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Thursday, 21 June 2012
Page: 4082


Senator FARRELL (South AustraliaParliamentary Secretary for Sustainability and Urban Water) (13:07): I table a revised explanatory memorandum relating to the Passenger Movement Charge Amendment Bill 2012 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—

AUSTRALIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION AMENDMENT (NATIONAL CHILDREN’S COMMISSIONER) BILL 2012

Promoting the rights, wellbeing and development of Australia’s children and young people is a fundamental priority for the Gillard Government.

Children and young people are our future, but they are often also vulnerable. Australia’s future depends on them reaching their full potential.

The Gillard Government wants every child to grow up safe, happy and well.

We want to give kids the best start in life.

Labor came to government with an important agenda for supporting and protecting children. We have been determined to put children’s interests at the centre of policy making, not on the margin.

Across all areas of Government, including family law, education and early childhood, youth health policies and programs and child protection and welfare, we are working to improve the wellbeing, rights and safety of Australia’s children.

In 2009, Labor delivered the first ever National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children.

The National Framework outlines an ambitious, long term national approach to ensuring the safety and well-being of Australian children. It aims to deliver a substantial and sustained reduction in levels of child abuse and neglect.

It includes practical reforms so children at risk are identified and protected, such as improved information sharing between agencies like Centrelink, Medicare and state protection authorities.

Working with the States and Territories, we have developed national standards for out of home care. These national standards seek to drive improvements in the quality of care so that children and young people in out-of-home care have the same opportunities as other children and young people to reach their potential in life no matter where they live in Australia.

Our ongoing commitment to the Family Support Program complements state and territory services through early intervention and prevention support for children and families at risk. It also supports the Government's commitment to putting the safety and wellbeing of children at the heart of the Government's social policy agenda.

And putting the safety and wellbeing of children front and centre is exactly what Labor has done in relation to changes to the Family Law Act that will come into effect on 7 June this year.

These changes will provide better protection for children who are exposed to family violence. This means the Family Law Act will continue to promote a child’s right to a meaningful relationship with both parents, with a stronger emphasise that the child’s safety must come first.

In February 2011, Labor delivered Australia’s first National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children

The National Plan is unprecedented in the way it focuses on preventing violence by raising awareness and building respectful relationships between young people to foster attitudes and behaviours that reject violence against women.

Labor introduced new National Quality Standards for early childhood education and care so that Australian children receive better care and attention and can participate in play based learning activities led by trained early childhood educators.

Labor’s significant reforms and investment in early education are directed at giving all kids the best possible start in life and will give all Australian kids access to 15 hours of early childhood education and care for 40 weeks a year by a university-trained teacher.

We have made unprecedented investments to close the gap and address the unacceptable levels of disadvantage faced by too many Indigenous children.

The Labor Government is committed to working in partnership with Indigenous families to deliver better opportunities for Indigenous children.

Labor is working to support families and children with funding for playgroups, crèches, youth workers and safe houses in communities across Australia. We are also significantly increasing the number of Communities for Children sites which provide services such as early learning and literacy programs, parenting and family support programs and child nutrition advice.

The Government is also providing additional funding for the Home Interaction Program for Parents and Youngsters in this years’ Budget to better prepare disadvantaged Indigenous children for school though a home-based parenting and early childhood program in 100 sites across Australia.

These significant reforms for our most vulnerable children complement the changes we have made to help families with the costs of raising children.

Labor increased the Child Care Rebate in July 2008 from 30 per cent to 50 per cent of out-of-pocket child care expenses up to $7500 a year making it easier for parents to return to work and contribute to the family budget.

We have introduced Australia’s first national Paid Parental Leave scheme because giving new mums the financial security to take time off to bond with their newborns, is giving babies the best start in life.

And in this year’s Budget, we have delivered a new Schoolkids Bonus to help low and middle income families with the costs of school, as well as increases to Family Tax Benefit Part A starting next year.

Labor is proud of this record but we know more can be done.

Children and young people need an independent voice on the national stage.

A National Children’s Commissioner will be a strong and forceful voice for Australia’s children and young people and will play a proactive and positive role in their wellbeing and development.

