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Monday, 17 June 2013
Page: 3068


Senator JACINTA COLLINS (VictoriaManager of Government Business in the Senate and Parliamentary Secretary for School Education and Workplace Relations) (18:15): I table six revised explanatory memoranda relating to the bills 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—

ABORIGINAL LAND RIGHTS AND OTHER LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL 2013

The Bill continues the Government's commitment to ensuring Aboriginal people's ongoing connection to their land is recognised, by scheduling further parcels of land as Aboriginal land.

It will benefit traditional owners, residents and business operators in Jabiru and the wider Kakadu region in the Northern Territory.

Importantly, it will also provide traditional owners with significant economic development opportunities.

Amendments relating to Jabiru

The Bill adds the existing Jabiru town land and certain adjacent portions of Northern Territory land to Schedule 1 to the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976. Related amendments are made to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

These amendments arise from the landmark agreement struck in November 2009 to resolve the Jabiru native title claim, which is the longest running native title claim in the history of the Northern Territory.

The intention of this measure is to give effect to the settlement agreement reached between the parties to the native title claim. Importantly, this Bill recognises the traditional ownership of Jabiru by the Mirarr people.

The amendments relating to Jabiru allow for the transfer of ownership of the claimed land from the Director of National Parks to the Kakadu Aboriginal Land Trust, which will hold the land on trust for its traditional owners.

The Jabiru town land and certain adjacent portions of Northern Territory land will be scheduled under the land rights legislation to enable the land to be granted as Aboriginal land to the Kakadu Aboriginal Land Trust.

This Bill also provides that the land will not be granted as Aboriginal land until leaseback arrangements for the Jabiru town land and for the two adjacent non township portions are put in place.

The Mirarr traditional owners have agreed to lease back the Jabiru land immediately, through long-term leases to be granted to the Director of National Parks, the Northern Territory and an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander corporation nominated by the Northern Land Council. The two adjacent portions of land will also be leased to the Director of National Parks.

The land that will be scheduled by this Bill will remain part of Kakadu National Park and the Kakadu World Heritage Area. The Bill provides for the preservation of Kakadu's world heritage and other values in relation to the town. It requires the leases granted to the Northern Territory and the relevant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander corporation to be consistent with the protection of those World Heritage and other natural and cultural values.

The land to be leased to the Director of National Parks will be added to the Director's existing lease of adjacent park lands from the Kakadu Aboriginal Land Trust.

The Bill also makes amendments to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 relating to the proper development of Jabiru into the future in accordance with the leases, the management plan for Kakadu and a town plan approved by the Director of National Parks.

Jabiru has established itself as a thriving township that services Kakadu National Park as a tourist destination as well as the nearby Ranger uranium mine. Business operators in Jabiru have, however, expressed legitimate concerns that, given the expiration of the current headlease in 2021, the future tenure arrangements for Jabiru are unclear. This has resulted in a reluctance to invest in the town.

This Bill will provide for long-term certainty and security of land tenure for Jabiru. Importantly, for current interest-holders in Jabiru, this Bill ensures that existing leases, subleases and other interests will be preserved following transfer of ownership to the Kakadu Aboriginal Land Trust.

This Bill builds on the Government's commitment to hand over land in the Northern Territory to its traditional owners. Since 2007, the Australian Government has handed back 42,225 square kilometres of land under the Land Rights Act, more than 12 times the area of land handed back between 2002 and 2007.

The Government is very pleased to be able to further the resolution of the Jabiru native title claim by introducing this Bill.

Other amendments

The Bill also adds a further parcel of land for Patta to Schedule 1 to the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976. The Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and Other Legislation Amendment (2009 Measures) Act 2010 previously inserted five portions of land, known as Patta in the Northern Territory, into Schedule 1.

This new amendment will enable the further parcel of land to be granted to the relevant Aboriginal Land Trust.

ASBESTOS SAFETY AND ERADICATION AGENCY BILL 2013

Ensuring the health and safety of our citizens is a fundamental role of government—and of this Parliament.

But there is a clear and present danger today to workers, tradespeople and to our domestic and public safety. I speak of asbestos. Asbestos is the worst industrial menace and it will go on killing for decades.

Based on International Labour Organization figures, every five minutes someone around the world dies of an asbestos-related disease.

This bill marks an historic step in Australia becoming the first nation to progress towards the ultimate elimination of asbestos-related diseases. Our aim needs to be to remove this menace once and for all, in tandem with local, state and territory governments, industry, unions and the community. We are working to rid the legacy of 50 years of asbestos use, a substance that was known even then to kill people; miners, workers, tradespeople, even householders.

We lead the world in mesothelioma rates. Today we have the chance to lead by action. The European Parliament has just this month resolved to eradicate asbestos by 2028, calling for the implementation of a coordinated strategy to remove all asbestos.

Australia was one of the highest per capita users of asbestos in the world until the mid-1980s. Approximately one in three of all homes in Australia built between 1945 and 1987 contain asbestos products. Materials containing asbestos were used in a wide range of manufacturing products.

It would surprise many people just how widely used asbestos has been.

There are literally acres and acres of asbestos around our nation, thousands of kilometres of asbestos cement pipes still delivering water, acres of Super Six corrugated roofs, whole factories riddled with asbestos, hospitals and hospital labs, hundreds of schools riddled with asbestos. Crushed masonry containing asbestos fibres is being reintroduced into the community as asbestos-containing product that has the potential to harm current and future generations.

Even though the mining and industrial use of asbestos has all been banned in Australia, asbestos still exists in our workplaces, public buildings and homes.

In 2010, 642 Australians died from mesothelioma. But for every death attributed to mesothelioma, it is estimated two more people will die from lung cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Over the next 20 years, an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 Australians will be diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease.

Until the Gillard government established the Asbestos Management Review in 2010, there was no coordinated or consistent national approach to handling asbestos beyond our workplaces.

The review makes it clear that we must act quickly to prevent further Australians from being exposed to asbestos. We must diminish and prevent a third wave of asbestos deaths, particularly as a result of people exposed to asbestos in their homes.

To do so, the review recommended the development of a new national strategic plan for asbestos eradication, awareness and handling.

The review also recommended that a new asbestos agency be established to have responsibility for coordinating and implementing the national strategic plan.

Stopping exposure to asbestos is the responsibility of all levels of government. While some jurisdictions have taken steps to minimise exposure, this is the first time a national approach to asbestos removal, management and awareness is being pursued. A 'business as usual' approach, the shield of risk assessments and codes has not resulted in a decline in asbestos-related deaths. Whole forests of trees have contributed to documents intended to control asbestos, whilst materials containing asbestos in our workplaces, homes and public buildings are getting older and more fragile.

The establishment of a new agency is an essential part of the Labor Government's commitment to reduce exposure to asbestos.

It will pave the way for a national approach to asbestos eradication, awareness and management in Australia, by taking responsibility for coordinating a national plan for action.

The Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations has already started working with all government counterparts and industry partners to develop the national strategic plan for asbestos awareness, management and eradication. This plan is due by 1 July 2013.

This input will be crucial to make sure the plan is practical and comprehensive in addressing:

the identification of the presence asbestos containing materials (including in commercial and residential properties)

asbestos removal, handling, storage and disposal

asbestos awareness and education; and

ways to achieve a coordinated approach across all levels of government.

In developing the plan, the recommendations and their implementation of the review will be considered.

Today, I introduce a bill which practically demonstrates and cements Labor's commitment to stop exposure to asbestos.

This bill establishes the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency as an independent body. It will be comprised of a Chief Executive Officer, supported by staff, who together will form a statutory agency. The body will be subject to Commonwealth governance regimes and will be a prescribed agency under the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997.

The new agency will provide a focus on issues which go beyond workplace health and safety to encompass environmental and public health issues. It will ensure asbestos issues receive the attention and focus needed to drive change across all levels of government.

The functions of the new agency will include advocating, coordinating, monitoring and reporting on the implementation of the national strategic plan.

It will review and amend the national strategic plan as required by the plan or at the request of the Minister. And it will provide advice to the minister about asbestos safety.

The bill outlines the reporting arrangements for the new agency. It provides that the Minister approve the new agency's annual operational plan to support the implementation of the national strategic plan.

Further, the Minister will be required to table the agency's annual report in Parliament.

To support efforts to improve asbestos health and safety and successful delivery of the national strategic plan, an Asbestos Safety and Eradication Council will be established.

The council will have the functions of providing advice to the agency's CEO, including through written guidelines, and providing advice to the Minister.

The council will consist of a chair, one member representing the Commonwealth and four members representing state, territory and local governments.

There will be four other members appointed by the Minister with knowledge or experience in asbestos safety, public health, financial management or, very importantly, the representation of people with asbestos-related diseases and their families. One of these members will be representing the interests of workers of Australia and one other member will be representing the interests of the employers of Australia.

The bill establishes the operational arrangements to support the agency as well as provisions relating to the nomination, appointment, and terms and conditions of council members, conflict of interest issues, and procedures relating to the conduct of meetings.

And this bill enables the CEO to constitute committees to draw upon a wide range of expertise and experience to assist the agency or the council in the performance of their respective functions.

With the passing of this bill, the Parliament can help prevent exposure to asbestos, so that we can ultimately eliminate the tragedy of asbestos-related disease and death.

There are children not yet born who will die of asbestos related diseases. We owe it to future generations to finally come to grips with the blight of asbestos in Australia.

As we debate this bill let me reinforce that it is an issue for all levels of government to tackle.

It is an issue that has been championed by unions, by individuals and families touched by asbestos related diseases, by asbestos advocacy groups, by the lawyers representing the victims, by health and safety activists and specialists and by some crusading journalists and by many of my colleagues here in the Parliament. To them I say thank you.

Many lives are counting on us.

AUSTRALIAN CITIZENSHIP AMENDMENT (SPECIAL RESIDENCE REQUIREMENTS) BILL 2013

The Australian Citizenship Amendment (Special Residence Requirements) Bill 2013 provides the Minister of Immigration and Citizenship with a power to apply alternative residence requirements to certain applicants for citizenship by conferral. It acknowledges the benefits that these people bring to Australia and provides them with a pathway to citizenship.

In 2009, the Government recognised the special needs of two sets of people who were unable to meet the general residence requirement of ‘four years lawful stay’ in Australia, including the final 12 months before application for citizenship as a permanent resident. These two groups of people were those who need to be an Australian citizen to engage in specified activities of benefit to Australia (section 22A of the Australian Citizenship Act 2007 (the Act)), and those whose work requires them to travel frequently outside of Australia (section 22B of the Act).

As of March 2013, section 22A had been used 14 times and section 22B had been used 84 times since September 2009. It has become apparent, however, that they do not adequately cover the field. The Bill addresses this gap.

Alternative residence requirement

The Bill proposes to give the Minister a personal, non-compellable discretionary power to substitute an alternative residence requirement in both sections 22A and 22B.

In relation to section 22A, the applicant must continue to meet the initial requirements of the section, which are that:

they seek to engage in an activity specified in a legislative instrument;

their engagement in that activity would be of benefit to Australia;

they need to be an Australian citizen in order to engage in that activity;

there is insufficient time for them to satisfy the general residence requirement; and

the head of a specified organisation or a person holding a senior position in that organisation, has given the Minister a notice in writing stating that the applicant has a reasonable prospect of being engaged in that activity.

In relation to section 22B, the applicant must meet the following initial requirements:

they are engaging in a kind of work, specified in the legislative instrument, which requires them to regularly travel outside of Australia;

they have engaged in that work for at least two of the four years immediately prior to application;

they regularly travelled outside of Australia for the whole or part of that four year period prior to application; and

to be eligible for the discretion, the applicant must be engaged in a kind of work of benefit to Australia.

The new discretion provides that the Minister could, in writing, determine that the following alternative requirements apply instead of the usual special residence requirements:

the applicant was present in Australia for at least 180 days during the 2 years prior to application;

the applicant was a permanent resident throughout the 90 days immediately prior to application; and

the applicant was not present in Australia as an unlawful citizen at any time during 180 days immediately prior to application.

In common with all of the other residence requirements in the Citizenship Act, the Bill provides that a person cannot satisfy the alternative residence requirement if, at any time during the 2 years prior to application, the person was imprisoned or confined to a psychiatric institution by order of a court in connection with proceedings for an offence against Australian law. The Bill, however, maintains the Minister’s discretion to decide that this restriction does not apply if it would be unreasonable in the circumstances of the applicant.

In order to reinforce the importance of presence in Australia as a way of understanding the Australian way of life and the commitment made through the citizenship Pledge, the applicant must give the Minister an undertaking in writing that, if they acquire citizenship through the exercise of the special power:

they will be ordinarily resident in Australia throughout the two years following acquisition of citizenship;

they will be physically present in Australia for at least 180 days during that two year period; and

they understand that their citizenship can be revoked by the Minister if they do not comply with this undertaking.

The ‘ordinarily resident’ criteria ensures that those who obtain citizenship in these special circumstances genuinely have their home or permanent abode in Australia, and that absences from Australia are only temporary in nature. For example, a defence scientist who spends extended periods of time outside Australia for the purpose of their work, but who spends at least 180 days in the two year period after acquiring citizenship in Australia and whose home base is here, will generally be assessed as ordinarily resident in Australia. However, a defence scientist whose home base is in a foreign country, and who is in Australia for less than 180 days, would not be fulfilling their commitment to Australia and would not be considered to be ordinarily resident in Australia.

This commitment is not unduly restrictive; it requires the new citizen to spend approximately one quarter of their time physically present in Australia. This allows sufficient flexibility for new citizens, such as elite athletes and professionals, to spend time abroad and still maintain their citizenship.

Procedural requirements

To reinforce what a great privilege is being extended to an applicant through the alternative residence requirements, the Minister’s power cannot be delegated nor can the Minister be compelled to use this power, whether or not somebody has requested it.

