the safety of operational or maintenance crews whenever they are required to do work on the structure. There will always be some aspects of structural integrity that fall outside this category, however, and it is these that the present amendments seek to address. The amendments will enable NOPSA to take a comprehensive and integrated approach to the integrity of structures, without any question as to the scope of their functional responsibilities.

The Government will work with industry and other stakeholders to determine in regulations which matters relating to the structural integrity of pipelines and wells are also resource security or resource management matters. These will continue to be the responsibility of the Designated Authorities under proposed regulations relating to resource management. There will therefore be an element of overlap between the responsibilities of NOPSA and those of the Designated Authorities, although they will be performing different functions.

The Government is committed to augmenting NOPSA’s powers to ensure that it has sufficient capability to effectively regulate all aspects of occupational health and safety for the offshore petroleum industry and that its role is not limited in the event of any future failure of a well or pipeline. The current amendments will go some way to addressing issues arising from the Montara incident in August 2009; however I also remain committed to the establishment of a single national regulator for the offshore petroleum industry. This initiative will be a key development in the ongoing improvement and streamlining of the national regime for the regulation of petroleum and greenhouse gas activities in Commonwealth waters, and will help avoid regulatory duplication that may compromise the effectiveness of the safety regime.

Other minor policy amendments proposed in this Bill seek to:

  • Provide a streamlined process for the submission of applications, nominations, requests or notices in relation to a title when that title is jointly owned by 2 or more titleholders (known as multiple titleholders);
  • Make clear that when the Act imposes obligations on a titleholder and where a title is owned by multiple holders, while the obligation is imposed on each and every titleholder that the obligation may be discharged by any one of the titleholders; and
  • Correct a technical problem with the authority of responsible State and Northern Territory ministers to participate in the performance of Joint Authority functions, and to perform Designated Authority functions, under the Commonwealth regulations.

On this last matter, existing State and Northern Territory legislation, which corresponds to the Act, provides the Designated Authority (the relevant State or Northern Territory minister) with authority to perform functions and powers under the Act, but this does not include the regulations in force under the Act. This amendment therefore closes the gap, as many important functions and powers of Designated Authorities are conferred by the regulations. For consistency, corresponding amendments have also been made to Joint Authority provisions.

A further small but important amendment clarifies the duties of titleholders under the occupational health and safety provisions of this Act. This amendment narrows the titleholder’s duties in the current clause 13A of Schedule 3 to the Act from facilities generally to wells and well-related equipment, specifically in new clauses 13A and 13B.

As it currently stands the clause can be read as imposing a duty of care on a titleholder in relation to the design of facilities, such as drilling rigs, which the titleholder could not reasonably be expected to have any control over.

Therefore this duty of care has been recast so that it applies to all aspects of wells from design through to operation and closing off. Consequential amendments have been made to allow OHS inspectors to monitor compliance and investigate possible contraventions.

Technical amendments in this Bill include changes to offence provisions that relate to titleholders, where the offence consists only of a physical element. These amendments provide that offences under these provisions are made provisions of strict liability, which removes the need to prove intent.

Given the geographically remote nature of offshore petroleum and greenhouse gas activities it is not possible for regulatory staff to be constantly monitoring titleholder activities, so they are reliant on accurate reporting by titleholders to inform them that directions and requirements in the Act have been complied with.

Where the offences relate to doing or not doing an act, proving the intent of a titleholder is very difficult. In these circumstances making the offences ones of strict liability is justified.

This application of strict liability is consistent with Government policy on the application of strict liability and is to provide a regulatory regime that is effective and enforceable. These amendments do not increase any penalties on titleholders, and in fact in some instances removes imprisonment as a penalty and instead replaces with penalty units.

Further technical amendments in the Bill correct a referencing error and update the listed OHS laws set out in the Act to take into account recent changes to safety regulations.

In summary, through a range of measures including:

  • strengthening the functions of NOPSA;
  • increasing the effectiveness of compliance through the application of strict liability to appropriate offences;
  • clarifying the application of titleholder provisions in the Act in relation to multiple titleholders; and
  • setting out that a titleholder’s duty of care under OHS provisions of the Act relates specifically to wells;

This Bill underscores the Government’s commitment to the maintenance and continuing improvement of a strong, effective framework for the regulation of offshore petroleum and greenhouse gas storage activities.


Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage (Safety Levies) Amendment Bill 2010

This bill amends the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage (Safety Levies) Act 2003 to provide transitional arrangements in relation to the phasing out of the pipeline safety management plan levy.

Amendments in 2009 to this Act and regulations under the Act (which commenced on 1 January 2010) removed provisions referencing pipeline safety management plans and pipeline safety management plan levies. The safety case levy was extended to cover pipelines.

While the Amendment Act provided transitional arrangements, it did so on the basis the states and Northern Territory had agreed to amend their regulations (which correspond to, or mirror, the Commonwealth regulations), in line with Commonwealth amendments, for designated coastal waters. These amendments have not yet occurred in all jurisdictions which means that some safety case levy payments for facilities that are pipelines due to the National Offshore Petroleum Safety Authority may not be collectable by the Safety Authority.

To address this situation, this Bill provides transitional arrangements to give the States and the Northern Territory until the end of 2012 to implement corresponding amendments under their legislation applying in designated coastal waters, and to ensure that appropriate levies for activities in these jurisdictional coastal waters can continue to be collected by the Safety Authority in the intervening period to fund its regulatory activities.

The amendments in this Bill ensure the complete coverage of the safety regime for pipelines in designated coastal waters. It provides that from

1 January 2010, when amendments to the Act and related regulations came into force, until 31 December 2012, a pipeline safety management plan in force is treated, for the purposes of this Act, as if a safety case for the pipeline is in force. These amendments ensure that safety levies relating to pipelines in designated coastal waters can be collected.

The amendments also include transitional amendments to reflect minor changes relating to a safety case in force in relation to a facility in designated coastal waters, understood to be within the meaning of regulations of a State or Northern Territory that have not yet been amended to reflect Commonwealth changes made on 1 January 2010.

Debate (on motion by Senator Sherry) adjourned.