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Thursday, 28 February 2013
Page: 1298


Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaManager of Opposition Business in the Senate) (13:01): The coalition will not oppose the Financial Framework Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 4) 2012. The bill seeks to amend five acts across three portfolios as part of an ongoing program to ensure that the Commonwealth's financial framework remains up to date and consistent across government.

The five main purposes of these amendments include amending the Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Act 1997—the 'CAC Act', which is such a quaint and delightful acronym, Mr Acting Deputy President Bernardi, I am sure you will agree—to substitute references of Commonwealth procurement guidelines to reflect a name change and to create consistent wording with the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997, and amending the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 to increase the threshold of the amount for which the Director of National Parks can enter into contracts from $250,000 to $1 million, without having to seek ministerial approval, to reflect increased costs since the previous increase in 1992. Whilst you will have noticed that this is a significant increase, the threshold was last increased to $250,000 in 1992. The explanatory memorandum notes that, due to increases in the costs of goods and services over the past 20 years, many routine transactions involving such things as fuel purchases, cleaning and maintenance of equipment and buildings, required in the management of Commonwealth reserves such as Uluru and Kakadu national parks, exceed the existing threshold.

The bill also amends the Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Management Act 1989 to establish a distinct new special appropriation for making remissions or refunds in relation to import and manufacturing levies relating to synthetic greenhouse gas management equipment—which all rolls very easily off the tongue! Currently, refunds and remissions are paid under section 28 of the Financial Management and Accountability Act, and the amendment is designed to increase the transparency and workability of the refund mechanism.

The bill also amends the Papua New Guinea (Staffing Assistance) Act 1973, which prescribes retirement benefits for former employees of the administration of the territory of Papua and New Guinea to provide clear provision for the recovery of retirement benefits deposited inadvertently into an account after the death of a recipient.

The bill also sets new requirements for public reporting by ComSuper of any recoverable death payments that have been made. It is important to note that the proposed amendments to the Papua New Guinea (Staffing Assistance) Act do not in any way affect benefit entitlement of PNG scheme pension recipients. They do clarify a pathway for the recovery of technical overpayments, to reflect previous financial framework amendments in relation to recoverable death payments with regard to welfare benefits.

The bill also amends the Public Accounts and Audit Committee Act 1951 to replace the terms 'Chairman' and 'Vice-Chairman' with the gender neutral terms 'Chair' and 'Deputy Chair', which I am sure may have caused concern. This is the 12th financial framework legislation amendment bill since 2004. They are generally noncontroversial and housekeeping in nature. Acting Deputy President Bernardi, I appreciate the interest that you have shown from the chair in these matters.