To ensure transparency, the Bill provides that if the Minister exercises the power to apply the alternative residence requirements in favour of an applicant, and the applicant becomes an Australian citizen as a result, the Minister must table in each House of Parliament a statement that the Minister has exercised the power and sets out the reasons for so doing, including why the Minister considers that the engagement in that activity or kind of work by the person would be of benefit to Australia. To protect the privacy of the applicant, that statement is not to include the name of the applicant.

Revocation

Australian citizenship is not to be taken lightly. If, therefore, a person acquires citizenship through the Minister’s use of the new discretion, they must comply with their undertaking to be resident in Australia for the specified period of time after acquiring citizenship. If they do not honour this commitment, the Bill provides that the Minister can personally revoke their citizenship. The Minister can also require the person to surrender any certificate of Australian citizenship which they have in their possession.

If the person is a responsible parent of a child aged under 18 at the time, the Bill also provides that the Minister can revoke the child's citizenship. However, this cannot be done if the child has another responsible parent who is an Australian citizen or that responsible parent who was an Australian citizen has died.

In order to honour Australia's commitments under the 1954 and 1961 United Nations Conventions on Statelessness, the Bill provides that the Minister must not revoke the citizenship of either the main applicant or their child if such revocation would render the person stateless.

Other eligibility requirements for citizenship

The Minister must be satisfied that the applicant meets the other requirements in subsections 21(2), (3) or (4) of the Act. Those subsections cover such matters as their age and the requirement that the applicant be of good character. Applicants meeting the alternative residence requirement must also pass the citizenship test.

Review of decisions

The Bill provides that the Administrative Appeals Tribunal cannot review a personal decision of the Minister in relation to whether the alternative residence requirements apply, nor can it make such a decision on its own account. Such powers would be inappropriate because the Minister alone can exercise the discretion as to whether those alternative residence requirements have been met, as well as the other relevant requirements including those relating to the character and identity of the applicant.

These decisions will be subject to judicial review, and to parliamentary scrutiny due to the tabling requirements where the power has been exercised.

Legislative instrument

A Legislative Instrument under section 22C of the Act specifies the activities which are of benefit to Australia covered by section 22A, and the kinds of work covered by section 22B. I have signed a new Legislative Instrument which extends the coverage of these provisions. The new Instrument will come into effect the day after it is registered.

Because the provisions in section 22A are limited to those who need Australian citizenship to carry out their activities, the relevant list is limited to those who require a high-level security clearance to work with the Commonwealth and elite athletes in a range of sporting competitions. The new Instrument will include international cricket competition as a specified activity and adds Cricket Australia to the list of organisations who may support an application.

The Gillard Government recognises that certain other people make a great contribution to Australia, even if they do not require citizenship to do so. We wish to assist them with the difficulties they face in becoming eligible for citizenship due to their work-related travel. Therefore, the new Instrument extends the category of people covered by section 22B, to include:

Scientists employed by an Australian university and undertaking research and development of benefit to Australia, or employed by CSIRO or a medical research institute;

Medical specialists, internationally renowned in their field, who are fellows of a listed Australian Medical College;

Writers or persons engaged in the visual or performing arts who are holders of, or have held, a Distinguished Talent Visa; and

Chief Executive Officers and Executive Managers of an S&P/ASX All Australian 200 listed company.

The decision to include a category of persons within the Legislative Instrument is an important one and should not be taken lightly but the Government should be open to broadening its scope if there is a legitimate reason to do so.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the proposed amendments would give the Minister a discretion to provide a pathway to citizenship to a very small number of people in very exceptional circumstances, where their becoming a citizen would be of benefit to Australia. Australia should be proud to call these people their own

I commend this Bill to the chamber.

AUSTRALIAN EDUCATION BILL 2012

The Australian Education Bill 2012 provides a historic opportunity to enshrine in legislation key principles and national goals to guide education reform and to build an education system that provides students with the knowledge, skills and abilities they need for the 21st Century.

The Bill is a vital part of the Australian Government's reform plans and continues the reform direction that began with the Review of School Funding (the Gonski Review), which was the first significant review of school funding in over forty years.

This Bill is about meeting the commitment to improve funding for schools and lifting student and school performance through the National Plan for School Improvement. But why is the government implementing the National Plan for School Improvement outlined in this Bill?

The Government has developed the National Plan for School Improvement in response to the recommendations from the Review of School Funding. The National Plan for School Improvement will enable schools to access the resources they need to get better results for the children they teach.

The independent Review of Funding for Schooling, led by the eminent Australian businessman David Gonski, found existing school funding arrangements were not meeting the education needs of all Australian children. Many schools, particularly those with disadvantaged students were missing out on necessary resources and falling behind.

Australia's outcomes in international testing have not kept pace over the last decade relative to other countries. One in twelve students is not meeting national minimum standards in reading, writing and numeracy.

There is also a persistent and significant gap between our highest and lowest performing students—and low performing students are disproportionately from disadvantaged backgrounds. The Government is determined to change this, providing additional resources to support these children.

To compete in the Asian century Australia needs a highly skilled and innovative workforce—and this begins with a high performing school system.

That is why the Government has announced the biggest overhaul of school funding in almost 40 years, and is implementing the education reforms needed to improve results. And that is why this Government has a National Plan for School Improvement, to deliver not only funding, but to link that funding to a plan to deliver improved outcomes.

Australia will now have a better and fairer way of funding our schools, together with new education reforms to lift student achievement.

Central to this Bill is the implementation of a needs-based funding model, which was a key recommendation of the Gonski Review. This Bill delivers a new funding standard for all schools, based on what it costs to educate a student at schools that were shown to be achieving strong results. This is the basis of the new funding arrangements to be delivered through this Bill.

This Bill will implement a truly needs based funding model, for all schools, government and non-government. It allocates funding so that the students and schools with greater need get more resources and it will provide a sustainable funding model for the provision of education into the future.

The Government is providing more than $9 billion additional funding over six years for the new needs-based school funding arrangements. This funding will fundamentally change the way resources are provided — better linking funding to each student's needs. On top of this historic investment will be additional funding to ensure the smooth implementation of the reforms.

Under this new approach, funding for schools will be based on a Schooling Resource Standard (SRS), across all sectors. This gives effect to the core recommendation of the Schools Funding Review.

The Schooling Resource Standard has two core components: a base amount per student and additional funding through loadings based on educational disadvantage.

In 2014, the first year of this new approach, the 'per student' amounts will be $9,271 for primary school students and $12,193 for high school students. In addition to this base amount, extra funding through six loadings will help meet the needs of disadvantaged schools and students.

There is a loading for every student in the bottom half of socio-economic backgrounds. There is an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander loading for every Indigenous student in the country. There is a size loading to help meet the extra costs associated with providing a high quality education in a small school. A location loading will help meet the extra costs of providing a high quality education in regional and remote areas. There is also a loading for students with low English proficiency. There will be a loading for students with disability, once national data on these students is available. Until then schools will receive and interim loading for each student with disability in 2014 as prescribed in regulations, with further work to inform a more detailed loading from 2015.

Under this Bill, as is currently the case, all government schools will be fully publicly funded. Non-government schools will receive a proportion of the per student amount, based on the schools' capacity to raise private contributions as is currently the case. All loadings to the base funding will be fully publicly funded for all schools - government and non-government.

These new school funding arrangements delivered through this Bill are a better deal for schools.

It means schools no longer have to rely on short-term programs like National Partnerships, or one-off injections of funding. The funding that is currently available for disadvantage will be permanently locked in. It means that schools will know every year that they will get increased funding and be able to invest in the programs and strategies that will help every student.

This Bill also reflects that this new funding approach will be phased in over the next six years, with additional funding starting to flow from next year, 2014. This transition phase provides schools and school systems the time to prepare and adjust. It ensures that the funding increases are sustainable and so can be guaranteed for the next six years.

Under the new arrangements (or the National Plan for School Improvement), in 2014 the funding on offer will ensure every school in Australia can receive at least the current funding they are receiving this year, plus indexation to cover actual increases in costs. Under this approach additional funding is prioritised for those schools that need extra resources the most, while ensuring that schools already at or above the SRS continue to see fair funding growth each year.

At the moment, some schools in Australia are currently funded above the Schooling Resource Standard - funding for these schools would be based on their 2013 funding levels plus 3 per cent indexation.

This approach means that no school will be worse off in real terms - as the current level of indexation is expected to be around 3 per cent next year. This way funding will continue to rise every year to keep up with the increase in costs, while these schools transition to the new funding arrangements over time.

The majority of schools are currently below the level determined by the Schooling Resource Standard. These are the schools that need extra support the most. These schools will receive an increasing proportion of the gap between their current funding levels and amount determined by the Schooling Resource Standard. For some schools this will mean annual funding increases of at least 3 per cent, but for the majority it will be much higher than this.

This is the fairest way to implement the new system and distribute the extra funding according to the needs of students.

States and territories are required to commit to this additional investment to help schools and systems reach the national resourcing benchmark over time.

In April, the Prime Minister put $9.4 billion over six years on offer, committing 65 per cent of the $14.5 billion additional investment required to lift schools to at least 95 per cent of their Schooling Resource Standard by 2019. On top of this, we have committed to lock in Commonwealth indexation at 4.7 per cent at a time when the current approach to indexation has been falling and is predicted to go even lower. If states and territories sign up, this extra funding will see the Commonwealth government invest an estimated $104.3 billion in schools over the next six years.

But this Bill is not just about delivering more funding in a fairer more consistent and sustainable way.

This Bill also underpins the implementation of the most ambitious reform program in Australia's history, through linking funding to school improvement, to improve the educational outcomes of students across five key areas that the evidence tells us are critical to improving student outcome - quality teaching; quality learning; meeting student need; empowered school leadership; transparency and accountability.

Greater flexibility in funding for schools will not mean less accountability. Under the National Plan for School Improvement, each State, system and school will have its own plan for how it will implement the reforms through school improvement plans.

What this will mean for schools will vary from school to school, depending on the needs of the students.

Schools will be able to decide what they need to do for their students, but it could include new or better ways of teaching - like working with literacy and numeracy specialists or more focus on tracking how kids are going every day and putting in intensive effort where it's needed. Or schools could implement more specialist programs that benefit students, like reading or maths recovery or extension activities for kids with special talents.

Schools could choose to employ more teachers, teacher aides, specialist support staff (like guidance counsellors, librarians, science laboratory technicians and language specialists) that can deliver a huge range of curriculum, learning and support programs. Schools can also focus investment in training, mentoring and release time for teachers, including to better plan and prepare classes under the new curriculum or extend their professional development.

New or expanded programs could be implemented that support and enrich learning and make the schools great places to be and learn, such as music, sport, drama or even growing vegetable gardens to teach kids about healthy nutrition.

The new accountability and transparency reforms in the National Plan for School Improvement will also build on My School to provide an unprecedented level of information to parents, schools and the broader community, allowing us all to track student outcomes and school performance.

School improvement will also be informed by enhanced national data collections, analysis and research capability. The implementation of the National Plan for School Improvement will be supported through funding of $64.7 million over five years to agencies including the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, and Education Services Australia.

The National Plan for School Improvement will help every student and help every school. And it will help to take Australian schools into the top 5 in the world by 2025.

The National Plan for School Improvement will mean ALL schools will have the resources they need to give all students the chance to reach their full potential.

This government has listened - to the Schools Funding Review, and to education experts and organisations, to schools, parents, community groups and business, across the country, and in every state and territory.

It is now time to focus on what is most important in education, and that is to support passage of this Bill to provide the best possible start and opportunities in life for all Australian students.

This Bill recognises that every child is entitled to a base level of public funding towards their education. If Australia as a nation is going to continue to prosper there needs to be a genuine investment in education.

This government is fully committed to achieving high quality and highly equitable schooling for all Australian students regardless of the school that they attend. This government is committed to providing additional support to those students and schools that need it. This government will continue to place a high priority on school education and to provide record funding to all Australian schools and school children.

If the National Plan for School Improvement does not proceed, every school, in every state and territory and in every sector, will be worse off.

If the current broken school funding model continues, federal school funding will go backwards by a staggering $16.2 billion over the next six years. This is because of falling indexation and the Opposition's refusal to guarantee that the extra investment provided for schools in this year's Budget will be delivered.

As the National Plan for School Improvement is implemented, Australian schools will benefit from more than $15 billion in extra funding over the next six years, as well as higher teaching standards, a stronger focus on early years literacy, and more information for parents and the community.

When it comes to the future of the nation's schools, the choice is clear.

Under the National Plan for School Improvement being implemented through this Bill, Australian schools will be properly funded under a new and fairer funding system, based on the needs of every student in every classroom. There will be higher standards and better results.

CONSTITUTION ALTERATION (LOCAL GOVERNMENT) 2013

The Constitution Alteration (Local Government) 2013 is a bill to amend section 96 of the Australian Constitution to make specific provision in relation to the granting of financial assistance to local government bodies.

It will make a small but important change to the Constitution to reflect the modern structure of government in Australia.

Our Constitution has served Australia well for over 100 years. But many people would be unaware that the role of local government is not specifically referred to in the document - even though most Australians have daily contact with the services provided by their local council, through childcare, sporting fields, swimming pools, libraries, local roads and more.

When our Constitution was drafted, Australia was a very different place. Keeping streets clear of rubbish and the roads well-graded for horses and carriages were a local council’s main responsibilities.

In 2013, local councils provide an enormous range of services. There are childcare and employment services, aged-care hostels, disability programs, arts festivals and galleries, business incentive schemes, tourist centres - the list goes on and on.

Many of these council services are provided in partnership with the Federal Government, which has been common practice for a long time.

In just the last five years, the Commonwealth has partnered with local government to deliver over 6,000 community projects such as libraries, indoor and outdoor sporting facilities, pools, walking trails, roads and bridges, in every single community.

This is in addition to the repair and upgrade work that has taken place on many thousands of roads across the country under the Roads to Recovery program.

In this Constitution Alteration bill, we are proposing a modest and common sense change to our Constitution to reflect this modern reality.

This is about saying ‘yes’ to important community benefits from the partnership between Federal and local spheres of government.

