Save Search

Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 20 March 2013
Page: 2286


Senator JACINTA COLLINS (VictoriaManager of Government Business in the Senate and Parliamentary Secretary for School Education and Workplace Relations) (21:10): I table a revised explanatory memorandum relating to the Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Digital Dividend) Bill 2013 and I move:

That these bills be now read a second time.

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

Leave granted.

The speeches read as follows—

BROADCASTING LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (DIGITAL DIVIDEND) BILL 2013

The Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Digital Dividend) Bill 2013 proposes minor amendments to the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 and the Radiocommunications Act 1992 to facilitate the early commencement of telecommunications services in the digital dividend spectrum, while that spectrum is still considered part of the broadcasting services bands.

In 2010, the Australian Government announced its decision to release 126 Megahertz of broadcasting spectrum as a digital dividend.

This spectrum is expected to be cleared of all existing services by 31 December 2014.

The release of this broadcasting spectrum is a significant benefit of the digital switchover process.

The auction of this spectrum in April 2013 will pave the way for next generation mobile broadband services in Australia, such as 4G mobile services.

Following the auction's completion, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) will consider applications on a case-by-case basis to allow successful bidders to commence services, before the digital dividend spectrum is redesignated out of the broadcasting services bands.

In order to ensure successful bidders are not unduly restricted in the types of services that can be provided in the interim period, the Bill amends the Broadcasting Services Act to limit the scope of datacasting regulation.

For the foreseeable future, only commercial and national broadcasters are required to hold a datacasting licence for the delivery of datacasting services in broadcasting spectrum.

To achieve this limitation in the scope of datacasting regulation in the Broadcasting Services Act, the Bill will introduce the concept of 'designated datacasting services'.

This is defined as a datacasting service provided by a commercial television broadcasting licensee, a commercial radio broadcasting licensee, or a national broadcaster.

The Bill will also empower the Minister to specify, by legislative instrument, other services that are 'designated datacasting services'.

This will allow flexibility to expand the scope of the datacasting regime if the circumstances warrant.

For example, this may apply where a provider seeks to use broadcasting spectrum to provide a datacasting service that the Minister considers should be subject to the conditions of service and codes of practice that apply to licensed datacasting services.

The Bill will also make a number of minor consequential amendments to the Broadcasting Services Act and the Radiocommunications Act to implement these changes.

Amendments to this Bill were passed in the other place to assist in managing the transition of the wireless audio devices community to alternate spectrum and provide clarity about the future operation of their devices.

As amended, the Bill will require the Minister to direct the ACMA to review and report on the provision of spectrum for low interference potential device class licences and provide a transition pathway for such licences by 30 July 2013.

In addition, the main operative provisions in the Bill will not commence until 1 October 2013.

It should be noted that datacasting regulation under the Broadcasting Services Act will not apply to any services using digital dividend spectrum after the Minister removes this spectrum from the broadcasting services bands.

This is intended to occur after that spectrum is cleared of digital television services as a result of the restack, scheduled for completion by 31 December 2014.

The proposals in this Bill will provide certainty and clarity around the conditions placed on the digital dividend spectrum in the interim period prior to its reallocation.

 

FINANCIAL FRAMEWORK LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL (NO. 2) 2013

The Financial Framework Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2013 would, if enacted, amend five Acts across three portfolios.

This Bill forms part of an ongoing program to address financial framework issues as they are identified and assists in ensuring that specific provisions in existing legislation remain clear and up-to-date.

Keeping the existing financial framework legislation up -to -date is also consistent with the reforms foreshadowed in the Government ' s proposed Commonwealth Financial Accountability Review.

First, the Bill would amend the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 to authorise the Commonwealth to form, or participate in forming, companies, as specified in the Financial Management and Accountability Regulations 1997.

The Bill would also amend the Financial Management and Accountability Regulations 1997 to specify the objects or activities of existing Commonwealth companies.

For the avoidance of doubt and to address potential constitutional issues raised by the High Court ' s decision in Williams v Commonwealth , the Bill would confirm the Commonwealth ' s existing involvement with companies. The proposed amendment would provide explicit legislative authority for the Commonwealth ' s involvement in companies.

The Bill would amend the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977 (the ADJR Act) to provide for decisions made under the proposed amendment to the FMA Act, as I have outlined, not to be subject to administrative review. As decisions about the formation of, and participation in, Commonwealth companies are not administrative decisions impacting on the interests of individuals, the Government considers that it would not be appropriate for such decisions to be subject to administrative review.