Our children are our future and if we do not value them, we cannot ever hope to protect them. A National Children’s Commissioner will put their needs front and centre.

And that is why I’m so pleased that the Gillard Labor Government will establish for the first time, a dedicated advocate focused on the human rights of children and young people at a national level.

In this context, I am pleased to introduce the Australian Human Rights Commission Amendment (National Children’s Commissioner) Bill 2012 which will establish the position of National Children’s Commissioner within the Australian Human Rights Commission.

This bill’s basic principle is that every child is a valued member of society.

These amendments will ensure there is an independent, child focused voice to advocate for children and young people at the national level.

A National Children’s Commissioner will raise public awareness of nationally significant issues affecting children and young people through discussion, research and educational programs.

The Commissioner will examine relevant existing and proposed Commonwealth legislation to determine if it adequately recognises and protects children’s rights in Australia and report their findings to Government.

The Commissioner will consult directly with children and their representative organisations which will ensure they can influence the development of policies and programs that affect them at the Commonwealth level.

This will signal to children and young people that we as adults think that they matter - that we value their childhood and that we will listen to their needs and hopes.

Importantly, the National Children’s Commissioner will have a clear focus on vulnerable or at-risk groups of children, such as children with disability, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, homeless children or those who are witnessing or subjected to violence.

The Commissioner will give a voice to those groups of vulnerable children that haven’t had one.

A National Children’s Commissioner will also provide an annual report to Government each year on key issues affecting children’s rights, wellbeing and development that will be tabled in Parliament.

The position will also contribute to meeting Australia’s obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and reinforce our commitment to our international obligations and relationship with the United Nations. It is another example of how Australia is turning commitments made during its Universal Periodic Review at the UN into reality.

The Commissioner will not duplicate the roles of State and Territory Children’s Commissioners but will seek to work with them to identify issues of national importance.

The Commissioner will not have a guardianship role nor will it have a complaint handling role or a role in dealing with individual children, including individual children’s cases in the context of child protection or family law.

However, the Commissioner will have a limited role to seek leave to intervene in court proceedings which raise significant children’s rights issues but this will not extend to representing individual children.

I also take this opportunity to report on a related issue, the Government’s project to consolidate Commonwealth anti-discrimination law, including the Australian Human Rights Commission Act, into a single Act and it is anticipated that draft legislation will be released in 2012.

I can advise that these amendments introduced today have been brought forward, ahead of the consolidation project, to enable the role of National Children’s Commissioner to be established as soon as possible.

The Government calls on other members in this place to support this Bill to ensure a National Children’s Commissioner can be established as soon as possible for the benefit of Australia’s children and young people.

The creation of the National Children’s Commissioner, is an important initiative in the Government’s work to protect our children and young people and promote and protect their human rights.

PASSENGER MOVEMENT CHARGE AMENDMENT BILL 2012

This bill amends the Passenger Movement Charge Act 1978 to increase the rate of the Passenger Movement Charge by $8 to $55 per passenger. This will take effect from 1 July 2012.

The charge will also be indexed annually by movements in the Consumer Price Index from 1 July 2013.

This increase was announced by the Treasurer in the 2012-13 Budget.

The increase will fund the establishment of the Asia Marketing Fund that was also announced in the Budget.

Sixty-one million dollars will be allocated to the Fund which is aimed at supporting the promotion of Australia to growing markets in Asia as a premium holiday and business travel destination.

It is estimated that, in less than a decade, there will be 100 million outbound travellers per annum from China alone. This Fund will help promote Australia as a tourism and business destination in this important market.

The Passenger Movement Charge was increased in 1999, 2001 and 2008. Annual indexation of the charge will ensure the charge maintains pace with inflation.

This is in line with a number of other charges levied by the Commonwealth. It will also provide certainty to the tourism industry about future increases.

The charge is mostly collected by airlines and shipping companies at the same time a ticket is sold and remitted to the Commonwealth. The increase and future CPI increases will only apply to tickets sold on or after 1 July 2012.

Debate adjourned.

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