The change will not diminish the role of the States with regard to the administration of local government. Recognition in the Constitution does not alter the fact that local governments are created by and are accountable to State Governments.

The modest change we are putting forward to the Australian people is based on advice that the Government has received from the Expert Panel, led by the Honourable James Spigelman AC QC, and subsequently endorsed by a Parliamentary Joint Select Committee chaired by the Member for Greenway, and former Deputy Mayor of Blacktown City Council, Michelle Rowland.

Local government would be recognised in the Constitution by inclusion of an express statement that the Commonwealth can grant financial assistance to local government. This would include assistance for community and other services.

Through this proposed alteration, the Government and this Parliament will ask the Australian people to support a change to our Constitution so that the existing practice of Federal Government support for local communities is formally recognised in our Constitution.

The constitutional amendment mechanism established by section 128 of the Constitution requires majority support nationally, and majority support in a majority of States. States and Territories have been consulted on the wording of the draft bill and explanatory memorandum, as has the Federal Opposition. The explanatory memorandum addresses in detail the issues that have been raised through this process, including some elaboration of points in the draft released publicly on 16 May 2013.

In their authoritative commentary on the newly enacted Australian Constitution in 1901, John Quick and Robert Garran were alive to the constitutional balance that needs to be struck between stability and development.

They observed that a constitution should not be lightly or inconsiderately altered. However, they also recognised that a constitution which does not contain “provision for its amendment with the development, growth, and expansion of the community which it is intended to govern, would be a most inadequate and imperfect deed of partnership”.

From this statement, it seems clear that Quick and Garran would be surprised that Australian Constitution has only been amended 8 times in the intervening 112 years.

To remain relevant, the Constitution must be a living document that reflects the realities of modern Australia.

The Australian Constitution, and our system of federal relations, has supported one of the world’s most stable, prosperous and long-standing democracies.

But the fact we have a durable system is not a reason to stop considering reasonable, sensible reform. Local governments play an increasingly important role in Australian government relations and our daily lives. The fact they receive no constitutional mention, and that there is no express provision for local government bodies to receive financial assistance directly from the Commonwealth, is increasingly difficult to reconcile with the very document guiding government scope and powers.

The Government recognises that proposals to recognise local government as a third sphere of government in the Constitution have twice been rejected at a referendum, in 1974 and 1988.

The Constitution Alteration (Local Government Bodies) 1974 sought to give the Commonwealth Parliament powers to borrow money for, and to make financial assistance grants directly to, any local government. The Constitution Alteration (Local Government) 1988 sought to give constitutional recognition to the institution of local government. However, the current proposal is different in important respects from those which preceded it.

In August 2011 the Australian Government appointed an Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Local Government to identify options for the constitutional recognition of local government. The Expert Panel was chaired by the former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of NSW, the Honourable James Spigelman AC QC.

In December 2011 the Expert Panel presented its final report to the Australian Government. A majority of Panel members concluded that financial recognition by amendment of section 96 of the Constitution was a viable option within the 2013 timeframe indicated by the Panel’s terms of reference.

On 1 November 2012 the Commonwealth Parliament established a Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Recognition of Local Government, chaired by the Member for Greenway, to inquire into and report on the majority finding of the Expert Panel. The Joint Select Committee presented a preliminary report on 24 January 2013 and a final report on 7 March 2013. In both reports the Committee recommended, consistent with the findings of the Expert Panel, that a referendum on financial recognition of local government be held at the 2013 federal election.

This follows the Government’s commitment to hold a referendum on constitutional recognition of local government in the 43rd Parliament.

The proposed constitutional alteration would amend section 96 of the Australian Constitution to make specific provision in relation to the granting of financial assistance to local government bodies. It involves changes to the existing wording of the heading and of the section itself. It would add four words to the heading and thirteen to the section.

Clause 1 of the bill states that the proposed law to alter the Constitution may be cited as the Constitution Alteration (Local Government) 2013.

Clause 2 states that the alteration would come into force on the date the Act receives the Royal Assent.

Clause 3 would alter the Constitution in accordance with Schedule 1.

Item 1 of Schedule 1 would alter the heading to section 96 of the Constitution by including at the end the words ‘and local government bodies’.

Item 2 would alter section 96 by inserting, after ‘to any State’, the text set out in the Schedule. As amended, section 96 would state that the Parliament may grant financial assistance to any State, or local government body formed by a law of a State, on such terms and conditions as the Parliament thinks fit.

As the alteration of section 96 would specifically state that the Commonwealth may grant financial assistance to local government bodies formed by a law of a State, the Commonwealth would no longer need to rely on other sources of power for that purpose.

The amendment would not enable the Commonwealth to interfere with the creation or regulation of local government bodies by the States. It would form part of an existing provision - section 96. Section 96 does not involve any grant of power to the Commonwealth beyond the ability to provide financial assistance on terms and conditions. The financial assistance must be optional. Recipients have the option of rejecting the proposed financial assistance and the terms and conditions.

The alteration has been designed specifically to avoid any suggestion that it might permit interference by the Commonwealth with the creation or regulation of local government bodies by States. It has also been designed specifically to avoid any suggestion that the Commonwealth could compel local government bodies to accept funding, or terms and conditions.

The Commonwealth could not provide financial assistance on terms or conditions that local government bodies could not meet under State law. This reflects the way in which section 96 grants to the States currently operate. Currently, financial assistance cannot be provided to States on terms and conditions which they can not meet.

Further, States would not be prevented from changing their systems of local government should they wish to do so. States could change their systems of local government to prevent expenditure by local government bodies, or other activities, in particular areas.

No reference to bodies formed by a law of a Territory has been included. Such a reference is unnecessary because grants of financial assistance to the Territories and bodies formed by Territory laws may be made under section 122 of the Constitution, a provision which the Expert Panel was not called on to consider.

This bill is part of a truly democratic process. It will give the people of Australia the opportunity to decide whether 17 words should be added to the Constitution. These 17 words will recognise the modern reality that the Commonwealth grants financial assistance to local government for a variety of important community and other services.

CORPORATIONS AMENDMENT (SIMPLE CORPORATE BONDS AND OTHER MEASURES) 2013

The establishment of a deep and liquid retail corporate bond market in Australia is a key priority for the Gillard Government. A well performing and efficient retail corporate bond market will provide an alternative funding source for Australian companies and increase competitive pressure on lending rates to businesses.

The bond market is a significant source of funds for many Australian financial and non-financial corporations. Correspondingly, this financing activity provides investment opportunities for both Australians and non-residents.1

The Johnson Report, Australia as a Financial Centre: building on our strengths, examined the lack of liquidity and diversity in Australia's corporate bond market. It also discussed why this lack of liquidity was a significant weakness in the overall assessment of Australia's financial system. At the retail level, it was considered that one action the Government could take to overcome this weakness was to introduce regulatory changes that could assist with developing the market.

The Bill that is before the Senate today seeks to reduce the regulatory burden on issuers of corporate bonds, while at the same time ensuring that appropriate standards of consumer protection are maintained.

This Bill follows the passage of the Government's legislation to facilitate retail trading in Commonwealth Securities (CGS) late last year. Having an active retail CGS is an important step in establishing a wider retail corporate bonds market by providing a visible pricing benchmark for retail investors in corporate bonds.

Schedule 1 to the Bill, delivers on the Government's commitment to reduce regulatory burdens and barriers for offers of corporate bonds to retail investors.

The measures in Schedule 1 enable companies to offer simple corporate bonds by releasing a shorter offer-specific prospectus as long as they have lodged a base prospectus with ASIC for the purpose of making an offer under the new 2-part simple corporate bond prospectus regime.

Schedule 1 of the Bill removes the civil liability that applies to directors and proposed directors for the offer of simple corporate bonds and provides clarification around the due diligence defence in respect to directors' criminal liability in offering corporate bonds.

Schedule 1 to the Bill also contains amendments to the Corporations Act to enable parallel trading of simple corporate bonds in the wholesale and retail markets.

The measures in Schedule 1 are another major initiative that the Government has delivered on in its long term commitment to encourage the development of a deep and liquid bond market in Australia. The measures provide companies with another source of fundraising and signal that it is their time to contribute to the development of Australia's corporate bond market.

The other measures in the Bill, contained in Schedule 2, amend the Corporations Act 2001 to define in the law terms 'financial planner' and 'financial adviser'. These amendments make it an offence for anyone to call themselves a financial planner or financial adviser, unless they are appropriately authorised under the Australian financial services licensing regime.

The amendments contained in Schedule 2 follow the passage of the Future of Financial Advice (FOFA) legislation last year. Key elements of the FOFA reforms include the imposition of a statutory best interests duty on financial advisers, two-yearly opt-in arrangements and annual fee disclosure statements, and a ban on the receipt of conflicted remuneration arrangements, including commissions.

The Government is committed to increasing investor protection and improving consumer confidence in the financial advice industry. This will provide the financial advice industry with a strong foundation for growth, as well as empowering Australians to obtain good quality advice about managing their wealth. The Government has delivered on its commitment through the FOFA reforms, and continues to deliver on its commitment with the Bill before the Senate today.

On 22 March 2012, the Government announced that it intended to introduce legislation enshrining the terms 'financial adviser' and 'financial planner' in law by 1 July 2013. These amendments deliver on the Government's commitment. Schedule 2 to the Bill will commence on 1 July 2013 (or after the Royal Assent, if that occurs later), concurrently with the FOFA reforms.

By legislatively defining the terms 'financial planner' and 'financial adviser', the amendments enable consumers to be able to easily identify genuine financial product advice providers. By preventing anyone who is not a qualified financial planner or financial adviser from telling consumers that they are, the amendments make it easier for consumers to know who to trust with their financial affairs. The measures contained in Schedule 2 of the Bill strengthen protections for consumers.

Importantly, the amendments will help protect consumers from unlicensed persons such as 'property spruikers' who hold themselves out to be genuine providers of financial advice when they are not.

The amendments will ensure that the regulation of financial advisers and planners is consistent with other professions such as stockbrokers, where similar restrictions already exist.

Schedule 2 to the Bill makes it an offence for a person to hold themselves out to be a financial planner or a financial adviser unless they are authorised to provide financial product advice under the Australian financial services licence (AFSL) regime. Schedule 2 also makes it an offence to use terms of similar importance, so that unlicensed persons will not be able to get around the legislation by using similar terms.

Schedule 2 also allows the Government to make regulations prescribing other terms that a person must have an AFSL to use. This means that if individuals or companies start using particular terms to mislead consumers, the Government will be able to respond quickly by restricting the use of these terms.

People acting in breach of these requirements face penalties of up to 10 penalty units for individuals for every day the contravention occurs, and 50 penalty units per day for corporations.

The measures in Schedule 2 have been developed in consultation with the financial services industry. Key industry bodies are supportive of the amendments. For example, the Financial Planning Association of Australia is of the view that the amendments "will provide greater consumer certainty and protection and further enable the transition of financial planning into a universally respected profession". The Association of Financial Advisers has said that they believe that this legislation "is good for financial advisers and also for the consumers who rely on financial advice", because "consumers deserve to have clarity with respect to who they are seeking advice from".

There are separate, though related, amendments that are being made to the Tax Agent Services Act 2009.

In summary, the amendments contained in Schedule 2 will improve consumer trust and confidence in the financial advice industry. Australian consumers are entitled to be able to easily distinguish between genuine, authorised providers of financial product advice and unlicensed persons such as 'property spruikers' who do not have their clients' best interests at heart. The measures contained in Schedule 2 of the Bill empower consumers to make that distinction.

I commend the Bill to the Senate.

______________

1 Black, Kirkwood, Rai and Williams, "A History of Australian Corporate Bonds", RBA Discussion Paper, December 2012

 

CORPORATIONS AND FINANCIAL SECTOR LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL 2013

Today I am introducing a bill to amend a range of legislation including the Corporations Act 2001, the Payment Systems and Netting Act 1998, the Mutual Assistance in Business Regulation Act 1992, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission Act 2001, the Reserve Bank Act 1959, the Clean Energy Regulator Act 2011 and the Carbon Credits (Carbon Farming Initiative) Act 2011.

This bill contains a range of important measures relating to the regulation of financial markets and products, which will complement the existing legislative framework to implement our core G-20 commitments in relation to over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives reforms.

One key measure is intended to assist clearing facilities in managing defaults and insolvencies by their participants.

Clearing facilities are critical elements in the financial system, which manage the risks involved after two parties agree to a transaction, for example on a financial market such as the ASX or increasingly also for bilateral transactions for important products such as OTC derivatives.

The key risk addressed by clearing facilities is that one of the parties to the transaction subsequently defaults and fails to deliver on its obligations. Clearing facilities eliminate this risk and guarantee the performance of the underlying transaction by acting as a matching seller to the original buyer and a matching buyer to the original seller.

It is critical that clearing facilities have adequate means to manage the risk of a default by a party to one or more of the transactions they are clearing.

The effect of the bill in this area would be to facilitate, in the case of a default of one of the participants in the clearing facility, the transfer of the obligations of that participant with respect to outstanding transactions to another participant.

The transactions would then be completed as if no default had occurred.

The bill makes amendments to the Payment Systems and Netting Act to provide legal certainty that such transfers of outstanding obligations can occur. Legal certainty is a vital element in facilitating such transfers, because they will generally be required in crisis situations when rapid action is called for. In particular, the bill provides special protections to such transfers if a clearing participant becomes insolvent and comes under the control of an external administrator. Without the amendments in the bill insolvency law would allow an external administrator to intervene and stop or unwind such transfers.

These measures are necessary to guarantee the stability of the financial system by providing important protections to clearing facilities as one of the key elements in that system.

A second measure in the bill allows the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) and the Reserve Bank to better manage their resources in assessing the compliance of market licensees and clearing and settlement licensees with their legal obligations. They are currently required to conduct formal assessments of each licensee every year, which may not be a prudent use of scarce resources. For example, ASIC is currently obliged every year to formally assess well-run, specialised markets catering mainly to professional investors. The bill will provide discretion to ASIC and the RBA in determining the timing of these assessments, which will allow them to better use their resources by focusing for example on large markets serving retail investors.