The second set of amendments in the Bill would establish a framework for dealing with overpayments within the Judges ' Pensions Act 1968 , the Remuneration Tribunal Act 1973 , and the Social Security Act 1991 in relation to Australian Government Disaster Relief payments. These changes are technical in nature and would address instances where payments are made by the relevant agency from a special appropriation to recipients, that are not, in practice, consistent with the requirements or preconditions imposed by these Acts and risk breaching section 83 of the Constitution. The proposed amendments are similar in nature to the amendments delivered by the Financial Framework Legislation Amendment Act (No. 2) 2012 .

Finally, the Bill would allow deferred tax asset relief to the Commonwealth Superannuation Corporation in relation to the transfer of assets from the Military Superannuation and Benefits Fund to the ARIA Investments Trust that occurred in May 2012. This is an operational amendment and follows the Government ' s decision to consolidate the trustees of the Commonwealth ' s main civilian and military superannuation schemes.

This Bill is, accordingly, another step to help ensure that specific areas of the Commonwealth's financial framework remain effective and up-to-date.

 

FOREIGN AFFAIRS PORTFOLIO MISCELLANEOUS MEASURES BILL 2013

The bill amends two Acts, the Intelligence Services Act 2001 and the Work Health Safety Act 2011.

The Staff of ASIS

The amendments to the Intelligence Services Act will create a mechanism for Australian Secret Intelligence Service employees to move to an Australian Public Service agency in the same way that Australian Public Service employees can voluntarily transfer from one Australian Public Service agency to another under section 26 of the Public Service Act 1999.

These amendments will better facilitate the protection of an ASIS employee's identity as an ASIS officer and broaden the mobility opportunities for ASIS employees in the Australian Public Service.

ASIS employees are not Australian Public Servants. Instead they are Commonwealth officers employed under the Intelligence Services Act.

ASIS officers perform difficult and, at times, dangerous tasks in distant locations. Information about their work and their identities is closely held in order to protect them, their activities and the people they interact with. Indeed it is an offence under section 41 of the Intelligence Services Act to identify a staff member of ASIS, other than in a few prescribed circumstances.

In order to protect their identity ASIS officers are typically identified as public servants. However, this may have unintended consequences when an ASIS officer seeks to move to a public service agency as there is no obvious reason why a person identified as a public servant would not transfer under the Public Service Act like any other public servant.

The amendments include mechanisms by which the Public Service Commissioner and the Director-General of ASIS will agree on how the ASIS classifications correspond to the APS classifications. This will ensure that ASIS levels have an equivalent Australian Public Service level for operation of this new provision and the other related aspects of the Public Service Act (for example the special requirements in respect of merit that apply in relation to promotion).

This proposal does not detract from the Australian Public Service merit principle in engagement. Under section 35 of the Intelligence Services Act the Director-General must adopt the principles of the Public Service Act in relation to employees of ASIS to the extent to which the Director-General considers they are consistent with the effective performance of ASIS's functions. In accordance with this obligation, ASIS's recruitment and promotion policies are based on merit.

Work Health and Safety

This Bill also contains amendments to the Work Health Safety Act 2011. These amendments will enable the Director-General of ASIS, with the approval of the Minister responsible for the Work Health Safety Act, to make a declaration that specified provisions of the Work Health Safety Actdo not apply, or apply subject to modifications, in relation to persons carrying out work for the Director-General.

These amendments clarify rather than amend existing Work Health Safety policy with regard to national security. The amendments make clear that in administering ASIS and in the exercise of the power to make a declaration the Director-General must take into account the need to promote the objects of the Work Health Safety Act to the greatest extent consistent with the maintenance of Australia's national security.

The Work Health Safety Actalready recognises that national security may not always be compatible with full compliance with Work Health Safety Actand the need to ensure that national security is not prejudiced. However, currently there is no mechanism to modify the operation of the Act to people who perform work for the Director-General of ASIS.

This is in contrast to the position of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) and the Australian Defence Force (ADF). Both of these agencies have mechanisms for modification of the WHS Act under sections 12C and 12D of the Act respectively.

The environments in which ASIS operates overseas are very similar to the environments in which ASIO and the ADF operate.

In these environments the requirements of national security may not always be compatible with full compliance with Australian work health and safety obligations. Indeed full compliance could in some circumstances place people who work for the Director-General of ASIS at risk and prejudice national security.

