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Wednesday, 29 February 2012
Page: 1267


Senator JACINTA COLLINS (VictoriaParliamentary Secretary for School Education and Workplace Relations) (17:14): 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—

ANTARCTIC TREATY (ENVIRONMENT PROTECTION) AMENDMENT BILL 2011

Antarctica has a unique place in Australia’s national identity. We are tied to Antarctica through our history, our geology and our climate.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the departure of the first Australasian Antarctic Expedition led by Sir Douglas Mawson. Mawson stands alongside other giants of Antarctic discovery, like Scott and Shackleton, for his remarkable endeavours to explore Antarctica and claim a sizeable portion of the continent on behalf of all Australians.

It was Mawson who established Australia’s first scientific research base at Cape Denison in Antarctica. Over the past century, Australia has built on that legacy, establishing a strong reputation for Antarctic science in areas such as climate change, conservation, astronomy and geoscience.

Antarctica’s unique environment offers major opportunities for this scientific research. The continent is recognised as a key indicator of global climate change. Better understanding of Antarctic ecosystems, weather and climate is crucial to environmental protection in the region as well as understanding global climate trends.

Australia has also become a world leader in Antarctic protection. We were one of the 12 original signatories to the 1959 Antarctic Treaty, which enshrines the principle of peaceful use of the Antarctic. Fifty years on, the Antarctic Treaty remains a model for global cooperation.

Australia actively engages in the international governance of the Antarctic. We played a key role in the development of the broader system of international arrangements for the region, known as the Antarctic Treaty system.

Just two decades ago, former Prime Minister Bob Hawke worked with former French Prime Minister Michel Rocard to prevent mining in Antarctica. For the first time, we recognised that the last pristine continent on earth should remain untouched. The opportunity was nearly missed, but the decision changed the world’s way of thinking just in time.

Their efforts led to the Madrid Protocol, which now protects the Antarctic environment, bans mining in Antarctica and designates Antarctica as a natural reserve, devoted to peace and science.

In October this year, I was honoured to join Bob Hawke and Michel Rocard in Hobart to commemorate the 20th anniversary of that Madrid Protocol.

We will continue to build on protections for this unique and special part of the world.

This Antarctic Treaty (Environment Protection) Amendment Bill 2011 will amend the Antarctic Treaty (Environment Protection) Act 1980, which gives effect to our obligations under the Madrid Protocol and the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals.

The Bill will align the Act with Australia’s new obligations in relation to three measures adopted under the Antarctic Treaty and Madrid Protocol, namely:

1. Measure 4 relating to insurance and contingency planning for tourism and non- governmental activities in the Antarctic Treaty area that was adopted in June 2004;

2. Measure 1 relating to liability arising from environmental emergencies that was adopted in June 2005; and

3. Measure 15 relating to the landing of people from passenger vessels in the Antarctic Treaty area that was adopted in April 2009.

These Measures will establish more stringent arrangements to protect human and vessel safety in the Antarctic, and the Antarctic environment.

Key amendments included in the Bill include:

1. providing the ability for the Minister to grant a safety approval, an environmental protection approval, and to impose conditions on such approvals;

2. implementing new offences and civil penalties regarding unapproved activities, activities carried on in contravention of the conditions imposed by an approval, and offences and civil penalties related to environmental emergencies;

3. establishing a liability regime for environmental emergencies that occur in the Antarctic;

4. establishing an Antarctic Environmental Liability Special Account to receive payments from operators for the costs of response action to an environmental emergency caused by their activities in the Antarctic;

5. implementing new offences and civil penalties applicable to tourist vessels operating in the Antarctic;

6. making minor and technical amendments to the Act; and

7. amending the long title of the Act to extend the scope of the legislation;

As Australia prepares to host the 35th Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting in Hobart in June 2012, this Bill marks another chapter in Australia’s history of involvement in Antarctica and maintains our commitments under the Antarctic Treaty and Madrid Protocol.

CUSTOMS AMENDMENT (ANTI-DUMPING IMPROVEMENTS) BILL (NO. 2) 2011

I am pleased to present the Customs Amendment (Anti-dumping Improvements) Bill (No. 2) 2011, representing the second tranche of legislation implementing the Government's reforms to Australia's anti-dumping system.

The package of reforms announced by the Government in June are designed to provide better access to remedies for Australian industry, and to ensure those remedies are available as quickly as possible. They aim to improve the robustness and transparency of anti-dumping decisions and introduce stronger compliance mechanisms.

The elements of the reforms that I am introducing into the House today are focussed on improving the robustness and transparency of anti-dumping decisions.