While the Government agrees that providing this relief to the regulators makes sense, we want to make sure that important markets used by large numbers of retail investors, for example the ASX and its clearing houses, continue to be subject to regular assessment.

ASIC has accordingly committed to continuing annual assessments of key retail-facing markets such as the ASX. In addition, the amendments include a power for the Government to prescribe by regulation any markets and clearing facilities which are to be subject to continuing annual assessments. Treasury will as a next step examine options for using the regulation-making power to ensure that retail investors continue to be adequately protected.

Financial regulators such as ASIC, APRA and the Reserve Bank are under increasing obligation to share information with other regulators and official bodies, in Australia or overseas, and with private entities. This is mainly due to the increasing complexity and globalisation of our financial markets.

All the financial regulators therefore have provisions in their governing legislation allowing them to share protected information. These powers are subject to a range of safeguards, including that they can only be used for purposes related to their official duties or that they can only be exercised when properly authorised by designated officers.

The powers of the Reserve Bank in this area have for historical reasons been weaker than those given to ASIC and APRA. However, the Bank's current powers are inadequate for its increasingly important role in promoting the stability of financial markets, including its role in regulating clearing facilities, and the cooperative international approach that this requires. The bill more closely aligns the Bank's powers to share information with those of the other regulators.

ASIC is currently unable to exchange information with certain multijurisdictional regulators such as the European Securities Markets Authority due to the way in which the legislation is worded. The bill makes the changes necessary to allow this to happen. While this is a minor drafting change, it is important for our financial sector. For example, Australian managed investment schemes may face difficulties in marketing their products in Europe if it is not made.

ASIC is given considerable information-gathering powers in the legislation. While these powers are necessary for ASIC to do its job, it is appropriate that there should be some transparency with respect to ASIC's use of these powers. The bill therefore requires ASIC to report annually on its use of these powers; and provides the Minister with a power to specify by regulations the information required to be reported.

Finally, minor amendments are made in the bill to legislation which is the responsibility of the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency. The changes allow the Clean Energy Regulator to share certain protected information with trade repositories, which are a special type of facility that centralise information in relation to OTC derivatives trading.

MINCO APPROVAL

The Ministerial Council for Corporations has been consulted on the amendments to the Corporations Act and has approved the changes to the ASIC Act contained in this bill.

SUMMING UP

This bill delivers a number of important measures to improve the functioning of our financial system.

While many of the amendments in the bill may seem highly technical in nature they have a very real impact on the work of our financial markets and our regulators. Passage of the bill will provide crucial protections to clearing facilities which are critical parts of the financial system. ASIC and the RBA will be able to better focus their resources in supervising those licensed markets as well as clearing and settlement facilities which pose the highest risks to our system or to retail investors. The bill will provide appropriate powers to our regulators allowing them to cooperate as required with other regulators and official bodies. This in turn will facilitate the business activities of our financial industry in overseas markets.

These important reforms are part of the Gillard Government's broad agenda to promote Australia as a leading financial services hub and boost our reputation as one of the most attractive investment destinations in the world.

 

DEFENCE LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (WOOMERA PROHIBITED AREA) BILL 2013

The Defence Legislation Amendment (Woomera Prohibited Area) Bill 2013 gives effect to the recommendations of the Hawke Review of the Woomera Prohibited Area.

The Woomera Prohibited Area is Australia's most important military testing range. It is used for the testing of war materiel under the control of the Royal Australian Air Force. It covers 127,000 square kilometres in South Australia, approximately 450 kilometres North North West of Adelaide. It is the largest land range in the world, with a centre line of over 600 kilometres, comparable in size to England.

At the same time, the Woomera Prohibited Area overlaps a major part of South Australia's potential for significant minerals and energy resources, including 30 percent of the Gawler Craton, one of the world's major mineral domains, and the Arckaringa, Officer and Eromanga Basins for hydrocarbons and coal. Olympic Dam is adjacent to the Woomera Prohibited Area and is part of the same geological formations.

The South Australian Government has assessed that over the next decade about $35 billion worth of iron ore, gold and other minerals resources are potentially exploitable from within the Woomera Prohibited Area.

On 17 May 2010 the then Minister for Defence, Senator John Faulkner, announced a review to make recommendations about the best use of the WPA in the national interest. This was undertaken by Dr Allan Hawke and involved consultation with a wide range of affected stakeholders. On 5 November 2010, the Review's Interim Report was released for public comment, with Government provided with the Final Report on 4 February 2011. On 3 May 2011, with the then Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson MP, and with the support of the South Australian Government, through its then Premier, Mike Rann, and the Minister for Mineral Resources Development, Mr Tom Koutsantonis, I released the Final Report, with the Government agreeing to implement the recommendations.

The Department of Defence set up the Woomera Prohibited Area Coordination Office that same month and a Moratorium was issued on all but the most advanced applications for access to the Woomera Prohibited Area, to enable the development of protocols necessary to implement the Review.

Minister Ferguson and I released a draft Deed of Access for minerals exploration for public consultation in April 2012. The Deed proposed an access regime for exploration companies during the transition phase to full implementation of the Review's recommendations. Public consultation was undertaken on the draft Deed by the Woomera Prohibited Area Coordination Office in Adelaide in May 2012 and a workshop followed in Canberra in June 2012.

In October 2012, Minister Ferguson and I announced that the Woomera Prohibited Area was open to resources development under the transitional Deed of Access regime. We also announced the creation of the Woomera Prohibited Area Advisory Board and the appointment of Mr Stephen Loosley as Independent Chair of the Advisory Board and the Hon Paul Holloway as Deputy Chair.

On 8 May 2013 the Minister for Resources and Energy and I jointly released for public consultation draft legislation to implement the recommendations of the Review. The Coordination Office held a public consultation workshop in Adelaide on 10 May.

The Hawke Review considered how to use the Woomera Prohibited Area in a way that ensured that both its full national security and economic potential was realised. The Review proposed a system to maximise the co-existence between defence and non-defence users of the area.

The Review recommended that Defence remain the primary user of the area, but acknowledged that exploitation of the Woomera Prohibited Area's considerable minerals resources would bring significant economic benefit to South Australia in particular and Australia in general.

The Review proposed that the Woomera Prohibited Area be opened up for resources exploration to the maximum extent possible, but within the confines of its primary use for defence purposes. This will allow Australians to take advantage of the resources potential in the Woomera Prohibited Area while ensuring its future viability as the most important test and evaluation range that supports the Australian Defence Force.

The Bill establishes a framework that provides all non-Defence users within the Woomera Prohibited Area a greater level of certainty over Defence activity in the Area and greater certainty over access arrangements.

It allows users to make commercial decisions with some assurance as to when they will be required to leave the Area because of Defence activity.

The framework maintains the primacy of the Woomera Prohibited Area as a national security and defence asset and sets up a co-existence scheme that allows access by non-defence users subject to conditions that protect the safety of all users in the Woomera Prohibited Area and ensure the appropriate national security protections for an area used to test defence capability.

As recommended by the Review, Indigenous landholders, pastoralists with an already established presence and existing mining operations in the Woomera Prohibited Area will continue to access and operate under their current arrangements.

The co-existence scheme established by the Bill will apply to new users of the Woomera Prohibited Area. Existing users of the Woomera Prohibited Area have the option of voluntarily joining the co-existence scheme established by these legislative measures if they so choose.

The Woomera Prohibited Area contains recognised traditional owners and significant Indigenous sites. Under the Bill, permit holders who gain access to the Woomera Prohibited Area will be required to protect these sites and comply with all relevant Native Title and Aboriginal Heritage laws. Indigenous groups with current statutory and access rights expressly retain these rights. They will not need to apply for permission under this legislation, which does not disturb existing rights.

The Bill will insert a new Part VIB into the Defence Act 1903, and amends the definition of 'defence premises' in Part VIA of the Defence Act to include the Woomera Prohibited Area.

Consequently, this will allow appropriately trained and qualified defence security officials to apply the security powers provided for by Part VIA to ensure the safety of all users and the security of the Woomera Prohibited Area.

While the Bill provides the overarching framework for the legislative scheme, the detail of the proposed regime is to be included in the Woomera Prohibited Area Rules, to be agreed by the Minister for Defence and the Minister for Resources and Energy.

In broad terms, the Bill:

Authorises the Minister for Defence, with the agreement of the Minister for Resources and Energy, to make the Woomera Prohibited Area Rules prescribe certain matters, including defining the Woomera Prohibited Area, and the zones to be demarcated within that Area.

Creates a permit system for access and use by future non-defence users of the Woomera Prohibited Area.

Introduce offences and penalties for entering the Woomera Prohibited Area without permission and for failing to comply with a condition of a permit. An infringement notice scheme and demerit point system will apply to the offence for failing to comply with a permit condition. The details of these schemes will be included in the Rules.

Provide for compensation for acquisition of property from a person otherwise than on just terms, although the Rules may limit the amounts of compensation payable by the Commonwealth.

Consultation

Extensive consultation was undertaken during the Review process and the legislation implements the recommendations put forward in the Review. Submissions were received from interested stakeholders, including:

the resources industry;

Indigenous groups;

pastoralists, and

environmental groups.

The consultation period on the Bill itself was short. The Government's intention is to enact legislation before this Parliament is prorogued. This is in the interests of providing non-Defence users of the Woomera Prohibited Area with certainty and assurance about their use of the area.

Consultation on the Bill included:

the release of an information paper on the proposed legislative framework for the Woomera Prohibited Area The paper provided a general overview of the proposed policy framework proposed for implementation in the legislative package.

On 8 May 2013, an exposure draft of the Bill was released for stakeholder feedback.

The South Australian Government hosted a consultation workshop in Adelaide on 10 May 2013, chaired by the Woomera Prohibited Area Coordination Office, to discuss the Bill.

On 24 May 2013, the South Australian Government hosted a discussion between Defence officials and traditional owners of the Maralinga Tjarutja and Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara lands, about the legislation.

Stakeholders provided feedback through the workshop and by written submission. Feedback was considered and where appropriate the exposure Bill was amended to take concerns into account. Amendments which occurred as a result of stakeholder feedback included express and specific recognition of the existing authorities for existing users, including Indigenous groups.

After discussions Department of Defence officials held with the traditional owners of parts of the Woomera Prohibited Area, The Government agrees, as a matter of policy, with their request that no 'wet canteens' under the current Defence Regulations for the Woomera Prohibited Area will be created in the lands held by the Maralinga Tjarutja or Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara traditional owners.

The Woomera Prohibited Area Rules will be released for public consultation today with a period of a month for interested stakeholders to consider and provide feedback.

The Woomera Prohibited Area Coordination Office will conduct extensive consultation during this period. I encourage all stakeholders to provide the Office with their comments. All reasonable suggestions and contributions regarding the Rules will be considered for incorporation by the Government.

Woomera Prohibited Area Advisory Board

The Woomera Prohibited Area Advisory Board has been established to oversee the Woomera Prohibited Area access system and foster relationships among the Woomera Prohibited Area stakeholder groups.

The Woomera Prohibited Area Advisory Board has an Independent Chair, Mr Stephen Loosley, and an Independent Deputy Chair, the Honorable Paul Holloway. Mr Stephen Loosley is Chairman of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. Mr Holloway is a previous Resources Minister of South Australia.

Other Board members are senior representatives from the Commonwealth Departments of Defence, Resources and Energy, and Finance and Deregulation, and the South Australian Government.

The Board was established to ensure:

that the balance between economic interests and national security is maintained;

the effectiveness of the access system in safeguarding Defence activities; and

Indigenous and environmental interests are properly accounted for.

The Woomera Prohibited Area Advisory Board meets on a regular basis to undertake these functions.

Woomera Prohibited Area Rules

Draft Woomera Prohibited Area Rules 2013 will be released for public comment today.

The Rules provide for the detailed arrangements to give effect to the Bill.

This detail includes prescribing an area as the Woomera Prohibited Area and the provision for zones and exclusion windows within those zones.

The Rules will also provide for:

various types of permission to be at a place within the Woomera Prohibited Area, including standing permission, written or oral permission and by way of a permit.

the process by which permits may be subject to suspension or cancellation including the ability for a permit holder to have the Minister review a decision in relation to a cancellation of a permit.

the Secretary of the Department of Defence to appoint people to be authorised officers to give infringement notices.

demerit points which may be incurred when a person pays the penalty contained in an infringement notice or is convicted or found guilty of an offence.

a cap on compensation payable to a person for loss or damage suffered in the Woomera Prohibited Area, not resulting in death or personal injury, of $2 million.

Conclusion

This important legislation:

establishes a framework that provides non-Defence users within the Woomera Prohibited Area, in particular industry, with a level of certainty over Defence activity in the area;

allows users to make commercial decisions with some assurance as to when they will be requested to leave the area because of Defence activity; and

protects the safety of all users in the Woomera Prohibited Area and to ensure the appropriate national security protections for an area used to test defence capability.

I commend the Bill.

 

DISABILITYCARE AUSTRALIA FUND (CONSEQUENTIAL AMENDMENTS) BILL 2013

The DisabilityCare Australia Fund (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2013 will give effect to the DisabilityCare Australia Fund Bill that was passed by Parliament in the sitting week of 13 May 2013. These consequential amendments ensure that the Government's commitment to provide the funding for DisabilityCare Australia through an increase to the Medicare levy can be put into operation.

On 1 May 2013 the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Disability Reform announced that the Government would increase the Medicare levy by half a percentage point from 1.5 to 2 per cent of taxable income. The establishment of the DisabilityCare Australia Fund requires a number of consequential amendments to other pieces of legislation to establish the effective operation of the Fund.

The DisabilityCare Australia Fund (Consequential Amendments) Bill will amend the COAG Reform Fund Act 2008, the Future Fund Act 2006 and the Nation Building Funds Act 2008.