Therefore there is a similar need for the Work Health Safety Actto be modified in its application to ASIS in appropriate circumstances. Any modification will only occur with the agreement of the Minister responsible for the Work Health Safety Act.

 

INSURANCE CONTRACTS AMENDMENT BILL 2013

Having a safe, efficient and well-functioning insurance market is vital for all Australians. Insurance enables people and organisations to participate in social and economic activities that they otherwise would not be able to engage in, as they are able to price and transfer risks associated with those activities and with other aspects of their lives.

The important role that insurance plays in Australian society has become even more evident in the past few years with the devastating impact of natural disasters on so many lives.

In recognising the critical role insurance plays and the impact that insurance has on families and businesses the Government has taken and continues to take a number of steps to improve the insurance market in Australia.

In this regard, on 23 November 2011 the Government introduced the Insurance Contracts Amendment Bill 2011 into Parliament. The Bill received Royal Assent on 15 April 2012. The 2012 Act introduced the framework for a standard definition of flood for home building, home contents, small business and strata title body corporate insurance contracts and for the provision of a Key Facts Sheet for home building and home contents insurance policies.

During 2012, regulations to give effect to these two measures were made and I am pleased to say that a significant number of insurers have adopted the standard definition early. This measure in particular ensures that Australians can rely on a common understanding of what flood actually means in these type of insurance contracts.

This Bill, the Insurance Contracts Amendment Bill 2013, is yet another example of how the Government is improving the insurance market in Australia. The law governing contracts of insurance has a direct influence on the effectiveness and efficiency of the insurance market.

This Bill has been developed over a long period. Its history began back in September 2003, when a Review Panel comprising Mr Alan Cameron AM and Ms Nancy Milne was established to embark on a comprehensive review of the Act.

The Review Panel's final report was released in 2004. The report noted that the Insurance Contracts Act 1984 (the Act), which is the primary source of laws regulating the rights and obligations of insurers, insureds and relevant third parties, had generally been operating satisfactorily to the benefit of insurers and insureds. However, the Review Panel found that some changes would be beneficial given the passage of time from the Acts original enactment. Consequently, the Review Panel made some recommendations to give effect to the beneficial changes that they had identified in the review. The review panel also recommended that further consultations should be undertaken on the details of any proposed amendments to give effect to their recommendations.

In 2010 after extended consultation with industry and consumer groups, the Insurance Contracts Amendment Bill 2010 (2010 Bill) was introduced into Parliament. While the 2010 Bill passed the House of Representatives, due to the calling of the 2010 Federal election the 2010 Bill lapsed.

On the Government's return, it was decided that it was appropriate to consult further with key stakeholders to ensure that the amendments to the Act struck an appropriate balance between providing certainty for insurers and ensuring that insureds are able to obtain appropriate outcomes under the Act. Through this engagement, some additional refinements have been made to the proposed amendments to the Act. These refinements further add to the beneficial nature of the amendments to the Act.

The Government appreciates the constructive and thoughtful way that consumer representatives and industry have worked closely together throughout the development of the amendments to the Act.

The Bill includes measures that will:

remove impediments to the use of electronic communication for statutory notices and documents;

make the duty of disclosure easier for consumers to understand and comply with, especially at renewal of household/domestic insurance contracts;

make the remedies in respect of life insurance contracts more flexible and suited to modern life insurance products;

clarify the rights and obligations of persons named in contracts as having the benefit of cover, but who are not parties themselves; and

clarify what types of contracts are exempt from its operation.

Although many of the amendments are technical adjustments to the Act rather than significant changes to the framework of the Act, as a package they will operate to streamline and clarify requirements while maintaining appropriate consumer protections.

The Government is also in the process of developing draft legislation to extend the unfair contract terms laws to general insurance. This will ensure that the protections against unfair contract terms that are enshrined in Australia's consumer protection legislation will also apply to general insurance contracts, which have until now been excluded.

In conclusion, this Bill is yet another significant step made by the Gillard Government, in improving the insurance market in Australia. This Bill provides for a package of improvements and efficiencies to how the Act operates, while maintaining the right balance that the Act aims to strike between the interests of insurers, insureds and the wider public. This Bill will help ensure a better functioning, more efficient insurance market that will ultimately benefit the entire Australian community.

Debate adjourned.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I move:

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

Question agreed to.