In particular, I am proposing a new appeals process to replace the existing mechanism, and provide more flexibility in seeking extensions of time during the course of investigations.

This Bill also provides a legislative basis for the International Trade Remedies Forum, which met for the first time in August this year.

These amendments were drafted in close consultation with the Office of International Law within the Attorney General's Department, and the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade, to make sure that they are consistent with Australia's international law obligations.

New Appeals Process

The Bill implements a number of changes to the process for appealing decisions of the Minister or the Chief Executive Officer of Customs and Border Protection.

Presently decisions may be appealed to the Trade Measures Review Officer, who was an employee of the Attorney-General's Department. The Review Officer will be replaced by a 3-member review panel able to take on a greater case work load. Members of the Panel will be appointed by the Minister based on their relevant expertise. Panel members will no longer be an employee of the Attorney General's Department, so will be independent of government.

The Government will make available resources in the form of administrative and research assistance, to support the effective functioning of the Panel.

Presently the Review Officer must accept an application for review, unless the applicant has failed to provide sufficient particulars of the findings to which the review application relates. This has resulted in approximately 80 per cent of Ministerial decisions being appealed to the Trade Measures Review Officer by one of the parties to the proceeding. The Government is proposing a higher threshold for appeal. Now, in order to initiate an appeal, the Panel will need to be satisfied that the applicant has established that the Minister did not make the correct and preferable decision.

Presently there is a perception that International Trade Remedies Branch is conflicted in reinvestigating its own decisions. When the Review Officer reviewed a decision, the officer would recommend a reinvestigation to the Minister who referred it back to the Branch which reinvestigated and made recommendations to the Minister as to whether to overturn or amend the original decision.

To address this, the Panel will now make recommendations directly to the Minister as to whether the original decisions should be affirmed, revoked or substituted. Where reinvestigation of a particular finding is required, the Panel will direct the Branch to reinvestigate that finding, and to report back to the Panel to inform their recommendation to the Minister.

Parties will now be able to appeal the Minister's decision to continue or not continue measures, and also the Minister's decisions to vary or revoke measures (or not) on review.

As part of the appeals process reforms, the Customs Act will be amended to allow for important stakeholder groups, such as downstream industry and trade unions to participate in administrative reviews.

The changes to the appeals system allow for a more robust system which is better able to identify and process meritorious applications for review.

Extension of Time— Investigations

Second, these reforms will allow for more flexible extensions to the timeframes of an investigation, review of measures, continuation inquiry or duty assessment.

Australia's anti-dumping system contains one of the shortest investigation timeframes in the world, at 155 days. At present only one extension to that timeframe can be sought, and it must be prior to the publication of the Statement of Essential Facts at day 110. This can mean that extensions, where required, tend to be for significant periods, to anticipate any possible further need for an extension.

Consistent with a recommendation of the Productivity Commission, the Bill will allow for more flexible extensions of investigation timeframes.

The Minister will still have to approve all extensions of time. Implementation of this proposal will be carefully monitored to ensure it does not result in a blow out of investigation periods, and that extensions are only sought in complex cases, not routinely.

The International Trade Remedies Branch will continue to provide in its annual report a consolidated summary of the timeliness of its investigations in the preceding 12 months.

This proposed change will improve decision making by allowing extensions to accommodate complex cases and to allow for the consideration of critical new information that could not reasonably have been provided earlier.

International Trade Remedies Forum

There is currently no stakeholder body to provide feedback to Government on the operation of the anti-dumping system.

The Government has established the International Trade Remedies Forum to provide strategic advice and feedback on the implementation of the reforms, the ongoing operations of the anti-dumping system as well as reporting to Government on opportunities for further improvements.

The Forum, which met for the first time in August, comprises representatives of manufacturers, producers, and importers, as well as industry associations, trade unions and relevant Government agencies.

The Government is establishing the Forum in legislation to ensure that this valuable dialogue with industry continues into the future.

The Forum will meet a minimum of two times a year.

Concluding remarks

This second tranche of reforms directly respond to stakeholder concerns about enhancing the appeals process, providing adequate time for investigations and ensuring stakeholder consultation going forward.

These amendments will further strengthen the anti-dumping system by enhancing the appeals process to allow for a more streamlined process better able to process meritorious applications, provide greater independence and afford new opportunities for parties to seek review for decisions they disagree with.

The International Trade Remedies Forum will provide a greater opportunity for Australian industries and other stakeholders to play a role in the development and operation of Australia's anti-dumping system.

The changes to extension of time for reviews will allow Customs and Border Protection more flexibility in dealing with complex matters and scope for consideration of new information.

Debate adjourned.

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