The matters dealt with by the Bill are largely to include the DisabilityCare Australia Fund into those Acts. It will enable reimbursements to the States and Territories through the COAG Reform Fund and also facilitate the management of the DisabilityCare Australia Fund by the Future Fund.

This DisabilityCare Australia Fund (Consequential Amendments) Bill should be supported as it facilitates the operations of the DisabilityCare Australia Fund, which is endorsed by this Parliament.

 

FAMILY ASSISTANCE AND OTHER LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL 2013

This Bill introduces changes to the Baby Bonus announced in the 2012-13 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook. It also introduces two measures affecting the Baby Bonus and other family payments announced in the 2013-14 Budget package, AMoreSustainable Family Payments System.

Since coming into Government, Labor has worked hard to modernise the family payments system. We have restructured and improved assistance to deliver more help to low and middle-income families when the costs of raising children put the most pressure on the family budget.

We have delivered:

Australia's first national Paid Parental Leave scheme;

an increase to the Child Care Rebate from 30 to 50 per cent of out-of-pocket costs up to $7,500 per child per year;

the Schoolkids Bonus to help families with the cost of their children's education;

higher payments for families with teenagers to encourage them to stay in school;

family payment increases as part of our Household Assistance Package; and

tax cuts to millions of working families.

We have made responsible decisions over a number of Budgets to better target family payments, while also delivering record levels of assistance to low and middle-income families who need it most.

The savings from these Budget reforms will be redirected to deliver the Government's National Plan for School Improvement - to benefit our classrooms, teachers and kids for generations to come.

Reducing the Baby Bonus from 1 July 2013

As announced in the 2012-13 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook, the Baby Bonus for second and subsequent children who come into a family from 1 July 2013 will be reduced to $3,000. However, families will continue to be paid at the rate of $5,000 for their first child, for all children born in a multiple birth, and for adoptions involving more than one child.

Replacement of the Baby Bonus from 1 March 2014 - new family payment arrangements for newborns

Further new family payment arrangements introduced by this Bill will mean that the Baby Bonus will cease from 1 March 2014.

In place of the Baby Bonus, families who are eligible for Family Tax Benefit Part A, and who are not accessing the Paid Parental Leave scheme, will receive an additional loading on their payments to help with the upfront costs of having a new baby.

The extra Family Tax Benefit Part A payment will be $2,000 for a family's first child (and for each child in a multiple birth) and $1,000 for second and subsequent children. It will be paid as an initial instalment of $500, with the remainder rolled into normal fortnightly payments over a three-month period.

Payments for parents of a stillborn child will be delivered in full as a lump sum.

This decision delivers on a recommendation of the 2010 Australia's Future Tax System Review (known as the Henry Review), which found the Baby Bonus provides more assistance than is necessary to cover the costs associated with a new child, and recommended assistance be restructured when the Government delivered a national Paid Parental Leave scheme.

We are also making changes to the work test under the Paid Parental Leave scheme, making it easier for working mothers with children born close together to qualify for Parental Leave Pay for subsequent children.

These changes will allow parents to count periods of Parental Leave Pay as work under the work test, just as employer-funded parental leave entitlements can be counted under the current rules.

Reducing the claim period for family assistance lump-sum claims

The Bill also reduces the claim period for family assistance lump-sum claims.

Families choosing to wait until the end of the financial year to claim their Family Tax Benefit or Child Care Benefit entitlement will now have a grace period of one year instead of two years in which to claim. This change will start for the 2012-13 entitlement year, meaning families will have 12 months from the end of that year (until 30 June 2014) in which to claim their entitlement.

Families will also have one year in which to lodge their tax returns if they are to receive the end-of-year Family Tax Benefit supplements, and to meet immunisation and health check requirements linked to the end-of-year Family Tax Benefit Part A supplement.

The vast majority of families already meet the new claim period and will not be affected. Families will be affected by this change only if they wait longer than 12 months to claim Family Tax Benefit or Child Care Benefit for the previous financial year, or to lodge their tax returns.

Families will be able to access extensions in special circumstances, similar to arrangements for tax returns. This change brings family payment claim periods more into line with time limits for lodging tax returns before penalties may be imposed, and with the policy intent of the family assistance program, to assist parents with the day-to-day costs of raising children.

Family tax benefit and double orphan pension

The Bill will also ensure that families remain eligible for Family Tax Benefit until the end of the calendar year their child finishes secondary study. This is the Government's current policy, and amendments in this Bill make sure that this policy applies for high school students who finish their school year in November, as well as for those who finish in December.

In addition, beneficial changes are made to the Double Orphan Pension to align it with the rules for Family Tax Benefit. This means, for example, that a carer can continue to receive Double Orphan Pension for a young person in their care until the end of the calendar year in which the young person turns 19 if they are still in secondary study.

Lastly, the Bill includes some minor clarifying and technical amendments to portfolio legislation, in line with the intended policy.

 

INDIGENOUS EDUCATION (TARGETED ASSISTANCE) BILL 2013

The Indigenous Education (Targeted Assistance) Bill 2013 makes amendments to the Indigenous Education (Targeted Assistance) Act 2000.

The programs funded and delivered under the Indigenous Education (Targeted Assistance) Act 2000 are complementary to mainstream schooling

This bill amends the Indigenous Education (Targeted Assistance) Act 2000 (IETA) to increase the legislative appropriation for the period 1 January 2012 to 30th June 2014. The increased appropriations will enable the education components of the $583 million Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory National Partnership (SFNT-NP), specifically the School Nutrition Program, which provides support for approx. 5,000 students in 67 targeted NT schools and the Additional Teachers initiatives, to be administered under IETA.

The bill will also amend the Indigenous Education (Targeted Assistance) Act 2000 to include administrative adjustments to program funding.

The increased appropriations will benefit the School Nutrition Program and the Additional Teachers initiative under the SFNT-NP and include new funding for the Achieving Results Through Indigenous Education (ARTIE) project which will be administered through the Sporting Chance program, which is funded under IETA.

These amendments will increase the appropriations to allow the $4.43 million Achieving Results Through Indigenous Education (ARTIE) project to be administered through the Sporting Chance program element of IETA. The ARTIE Academy's mission is to offer a service that allows Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to achieve a level of academic success that not only ensures Year 12 completion, but provides an opportunity for desired career choices to be potentially achieved. Funding provided through IETA will allow for the implementation of the Academy's tutoring program in three primary schools in South East Queensland at Bundamba, Marsden and Morayfield, and for the expansion of the Academy into two Townsville high schools at Kirwan and Pimlico.

The bill reaffirms the Australian Government's commitment to improving educational outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, families and communities, including through funding targeted programs that focus on key drivers of educational achievement.

 

INTERNATIONAL FUND FOR AGRICULTURAL DEVELOPMENT AMENDMENT BILL 2012

OVERVIEW

The United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is a specialised multilateral organisation of the United Nations. It is based in Rome and dedicated to eradicating rural poverty in developing countries.

Seventy-five per cent of the world's poorest people - 1.4 billion women, children and men - live in rural areas and depend on agriculture and related activities for their livelihoods. IFAD projects help poor rural people improve their food security and nutrition, raise their incomes and increase their access to financial services, markets, technology, land and other natural resources.

Around the world, IFAD is a valued international development partner. It has an ongoing portfolio valued at US$10.3 billion (inclusive of cofinancing). With the funding replenishments made in 2011, it has a target of lifting 80 million people out of poverty between 2013 and 2015.

IFAD focuses on:

agricultural production and productivity;

rural finance;

support for women and indigenous peoples; and

building institutions.

Australia was a founding member of IFAD but in 2004 Australia decided to withdraw as a member due to a misalignment with the then-government’s geographical and sectoral development priorities, as well as internal governance issues. Australia’s withdrawal came into effect in 2007.

Since Australia left the Fund, IFAD has gone through a major reform, making it a highly-regarded development partner by donor countries around the world and by the developing countries in which it works.

It is now timely that Australia renews its membership of IFAD.

Australia’s membership of IFAD will:

complement and strengthen Australia’s existing support for food security, rural development and poverty reduction;

provide for direct engagement with smallholder producers who are disproportionally represented among the poor and vulnerable - consistent with the fundamental purpose of the Australian aid program of helping people overcome poverty;

address poverty issues in rural areas where IFAD is focused and where Australia has an interest, but limited current engagement;

offer in-depth country and technical knowledge in regions and sectors where Australia wishes to expand but lacks expertise; and

offer expertise and experience in rural development in fragile and conflict affected areas where Australia has a strategic interest but may not be able to directly engage.

REASONING

Importance of food security/needs of the poor

We can’t overestimate the critical importance of food security to every human being—the physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food is surely a fundamental human right.

But tragically, for nearly a billion people in the world, this is not the case.

The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that nearly one billion people go hungry every day. Two-thirds of these people live in the Asia-Pacific region. They are our neighbours.

In Sub-Saharan Africa almost one in three people suffer from chronic hunger.

Climate change, drought, conflict, and lack of resources and land to grow food, all shape this gross inequality.

The impact of these challenges is compounded by the high cost of food, higher even than the 2008 levels when the food crisis was at its peak.

We can attribute the high cost of food largely to the failure of global food production to keep pace with growing demand. Population growth, income growth, changing diets and climatic variability are just some of the critical factors in this trend.

Forecasts by the United Nations and World Bank indicate that this trend of high food prices is likely to continue for at least the next 10 years.

The magnitude of this challenge cannot be underestimated.

The world is asking why we didn’t foresee the current food crisis in the Horn of Africa earlier. We did. It isn’t a matter of foreseeing: it’s a matter of doing something about it.

Australia’s approach to food security

Australia has long been at the forefront of global efforts to improve food security. We as a nation are very fortunate to enjoy food security ourselves.

At the same time we have had to grapple with issues like climate, water management and natural disasters that plague less food secure nations. And as a wealthy country, we developed world-class research and expertise in these issues. This is something we can share.

Food security is integral to Australia’s aid program.

Our approach to food security focuses on:

lifting agricultural productivity through agricultural research and development;

improving rural livelihoods by strengthening markets and market access; and

building community resilience with social protection programs.

These three elements will together increase the food available in markets and poor households, and increase the incomes and employment opportunities of poor men and women.

Right now Australia is:

responding to the emergency food needs of people in the Horn of Africa;

increasing funding for rural development; and

pursuing trade policy reforms to open up markets and allow more free and fair access to food.

IFAD’s approach to food security marries with our own. As I have said, IFAD is dedicated to enabling poor rural people to improve their access to food and nutrition , increase their incomes and strengthen their resilience.

IFAD also works in regions of importance to Australia, including Asia, the Pacific, Sub-Saharan Africa and North Africa.

Developing countries value IFAD’s work.

This was made clear during the most recent replenishment of the Fund in 2011— Argentina increased its pledge by 300 per cent, Indonesia by 100 per cent, Brazil by 25 per cent and India by 20 per cent—all during a time of economic hardship.

IFAD has reformed its organisational structure to increase efficiency, align human and financial resources with strategic objectives, and expand its role as a knowledge institution.

For every $1 contributed, IFAD mobilizes another $6 for rural development.

AusAID’s 2011 review of IFAD

In 2011, AusAID conducted a review of IFAD. We found that IFAD had implemented significant reforms and that it was now considered by donors and developing countries to be an increasingly effective, results-focused, value-for-money partner.

The review recognised IFAD’s clear mandate to reduce rural poverty and hunger through working with smallholder farmers who are disproportionately represented amongst the poor, vulnerable and food insecure.

IFAD projects currently work with more than 36 million poor men and women, supporting them to become food secure through increasing productivity, access to markets including microfinance, and business development.

Australia’s national interest

Renewing our membership of IFAD is clearly in Australia’s national interest. It will allow Australia to expand existing support for food security and help the world’s most vulnerable to fight hunger.

IFAD’s senior management values Australia’s unique technical expertise in tropical and dryland farming, fisheries, biosecurity and quarantine. We are considered to have attractive policy and regulatory approaches in these areas.

Membership will also allow Australia to draw on IFAD’s considerable experience to strengthen Australia’s own approach to food security and rural development in our aid program.

Australia’s priorities for engaging with IFAD are:

improving food security, raising incomes and strengthening resilience of smallholder producers in priority countries for Australia;

continued commitment to reform to improve governance and management of the organisation, including strengthened focus on results and value for money; and

ensuring disability inclusiveness and gender equality across all of IFAD’s programs.

Investment in IFAD would not detract from existing support for food security programs. Financial contributions to IFAD will be decided through the Australian Government’s annual budget process. The 2011 review of IFAD conducted in-depth analysis of alternative additional food security funding mechanisms, and found that re-joining IFAD would be the best option for additional Australian support in this sector.

Finally, membership of IFAD would allow Australian firms and individuals to be engaged with or employed on IFAD projects. Only citizens of member states can work on IFAD projects.

With the increasing urgency of our global food security challenges and obligations, this Bill to enable Australia to rejoin IFAD will have considerable benefit for not only our national interest, but for the billions of people world-wide who remain acutely vulnerable to food shortages, and whose lives would be immeasurably improved if they could achieve the basic human right to food security.

 

INTERNATIONAL MONETARY AGREEMENTS AMENDMENT BILL 2013

This Bill amends the International Monetary Agreements Act 1947 to bring into force a bilateral loan agreement between Australia and the IMF that was signed on 13 October 2013.

The Treasurer first announced a US$7 billion (around A$6.8 billion) commitment as a bilateral loan to the IMF in April 2012 as part of a global effort to bolster the global financial safety net that provides a firewall against a possible renewed financial crisis.

While the IMF’s current resource base is sufficient to meet expected needs, the IMF estimated early last year there is a potential global financing gap if a severe financial crisis were to occur.

As such, the IMF considered that it needed to raise additional lending resources to ensure that it has adequate firepower to play its role in crisis prevention and resolution. These resources are in addition to the contribution made by the Eurogroup to increase the capacity of the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) and the European Stability Mechanism (ESM).

Increasing the IMF’s available resources in response to this potential need is thus essential for ensuring confidence that the IMF is fully equipped for its crisis prevention and resolution role.

On 19 June 2012, G20 Leaders in Los Cabos committed to boosting the IMF’s resourcing through temporary bilateral and note purchase agreements, with the total commitment now standing at over US$460 billion. Australia’s loan agreement is part of this global push to increase the resources of the IMF to respond to crises.

It is not expected that the loan agreement will be drawn upon over the forward estimates period as the IMF has sufficient resources to cover its projected lending activities in current conditions.

The IMF may only make drawings under the loan agreement if its existing quota and New Arrangements to Borrow resources are insufficient to support its lending to borrowing member countries.

As noted by G20 Leaders in their 2012 Los Cabos declaration, these resources will be available for the whole membership of the IMF, and not earmarked for any particular region.

The IMF is a quota-based institution and in order to reduce the IMF’s reliance on voluntary borrowed resources such as this loan agreement, members of the IMF agreed on 15 December 2010 to a doubling of IMF quota resources with a corresponding reduction in the size of New Arrangements to Borrow credit lines.

As such, this loan is only in place temporarily to cover the IMF’s potential financing needs in the short term. Any drawings from Australia by the IMF would be repayable in full and with interest.

The Bill provides a standing appropriation for payments that are drawings by the IMF under the loan agreement. The appropriation covers this specific loan agreement only, and any amendments to the value or term of the agreement would require the Act to be subsequently amended.

In addition to bringing the bilateral loan agreement into force, this Bill also corrects a technical issue with the existing Act. It provides an appropriation to make payments for changes to Australia’s quota, which will provide greater flexibility in how these payments are made including by using a foreign currency, or possibly Australian currency, depending on the holdings of the IMF.

 

PARLIAMENTARY SERVICE AMENDMENT (FREEDOM OF INFORMATION) BILL 2013

The Parliamentary Service Amendment (Freedom of Information) Bill 2013 amends the Parliamentary Service Act 1999 to restore the previously understood position of three of the four parliamentary departments in relation to the operation of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act). The bill does not affect the Parliamentary Budget Office which the Parliament has already designated as an exempt agency under the FOI Act.

Historically, the parliamentary departments were excluded from the application of the FOI Act. The Senate committee that examined the original bill saw no great justification for exempting the parliamentary departments in full, but found it difficult to draw an appropriate boundary between information that should normally be accessible and that which, if disclosed, would interfere with the ability of the Houses, their committees and their members to carry out their functions. Accordingly, the parliamentary departments continued to be outside the coverage of the FOI Act, an exclusion which was confirmed by later amendments affecting the public service. When a separate parliamentary service was created in 1999, it is now apparent that the FOI-exempt status of the three parliamentary departments was inadvertently removed.

The parliamentary departments have over a long period of time cooperated with the spirit of the FOI Act by providing access to administrative information, but this was done on a voluntary basis and without the legal protections that would have been available under a scheme tailored to the needs of the Parliament. As a result of the inadvertent removal of their exemption, it is now apparent that the parliamentary departments are now subject to an Act which was not designed to take into account the constitutional position of the Parliament.

In introducing this bill, I emphasise that it is an interim measure to preserve the right of the Parliament to make a deliberate decision about the FOI status of the Department of the Senate, the Department of the House of Representatives and the Department of Parliamentary Services. This step has been prompted by concerns expressed by the Joint Committee on the Parliamentary Library about the Library's ability to continue to provide individual members and senators with research and advice on a confidential basis in an environment where FOI access decisions are ultimately made by agents of the executive government and by the courts. The potential for such decisions to undermine the rights of Parliament and its members is considerable.

There are alternative approaches in the FOI Act which may provide a solution. In relation to the courts, for example, the separation of powers is respected by the application of the FOI Act to documents of an administrative character only. A comparable arrangement applies to the Office of the Official Secretary to the Governor-General.

Major FOI reforms agreed to in 2010 included provision for a review of the changes and related issues after a period of two years. The Presiding Officers welcomed this review as an opportunity to re-examine the application of the FOI Act to the parliamentary departments, and the basis on which the Act might appropriately apply in future.

This bill seeks to restore the status quo, pending consideration of the review’s recommendations. Application of the FOI Act to the parliamentary departments should be on a basis that takes into account the constitutional separation of the Houses and the unique functions of their members.

 

PARLIAMENTARY SERVICE AMENDMENT (PARLIAMENTARY BUDGET OFFICER BILL) 2013

Budgets are a vital part of our democracy, ensuring governments are open and accountable to the community that elects them.

Transparency on costings must apply both to governments and to those who seek to govern, so the community has the proper opportunity to scrutinise policies and their budget impact well before an election.

The Gillard government established the Parliamentary Budget Office to promote greater scrutiny on costings and to ensure budget transparency from all sides of politics.

The Parliamentary Service Amendment (Parliamentary Budget Officer) Bill 2013 will amend the governing arrangements for the Parliamentary Budget Office.

The bill requires the PBO to publish a post-election report on election commitments of all political parties, including the full impact of those commitments on the budget bottom line.

This bill will enhance transparency of the financial impacts of policy proposals by providing an independent assessment of the tax and spending promises that political parties make.

Through these reforms, the Australian community will have more information about alternative approaches to fiscal policy.

These reforms will allow a more accurate and informed debate on economic policy in this country.

The bill will impose discipline on the promises of political parties and incentivise all political parties to be up front and honest about the cost of their promises.

It has long been accepted that Australian companies must keep their books in good order or face the risk of being exposed by an end-of-year audit.

If we are right to demand this of private companies on behalf of their shareholders and lenders, then we are most certainly right to apply this standard to political parties on behalf of taxpayers.

This reform will help to ensure that all political parties are straight with the Australian people before the election because they know that their costings will be revealed by the PBO post the election.

Politicians of all political persuasions have a responsibility to be open and accountable to those who put us in this place.

We are proud to have established the PBO as a vital institution in our fiscal and budgetary framework, and we are prouder still to be expanding its role to add this very important function.

With the support of the Parliament, these reforms will remove the capacity of any political party to try to mislead the Australian people and will punish those that attempt to do so.

Post-election report

During an election campaign, political parties can have their commitments officially costed by the PBO or the departments of Treasury and Finance.

However, this is not mandatory, and there is currently no legislative mechanism for all the commitments of all the political parties to be compiled and assessed in a consistent manner.

The Australian community therefore relies on the honesty of political parties to submit their policies for costing in good time so they can be released for the public to see.

This bill will make it a statutory function of the PBO to publish a report with policy costings of the full suite of a party's election commitments.

It will also require the PBO to indicate the combined total financial impact of these commitments 30 days after a government forms following a general election.

This means that, even if a party does not properly take advantage of the costing options available under the PBO legislation or under the Charter of Budget Honesty, the rigour of an independent analysis will still be brought to bear on that party's promises.

This bill will sharpen the focus on all the commitments made during an election campaign and ensure these promises are assessed through the independent and nonpartisan lens of the PBO.

Election commitments

The bill requires the PBO to determine the list of election commitments to be costed and included in the post-election report.

In determining the list of election commitments to include in the post-election report, the bill requires the PBO to consult with parliamentary parties, and have regard to lists of election commitments that parliamentary parties will be required to provide to the PBO, as well as any public announcements made such parties before or during the caretaker period for the election.

This process will ensure that the list of election commitments in the post-election report is comprehensive it is abundantly clear what each party has promised.

The PBO's lists will be there in black and white for all to see.

Information gathering

Given the PBO's statutory deadline to deliver the report within 30 days, it is important that the PBO has timely access to information from Commonwealth bodies to assist in delivering the report.

Accordingly, the bill includes arrangements for the request and provision of information from Commonwealth bodies.

The proposed arrangements are similar to the arrangements that apply to assist the Treasury and Finance Secretaries prepare the Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Outlook (PEFO).

PEFO actually has to be prepared within just 10 days of the issue of a writ for a general election, whereas the PBO has 30 days to deliver its postelection report.

So giving the PBO comparable information-gathering arrangements to those that apply for PEFO will be more than sufficient.

Further, the PBO is under similar time constraints when preparing policy costings for parliamentarians during the caretaker period.

Therefore, this new information-gathering process will apply when the PBO is preparing caretaker costings.

There are also existing arrangements in place for the PBO to request and receive information from Commonwealth bodies via a memorandum of understanding.

These arrangements will continue to apply more generally, supporting the flow of information to the PBO.

Of course, in compiling the post-election report, the PBO may also require further information from political parties themselves, and from any third parties involved in preparing the parties' costings.

This means that if a political party tries to avoid proper scrutiny by using a private accountant without budget expertise, all of this information can still be obtained by the PBO.

Size of a parliamentary party

The bill provides that the post-election report will include the policies of parliamentary parties with five or more Members or Senators in the Commonwealth Parliament immediately prior to the commencement of the relevant caretaker period.

This approach strikes a balance between the efficient and effective delivery of the report within the statutory timeframe and ensuring that the vast bulk of election commitments across the political spectrum are exposed to rigorous scrutiny.

Due process

Of course, for reasons of due process, it is important that political parties have a chance to review the PBO's assessment of their election commitments.

This is needed to ensure that the policies of these parties are fairly and fully considered in the PBO's report.

To achieve this, the bill includes a requirement for the PBO to consult with the political parties regarding their respective election commitments.

Taxpayer information

This bill also amends the Taxation Administration Act 1953 to allow the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) to provide - confidential taxpayer data to the PBO for the purposes of the PBO carrying out its statutory functions, but such information must not include specific identifying information.

This will allow the PBO's work to be more accurate, complete and fully informed.

As with all exceptions to the taxpayer confidentiality provisions, the information provided to the PBO must be kept confidential and be used only for the strict purposes provided for in the enabling legislation.

Security Management Board

Finally, at the request of the Presiding Officers, the bill removes the requirement for the PBO, or a Senior Executive Service employee of the PBO, to be a member of the Security Management Board responsible for advising the Presiding Officers on Parliament House security matters.

The PBO has no role in the management of security for the Parliamentary precincts and it is therefore not appropriate that the PBO be a member of that board.

Conclusion

The PBO has performed exceptionally well in the short time since its establishment and has taken up an important place in Australia's fiscal policy framework.

I know that many Senators and Members have taken advantage of the PBO's services.

This bill makes the PBO all the more important by making it an independent assessor of the fiscal responsibility of political parties at election time.

This will impose necessary discipline on the costly promises often made in the lead up to and during election campaigns, which will be particularly important in this election year.

This will ensure that our public debate is informed by properly costed and properly funded policies, and that our focus is on the policies that will make Australia, stronger, smarter and fairer.

 

PRIVACY AMENDMENT (PRIVACY ALERTS) BILL 2013

The introduction of the Privacy Amendment (Privacy Alerts) Bill 2013 is the next key step in the Government's major reform of Australia's privacy laws.

It is a long overdue measure that was recommended by the Australian Law Reform Commission in 2008.

It will introduce a new consumer privacy protection for Australians that will keep their personal information more secure in the digital age. It will also encourage agencies and private sector organisations to improve their data security practices.

In its 2008 privacy report, the Australian Law Reform Commission found that, as government agencies and large companies collected more and more personal information online, there was an increasing risk that this could become subject to data breaches. There were studies to show that the frequency of data breaches was increasing and their consequences were becoming more severe.

This trend has continued. For example, in recent years, there have been a number of high-profile data breaches in Australia and in other countries.

Customers of large, well-respected businesses have had their personal information compromised as a result of hacker attacks, poor security or just plain carelessness.

As recently as February this year, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) revealed that the personal details of almost 50,000 internet users had been exposed online after the ABC's main website was hacked.

This followed large scale breaches in recent years at Telstra, Medvet and Sony Playstation.

A data breach can severely affect individuals whose personal information has been compromised.

Individuals can lose money when personal information relating to their finances finds its way into the wrong hands. They can be exposed to the risk of fraud and identity theft. And they can suffer embarrassment and distress when information contained in medical records is publicly revealed.

The Government believes that individuals should know when their privacy has been interfered with. That is why the Government is introducing this bill.

Currently, there is no requirement for agencies and organisations to notify affected individuals or the Commissioner when they have suffered a data breach.

The Commissioner has voluntary guidelines encouraging notification, but is concerned that many data breaches—perhaps a majority—are going unreported. The bill stops this gap in Australia's privacy laws.

Australia is not the only jurisdiction to introduce a notification requirement.

Almost every State in the United States has introduced data breach notification laws. Canada has legislation in Parliament. The EU is developing a new directive that requires notification of data breaches. New Zealand is considering a similar law reform commission recommendation to introduce a mandatory notification scheme.

Australia should be a global leader in privacy protection as we grow our digital economy and more and more personal information goes online.

The bill provides that when an agency or organisation has suffered a serious data breach, it must notify the affected individuals and the Australian Privacy Commissioner.

Prompt notifications will allow individuals to take action to protect their personal information. Individuals will be able to reset passwords, cancel credit cards, improve their online security settings, and take other measures as they see fit.

The notification requirement will provide an incentive to businesses to store information securely. No business wants a reputation for not keeping its customers' personal information safe.

Agencies and organisations will only have to provide notification of serious data breaches. A requirement to provide notification of all data breaches would impose an undue regulatory burden on businesses, and it could unnecessarily alarm many customers.

The notification must include information such as a description of the breach, the kinds of information concerned, recommendations about steps that individuals should take, and contact details of the entity.

The bill provides that the Commissioner may direct an agency or organisation to provide affected individuals with notification of a data breach. This is a necessary measure in cases where an agency or organisation is recalcitrant or has simply made the wrong decision.

The bill also contains public interest and law enforcement exceptions. These are necessary where there are countervailing interests that outweigh the need to inform individuals about the data breach.

Where there is a failure to comply with a notification requirement, all the Commissioner's enforcement powers to investigate and make determinations will be available. This could result in personal and private apologies, compensation payments and enforceable undertakings.

In the case of serious or repeated non-compliance with notification requirements, this could lead to a civil penalty being imposed by a court.

The bill is part of the Government's ongoing commitment to the right to privacy.

Last year, the Government introduced the most significant reforms to privacy law in Australia since the Privacy Act commenced in 1989. This bill will complement those new reforms, and this is why we intend to commence the bill at the same time in March 2014.

One of last year's major reforms was the creation of the Australian Privacy Principles, which will apply to both government agencies and many private sector organisations.

Australian Privacy Principle 11 provides that entities regulated by the Privacy Act must have adequate security measures in place to protect personal information that they hold. The data breach notification requirement will complement Australian Privacy Principle 11 by requiring notification if there has been unauthorised access or disclosure, or loss, of that personal information.

Privacy is an important human right, and its continued protection in the digital era is becoming a major challenge for governments everywhere.

The right of an individual to control what happens with his or her personal information is an important aspect of the right to privacy.

The data breach notification requirement helps return control over their personal information to individuals.

The ALRC believed Australia's privacy laws needed this change in 2008. The evidence since that time has been building and it is now clear that this reform is well overdue.

 

SEX DISCRIMINATION AMENDMENT (SEXUAL ORIENTATION, GENDER IDENTITY AND INTERSEX STATUS) BILL 2013

This Bill establishes sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status as protected grounds of discrimination under the Sex Discrimination Act.

For the past 40 years, Federal Labor governments have actively promoted the principles of fairness and equality by enacting the Sex, Disability and Racial Discrimination Acts, and establishing the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (now the Australian Human Rights Commission).

This Government has added a new chapter by acting to remove discrimination against same-sex couples and sex and gender diverse people across Commonwealth laws and policies. In 2009, the Government amended 85 Commonwealth laws to remove discrimination against same-sex couples and their children, in areas ranging from taxation to immigration and family law to superannuation. These amendments ensured that same-sex relationships are treated in the same way as opposite sex de facto relationships for the purposes of Commonwealth entitlements and programs.

And again, in 2011, the Government introduced new guidelines to make it easier for sex and gender diverse people to get a passport in their preferred gender. Under the guidelines, sex reassignment surgery is no longer a prerequisite to issue a passport in a person's preferred gender.

In 2012, the Government announced that for the first time Australians seeking to enter into a same-sex marriage overseas will be able to apply for a Certificate of No Impediment to marriage. This important change allows same-sex couples to take part in overseas marriage ceremonies, and be considered married according to the laws of that country.

Labor is proud of its record to advance the rights of all Australians - but more needs to be done. Members of Australia's lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community continue to experience high levels of discrimination. However, there is currently little protection in Federal law from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

That is why this Government committed to introduce sexual orientation and gender identity as protected grounds of discrimination at the Federal level. This Bill honours that long-standing Labor commitment.

These proposed new protections were included in the exposure draft of the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill, which was released in November 2012. That draft Bill aimed to make the unnecessarily complex system of Federal anti-discrimination laws clearer, simpler and more effective.

The Government always understood that this would be a long, considered process. It has been careful to consult through each stage of legislative development, from a discussion paper process, through the drafting and release of the draft Bill, and referral to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee for inquiry and report.

The Committee inquiry was highly successful in fostering public debate and discussion about the benefits of anti-discrimination laws and most effective ways to protect Australians against discrimination - as reflected by the 595 individual submissions from organisations and individuals around the country.

While some aspects of the public debate veered towards scare-mongering, the Inquiry served its purpose in drawing out community concerns and identifying aspects of the Bill that warranted amendment.

I reiterate my thanks to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee for actively seeking the public's views, considering the evidence put before it, and recommending ways to amend the Bill to achieve the Government's objectives and strengthen Australia's anti-discrimination framework.

This is a worthy but complex project, and it's important we get it right. That means taking the time to carefully consider the many recommendations put forward by the Committee and submitters to the Inquiry, developing a comprehensive Government response, drafting a final Bill and fully debating it in this place.

It was reassuring that the Committee's report demonstrated that all parties agree on one issue - the pressing need for protection from discrimination for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community at the Federal level. To that end I acknowledge the Coalition Senators' support for a key Labor commitment.

This reform is too important to suffer any further delay through its connection to the wider consolidation project.

It is in this context that I am very pleased to introduce the Sex Discrimination Amendment (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Status) Bill 2013.

The Bill amends the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 to introduce new protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. These reforms are an important first stage to have in place while the Government considers in detail the content and form of a second stage of the consolidation of the Commonwealth anti discrimination Acts. The Government considers that the Sex Discrimination Act is the most appropriate vehicle within the existing Acts to contain these new protections.

A separate ground of intersex status is also introduced as a result of the consultations on the draft Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill and the recommendations of the Senate Committee. People who are intersex can face many of the same issues that are sought to be addressed through the introduction of the ground of gender identity.

However, including the separate ground of intersex status recognises that whether a person is intersex is a biological characteristic and not an identity. The definitions in the Bill acknowledge this reality, but do not create a third sex in any sense.

The Bill also amends the existing ground of 'marital status' to 'marital or relationship status' to provide protection from discrimination for same sex de facto couples, who are currently excluded from the definition of 'marital status'.

The amendments made by this Bill will insert definitions for 'sexual orientation', 'gender identity' and 'intersex status'. The Government has accepted the feedback from key groups and the wider community during the consultation on the draft Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill to ensure the definitions are meaningful, and provide the necessary protection. In particular, the Government has adopted the definitions of 'gender identity' and 'intersex status' as recommended by the Senate Committee.

The amendments will provide that discrimination on these new grounds is unlawful in the same areas of life as for other grounds already covered by the Sex Discrimination Act. These include: areas of work, education, goods, services and facilities, accommodation, land, clubs, and administration of Commonwealth laws and programs.

The introduction of the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status into the Sex Discrimination Act, in conjunction with the existing complaints provisions of the Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986, will provide a complaints mechanism for people who consider they have been discriminated against on these bases. The Australian Human Rights Commission will be able to investigate and attempt to conciliate such complaints.

The Bill also amends existing exemptions as appropriate to reflect the new grounds. This includes exemptions for religious bodies in relation to employment and the provision of education that have been in place for many years. These exemptions will continue under this Bill and encompass the new grounds.

The Bill also includes necessary consequential amendments to confirm conduct is not unlawful when:

Done in compliance with the Commonwealth Marriage Act, to ensure this legislation does not affect current law on same sex marriage

Done in compliance with prescribed Commonwealth, State or Territory laws, and

It constitutes a request for information and keeping of records in relation to sex and/or gender, to minimise the regulatory impact of the amendments.

Finally, the Bill will ensure that the Australian Human Rights Commission's powers to produce reports, guidelines, and intervene in proceedings appropriately extend to the new grounds of discrimination.

I welcome the support of all parties to these amendments and urge all members to pass this Bill during this Parliament and implement this very necessary reform.

 

SOCIAL SECURITY AMENDMENT (SUPPORTING MORE AUSTRALIANS INTO WORK) BILL 2013

The Social Security Amendment (Supporting more Australians into Work) Bill 2013 will support the participation of unemployed Australians and parents with caring responsibilities by increasing the amount they are able to earn and keep, smoothing the transition to paid work and providing extra assistance to undertake study and training.

The Gillard Government believes that everyone who is able to work should be able to benefit from the economic security and dignity that having a job brings, which is why we are introducing this bill to help more unemployed Australians to transition into work.

Having a job is essential in ensuring that all Australians can share in the benefits of Australia's economic strength.

In particular, we want to avoid the entrenched disadvantage that can arise from long periods of joblessness.

Because the longer a job seeker has been unemployed the more likely their skills will be outdated and as such it gets harder to find and keep a job.

Long periods of unemployment will also erode someone's self-confidence.

There is also an increased risk of entrenched poverty and intergenerational welfare dependence when parents are jobless for long periods of time.

In short, this is about helping job seekers let go from the metaphorical side of the pool.

Australia's income support system has been analysed extensively through the recent Senate Inquiry into the adequacy of the allowance payment system which considered the appropriateness of the allowance payment system as a support into work and the impact of the changing nature of the labour market.

In particular, the Senate Education, Employment and Workplace Relations Committee's report contained complex and diverse recommendations, covering payment design, administration of payments, employment services and additional social services.

On behalf of the Government I would like to thank the Senate Education, Employment and Workplace Relations References Committee for their report. The amendments included in this bill follow consideration of the recommendations of the Senate Inquiry.

On this basis the introduction of the Social Security Amendment (Supporting more Australians into Work) Bill 2013 will allow around 800,000 Australians on Parenting Payment Partnered, Newstart Allowance, and Widow, Sickness or Partner Allowance to earn $100 per fortnight, $38 more per fortnight than they currently can, before their income support is reduced.

The Gillard Government will invest $258 million over the next four years to lift the income free area.

This is the first increase in more than a decade.

In addition, the income free area will, for the first time in Australia's history, be indexed by CPI from 1 July 2015 to ensure the real value of this increase is maintained over time.

From 20 March 2014, income support recipients currently earning more than $62 per fortnight can look forward to an average increase in their payments of $19 per fortnight or an average of $494 per year.

This practical investment will give people more incentive to stay in or re-enter the workforce while they are on income support by allowing them to keep more of what they earn and helping them build and maintain the skills, confidence and contacts they will need to eventually transition into paid work.

This increase to the income free area supports a majority recommendation from the Senate Inquiry into the adequacy of the allowance payment system.

Joblessness among families continues to be a significant social and economic challenge facing this country.

Australia has relatively low levels of unemployment, but when parents with dependent children are jobless for longer periods of time there is a risk of entrenched poverty and intergenerational welfare dependence.

This bill also seeks to continue the Government's commitment to provide incentives and support for single parents so that they and their families can share in the benefits of paid work.

From 1 January 2014, all single principal carer parents receiving Newstart Allowance who take up approved study will be eligible to receive the Pensioner Education Supplement (PES), gaining extra assistance for study and training.

The supplement is paid at a rate of $62.40 per fortnight or $31.20 per fortnight for a concessional study load.

It is expected that around 25,000 additional single parents will take up the PES over the next four years.

Getting relevant skills and education helps pensioners and single parents increase their job-readiness and gives them a better chance of leaving income support and returning to the workforce.

Currently, only those single principal carer parents who were in receipt of PES at the time they move from Parenting Payment Single to Newstart Allowance are entitled to receive PES until they finish their current studies.

From 1 January 2014, all single principal carer parents receiving Newstart will have access to this additional study assistance.

Single parents will also receive additional support through this bill through the extension of access to the Pensioner Concession Card.

From 1 January 2014 single parents who become ineligible for the Parenting Payment due to the age of their youngest child and who do not qualify for any other income support payment due to their earnings, will retain their Pensioner Concession Card for up to 12 weeks.

The Pensioner Concession Card allows holders and their dependants to receive benefits including bulk-billed GP appointments, reduced out-of-hospital medical expenses and medicines listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme at the concessional rate, in addition to concessions offered by state and territory local governments.

Currently access to benefits under Pensioner Concession Card ceases for these parents immediately once they no longer receive Parenting Payment.

This amendment will smooth the transition off income support and into paid work for around 2,000 single parents a year.

In combination, the measures contained in this bill amend the social security law to provide around $300 million to improve the incentive for income support recipients to work, support them in the transition to work and provide extra assistance to engage in study and training.

This package delivers on the Gillard Government's commitment to support single parents who are moving off Parenting Payment so that they and their families can share in the benefits of paid work once their children become older.

The Gillard Labor Government believes that everyone should benefit from the dignity, challenge and experience that come from having a job, especially people who have been trapped in a cycle of entrenched disadvantage.

 

STATUTE LAW REVISION BILL 2013

I move that this Bill be now read a second time.

Statute Law Revision Bills have been used for the last thirty years to improve the quality of Commonwealth legislation.

The Bills do not make substantive changes to law but still perform the important function of repairing minor errors in the Commonwealth statute books and improving the accuracy and useability of consolidated versions of Commonwealth Acts.

This continual process of statutory review complements the Government’s commitment to creating clearer Commonwealth laws.

There is no doubt that the review process undertaken in the preparation of this Bill serves to ensure the statute book contains less clutter, in the form of out-dated cross-references, and by repealing obsolete Acts.

Schedules 1, 2, 4 and 5 of the Bill achieve three main ends:

1. correcting minor and technical errors in Acts, such as grammatical errors and errors in numbering

2. correcting amendments or amending Acts which are erroneous, misdescribed or redundant, and

3. repealing obsolete amending provisions and Acts.

By removing or amending out-dated or unclear legislative provisions this Bill helps make the law clearer, more consistent and easier to access.

The Bill also helps to facilitate the publication of consolidated versions of Acts by the Attorney General’s Department and by private publishers of legislation.

Schedule 3 to the Bill makes amendments relating to Acts of general application, updating language in a range of legislation to more closely reflect terminology now used in the Acts Interpretation Act 1901 and the Legislative Instruments Act 2003.

The items in Part 1 of Schedule 3 to the Bill repeal provisions relating to acting appointments that are redundant as they are now covered by section 33AB and 33A of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901.

These items also add notes referring to the general acting appointment rules in the Acts Interpretation Act 1901.

The items in Part 2 of Schedule 3 to the Bill are about prescribing matters by reference to other instruments.

And the items in Part 3 of Schedule 3 amend various Acts to update the text of Acts that still refer to an instrument being a disallowable instrument.

I thank the Office of Parliamentary Counsel for the time and effort that went into preparing this Bill.

 

STATUTE STOCKTAKE (APPROPRIATIONS) BILL 2013

The Statute Stocktake (Appropriations) Bill 2013 is the sixth Statute Stocktake Bill since 1998, and follows the Statute Stocktake (Appropriations) Act (No. 1) 2012. It forms part of an ongoing process to clean up the statute book by repealing legislation that is redundant, or would be better addressed in up-to-date legislation.

The Bill does not appropriate any money. Rather, the Bill would, if enacted, repeal 84 annual Appropriation Acts from 1 July 1999 to 30 June 2010.

Those Acts encompass:

28 old Acts for the ordinary annual services of the Government;

28 old Acts other than for the ordinary annual services of the Government;

15 old Acts for the operations of Parliamentary Departments; and

13 old Acts in relation to supplementary estimate appropriations.

This Bill would also allow the repeal of numerous subsidiary laws, connected to these old Appropriation Acts, consistent with the Government's deregulation agenda.

No agency will be denied access to appropriations from this Bill, to the extent that old appropriation amounts may potentially need to be re-appropriated through other processes.

This Bill was foreshadowed last year, when Parliament passed the Statute Stocktake (Appropriations) Act (No. 1) 2012. That Act repealed Acts from 1984 until 1999 inclusive, covering:

93 annual Appropriation Acts;

35 Supply Acts; and

3 Acts containing redundant special appropriations from the Treasury portfolio.

The Government will continue to review Appropriation Acts to determine whether further appropriations are redundant and can be repealed.

 

TAX AND SUPERANNUATION LAWS AMENDMENT (2013 MEASURES NO. 1) BILL 2013

This Bill amends various taxation laws to implement a range of improvements to Australia's tax laws.

Schedule 1 exempts the interest paid by the Government on unclaimed money returned after 1 July 2013 from income tax. This ensures that the real value of unclaimed money does not diminish over time.

Under the amendments contained in this bill, individuals who are former temporary residents and who subsequently return to Australia will be treated in the same way as other Australian residents, that is, they will not be subject to tax on any interest paid on their unclaimed superannuation.

In the case of interest paid on the unclaimed superannuation of departing temporary residents who do not subsequently become permanent residents, these amendments ensure that such interest payments are appropriately subject to the Departing Australia Superannuation Payments tax. This removes the benefit of the taxpayer funded superannuation tax concessions from those who will not retire in Australia.

Schedule 2 amends the Fringe Benefits Tax Assessment Act1986 to align the special rules for calculating airline transport fringe benefits with the general provisions dealing with in-house property fringe benefits and in-house residual fringe benefits.

The method for determining the taxable value of airline transport fringe benefits is also updated to simplify the practical operation of the law and to better reflect the value of the benefit.

Schedule 3 amends the income tax treatment of Commonwealth payments to irrigators under the Sustainable Rural Water Use and Infrastructure Program. The payments are for upgrading rural water infrastructure and improving the efficiency of rural water use. Some of the water savings from those improvements will be returned to the Commonwealth for environmental activities.

There can be a timing mismatch between assessing the payments and the deductions for relevant expenses. In particular, the payments will often be assessed right away but the depreciation deductions recognised only over several years. That mismatch can mean that an irrigator has to fund the gap until the expenditure has been fully recognised.

To address that timing mismatch, this measure allows taxpayers to treat the payments as non-assessable non-exempt income. Where they do, their corresponding expenditure is also not recognised for income tax purposes.

However, because some taxpayers would be better off under the existing law, the measure also provides taxpayers with a choice between the new treatment and the existing law.

Schedule 4 has been removed by House amendment.

Schedules 5 and 6 introduce loss carry-back for companies into the income tax law.

The introduction of loss carry-back implements recommendation 31 of the 2010 Australia's Future Tax System Review, which stated that '…companies should be allowed to carry back a revenue loss to offset it against the prior year's taxable income, with the amount of any refund limited to the company's franking account balance'.

It is also in line with the recommendations of the Business Tax Working Group (BTWG) made in its Final Report on the Tax Treatment of Losses, which found that loss carry-back would be a worthwhile reform in the near term.

The Working Group recommended that loss carry-back would be a worthwhile reform and proposed a model that is limited to companies, provides a two-year loss carry-back period on an ongoing basis and limits the amount of losses that can be carried back to $1 million a year.

This measure implements that recommendation by amending the taxation law to permit a corporate tax entity that makes a loss in one year to carry that loss back to the two preceding years. In some cases, unused losses from the previous year can also be carried back.

The entity must have a tax liability in the tax year it carries the loss back to and must have a franking account balance at the end of the year it claims the loss carry-back. If those requirements are satisfied, the entity will be able to convert the loss into a tax offset at the corporate tax rate. This will produce an effective refund of tax paid in the past of up to $300,000 a year at current rates (based on a $1 million amount carried back and a corporate tax rate of 30 per cent).

As a transitional measure, corporate tax entities that make a loss in the 2012-13 year will be able to carry back their loss for one year. In its first 4 years, it is estimated that this major tax reform will provide much-needed assistance to nearly 110,000 corporate tax entities. Almost 90 per cent of these entities are expected to be small businesses.

Small business is the engine room of the Australian economy, employing almost five million Australians and contributing more than 20 per cent of GDP. The Government is determined to create the environment in which small businesses not only survive, they thrive.

Allowing loss carry-back will encourage businesses to invest and adapt, and will mean companies in the slow lane can use their tax losses now - when they need to - rather than in the future when their businesses are performing better.

Finally, Schedule 7 to this Bill addresses some minor deficiencies in the taxation laws. The Government often progresses miscellaneous amendments, such as this, to rectify technical and machinery problems in the taxation laws. In doing so, the Government is giving effect to its long-standing commitment to maintain the integrity of the taxation system.

Full details of the measure are contained in the explanatory memorandum.

 

TAX AND SUPERANNUATION LAWS AMENDMENT (2013 MEASURES NO. 2) BILL 2013

This Bill amends various taxation and superannuation laws to implement a range of improvements to Australia's tax and super laws.

Schedule 1 amends the film tax offset provisions of the income tax law by inserting a definition of 'documentary' that is consistent with the Australian Communications and Media Authority's guidelines.

The producer offset applies to films that satisfy a number of criteria, including making a minimum level of qualifying Australian production expenditure. That level is lower for documentaries than it is for other films. The amendments ensure that this concession is appropriately targeted and that a consistent definition applies across all the film tax offsets.

The Schedule also explicitly includes 'game shows' in the list of light entertainment programs that are ineligible for the film tax offsets. This clarifies the intended scope of the existing law.

Schedule 2 to this Bill exempts from income tax the Disaster Income Recovery Subsidy and the ex-gratia payment equivalent to the Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment paid to New Zealand non-protected Special Category Visa holders.

The Queensland and New South Wales floods and the Tasmanian and Wambelong bushfires have had devastating consequences for affected communities.

The Australian Government is giving employees, small business owners and farmers a helping hand with payments to both Australians and New Zealand Special Category Visa holders. At this difficult time, it's important that these payments are not subject to tax.

Exempting these payments from tax maximises the value of the payments for people affected by recent disasters. It also ensures that the payments are treated in the same way as previous disaster assistance payments, such as those made in the wake of cyclone Yasi in 2011.

Schedule 2 to this Bill also exempts any future ex gratia Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payments that the Government might make for natural disasters that occur up to 30 June 2013.

Schedule 3 to this Bill amends the GST law to enable those small business taxpayers who are paying their GST by instalments, and who subsequently move into a net refund position, to continue to use the GST instalments option if they choose to do so.

The amendments provide that taxpayers who move into a net refund position and who choose to continue to pay GST by instalments receive an instalment amount each quarter of zero. Taxpayers who are currently not using the instalment option and are already in a net refund position will remain ineligible to pay their GST by instalments while they remain in a net refund position.

The amendments will ensure that the compliance cost advantages of reporting annually can be retained for those taxpayers who use the instalment option and move into a net refund position.

Schedule 4 amends the list of deductible gift recipients identified by name in Division 30 of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997. Donations made to entities with DGR status are income tax deductible to the donor and therefore DGR status will assist the listed entities in attracting public financial support for their activities.

Six entities are proposed to be added to the Act, namely, The Conversation Trust, National Congress of Australia's First Peoples Limited, National Boer War Memorial Association Incorporated, the Anzac Centenary Public Fund, the Australian Peacekeeping Memorial Project Incorporated, and Philanthropy Australia Inc.

Schedule 5 to this Bill amends the Superannuation Industry (Supervision) Act 1993 to place a duty on trustees of particular superannuation funds to establish and implement procedures in relation to the consolidation of multiple member accounts within their fund on a periodic basis.

In determining whether to consolidate accounts, trustees must do so with regard to the member's best interests.

At June 2012 there were almost 32 million superannuation accounts in Australia — almost three accounts for every worker. This measure will facilitate a steady reduction in the number of unnecessary accounts in the superannuation system. This will protect Australians' retirement savings from being eroded by unnecessary fees and charges.

The measure commences on 1 July 2013 and trustees must undertake the first round of consolidations by 30 June 2014.

Schedule 6 will reduce the matching rate and maximum payment of the voluntary superannuation co-contribution from 1 July 2012, as the new low income superannuation contribution (LISC) applies from the 2012-13 income year. These changes mean that for the co contribution, the Government will contribute 50 cents for every dollar of eligible personal contributions an individual makes up to a maximum of $500.

The LISC will reach over an estimated five times as many low income earners as the current co contribution as a result of these changes and will better target tax concessions for low income individuals. Individuals are not required to make personal contributions to superannuation to receive the LISC.

Schedule 6 will also extend the freeze on the indexation of the lower income threshold to the 2012-13 income year. This is the income threshold above which the maximum superannuation co contribution begins to phase down to the 2012 13 income year so it remains at $31,920 in 2012 13. The income threshold above which no co contribution is payable will be reduced to $15,000 above the lower income threshold, that is, $46,920 for the 2012 13 income year.

The changes to the co-contribution will generate cash savings of an estimated $987 million by the 2015-16 income year.

Schedule 7 consolidates eight separate tax offsets for dependants into one new tax offset from 1 July 2012. The eight tax offsets to be consolidated are the carer spouse, invalid spouse, invalid relative, parent/parent-in-law, child-housekeeper, child-housekeeper (with child), housekeeper and housekeeper (with child) tax offsets.

By consolidating these tax offsets we are removing out-dated barriers to workforce participation and building on the Government's participation agenda. In addition, these changes will better target assistance to dependants who are genuinely unable to work.

The new tax offset will be called the Dependant (Invalid and Carer) Tax Offset. It will be paid at the highest of the rates of the consolidated tax offsets. The Offset will be limited to taxpayers who contribute to the maintenance of a dependant who is genuinely unable to work because of invalidity or carer obligations.

This reform is consistent with the Australian Future Tax System review and builds on the Government's record of tax reform.

These new arrangements do not affect existing arrangements for taxpayers eligible for the zone tax offset, overseas forces tax offset, overseas civilian tax offset or the dependant spouse tax offset for spouses born before 1 July 1952.

Schedule 8 amends Division 230 of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997 and the Tax Laws Amendment (Taxation of Financial Arrangements) Act 2009.

The amendments refine and clarify the operation of the Taxation of Financial Arrangements regime, lower compliance costs and provide additional certainty to affected taxpayers. This includes: clarifying the application of the accruals and realisation tax timing methods; expanding the application of the fair value tax timing method; ensuring that the tax hedging method and transitional balancing adjustment provisions operate as intended; and lowering the compliance costs of making various elections for foreign banks with branches in Australia.

The proposed amendments are the outcome of ongoing monitoring of the implementation of the Taxation of Financial Arrangements regime, and were announced following extensive consultation with the Australian Taxation Office and industry.

These changes will apply from the start of the Taxation of Financial Arrangements Stages 3 and 4 regime.

Full details of these measures are contained in the explanatory memorandum.

 

TAX LAWS AMENDMENT (2013 MEASURES NO. 1) BILL 2013

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

Schedule 1 amends the income tax law to ensure the 'stakeholder' and 'connected entity' tests work appropriately. Broadly, the connected entity test and stakeholder tests seek to determine whether an entity controls or can influence another entity.

These amendments ensure that entities with common stakeholders cannot inappropriately defer capital gains tax liabilities and prevent circumstances where medium and large businesses could access the small business concessions by breaking their operations up into several small entities.

Schedule 1 also ensures that these integrity rules (and the capital gains tax provisions more generally) work appropriately for certain asset-holding arrangements. Specifically, the rules will 'look through' these arrangements and apply as if absolutely entitled beneficiaries, bankrupt individuals, companies in liquidation and security providers are the owners of relevant assets.

Schedule 2 to this bill exempts from income tax the Disaster Income Recovery Subsidy paid to individuals adversely affected by the January 2013 Tasmanian bushfires, and by ex-Tropical Cyclone Oswald and associated floods in Queensland and New South Wales during early 2013.

The Queensland and New South Wales floods and the Tasmanian bushfires have had devastating consequences for affected communities.

The Australian Government is giving employees, small business owners and farmers a helping hand by providing Disaster Income Recovery Subsidy payments to individuals adversely affected by natural disasters. At this difficult time, it's important that these payments are not subject to tax.

Exempting these payments from tax maximises the value of the payments for people affected by recent disasters. It also ensures that the payments are treated in the same way as previous disaster assistance payments, such as those made in the wake of cyclone Yasi in 2011.

Schedule 2 to this bill also exempts any future Disaster Income Recovery Subsidy payments that the Government may make for natural disasters that occur up to 30 September 2013.

Schedule 3 extends the general Deductible Gift Recipient categories in the gift provisions of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997 to include public funds established solely for the purpose of providing ethics education in government schools. The ethics education must be provided as an alternative to religious instruction and be in accordance with State or Territory law.

The amendment will allow taxpayers to claim an income tax deduction for donations made to funds that are endorsed by the Commissioner of Taxation and this will assist these entities in attracting funding for their activities.

Full details of all measures are contained in the explanatory memorandum.

 

TAX LAWS AMENDMENT (MEDICARE LEVY) BILL 2013

This bill will amend the Medicare Levy Act 1986 to increase the Medicare levy low income thresholds for families in line with increases in the consumer price index. These changes will ensure that low-income families that were exempt from the Medicare levy in the 2011-12 income year will continue to be exempt when their incomes have risen in line with or less than the consumer price index. All other thresholds have been increased under changes made as a result of the Clean Energy Household Package.

The increase in thresholds will apply to the 2012-13 year and future income years.

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

Debate adjourned.