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Monday, 22 August 2011
Page: 5056


Senator ARBIB (New South WalesMinister for Sport, Minister for Indigenous Employment and Economic Development and Minister for Social Housing and Homelessness) (18:02): I present a revised explanatory memorandum relating to the National Health Reform Amendment (National Health Performance Authority) Bill 2011 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—

CUSTOMS AMENDMENT (ANTI-DUMPING IMPROVEMENTS) BILL 2011

I am pleased to present the Customs Amendment (Anti-dumping Improvements) Bill 2011, representing the first tranche of legislation implementing the Government’s improvements to Australia’s anti-dumping system.

The package of improvements announced by the Gillard Government on the 22nd of June 2011, are the most important changes to Australia’s anti-dumping regime in more than a decade. These changes will improve the way we administer global anti-dumping rules in Australia, and better align our laws and practices with other countries.

These changes overall will improve the anti-dumping system’s effectiveness and they are vital because, even though our economy is strong, some local industries are vulnerable to dumping.

The Government’s package of improvements to the anti-dumping system will help keep our economy strong and provide greater certainty and support for our local industries, workers, families and communities against unfair dumping practices.

The package of improvements announced by the Government on June the 22nd include the Government’s response to the Productivity Commission’s Report into Australia’s anti-dumping system. These changes also respond to issues identified by Senator Xenophon, in a Private Member's Bill introduced into the Senate in March, and also take account of important issues that have been raised by stakeholders in relation to the operation of Australia’s anti-dumping system.

The improvements that I am introducing today capture four key themes which have been at the heart of the Government’s detailed examination of how the existing anti-dumping system can be improved.

First, these changes improve the timeliness of the anti-dumping system through the imposition of a time-limit on Ministerial decision making.

Second, we will improve decision-making by clarifying that all appropriate and relevant factors which may indicate material injury to an Australian industry are specifically listed as factors to which the Minister may have regard.

Third, these changes aim to provide greater comparability of Australia’s anti-dumping system with those of other jurisdictions, and further implement the relevant World Trade Organization Agreements which provide the basis for internationally agreed anti-dumping rules.

Fourth, these changes will clarify that parties with a clear interest in anti-dumping matters are expressly given an opportunity to participate in anti-dumping investigations.

These amendments were developed after consultation with industry, and subsequently drafted in consultation with the Attorney-General’s Department, and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, in order to ensure that they are consistent with Australia’s international legal obligations.

Timeframe for Ministerial decision making.

In relation to the improved timeliness of the system, these amendments provide that the Minister will exercise decision-making powers within 30 days of receiving a report or recommendation on which to make a decision.

Unlike all the other decisions and processes in the anti-dumping system there are currently no legislative time constraints governing the Minister’s decision.

The responsible Minister has a large range of decision-making functions in the anti-dumping system and may make decisions following:

an investigation to determine whether anti-dumping or countervailing measures should be imposed,

a continuation inquiry to determine whether anti-dumping or countervailing measures should continue beyond the specified expiry date,

a review of measures to determine whether measures should be varied to reflect contemporary market conditions, or revoked where they are no longer justified, or

a review (appeal) to the Review Officer of an earlier Ministerial decision, including where relevant, where a re-investigation has been performed by Customs and Border Protection.

The amendments provide that, subject to extenuating circumstances, the Minister will make a decision within 30 days of receiving the relevant report/recommendations.

There are clear benefits in imposing a time limit on Ministerial decision-making, providing greater certainty for parties, and ultimately reducing the overall timeframe to conclude an investigation. Maintaining Australia’s comparatively brief investigative timeframes is important because anti-dumping investigations affect the commercial operations of a range of stakeholders.

Consideration of injury factors

In relation to improved decision making, these amendments provide that, in determining whether material injury to an Australian industry has been or is being caused or is threatened, the Minister may consider any impacts on jobs and any impact on investment in the domestic industry producing like goods to the goods the subject of the investigation.

The Customs Act currently contains a list of relevant economic factors which the Minister may have regard to when determining material injury, however, certain injury factors could be more adequately considered when assessing whether dumping or subsidisation has caused material injury.

The impact on jobs and investment in an industry are two such factors.

The amendments provide that the Minister can consider any impact on jobs in the domestic industry producing like goods, not just the effects currently specified. As well as the wage rate and the number of workers employed, the Minister would be able to consider all aspects of the terms and conditions of employment, including the number of hours worked and the incidence of part-time employment.

The amendments also provide that the Minister can examine any impact on investment in the industry, to again ensure that a broad examination of the factors affecting investment is permitted.

Expanding the list of actionable subsidies

In relation to ensuring that Australia’s anti-dumping system is in step with comparable administrations, these amendments ensure that Australian industry can apply for countervailing duties on the full range of actionable subsidies provided by the WTO Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures and the WTO Agreement on Agriculture.

These WTO Agreements specify the types of government subsidies that can be actioned by another country. Australian legislation has not reflected the fact that some subsidies were excluded on a temporary basis. As a result, Australian companies cannot currently seek remedies in relation to these subsidies.

These amendments update the Customs Act to reflect all countervailable subsidies under the WTO including certain assistance:

for research activities conducted by firms or by higher education and research establishments

for disadvantaged regions pursuant to a general framework of regional development

to enable firms to adapt to new environmental requirements, and for a variety of government programs that provide services or benefits to agriculture.

These amendments ensure that Australian companies can take action against subsidies of this nature where such subsidies cause material injury. Australian companies will therefore be operating on a level-playing field compared to manufacturers and producers in other jurisdictions, as they are no longer disadvantaged by restrictions associated with out of date legislation.

Expanding the definition of “interested party”

In relation to accessibility, these amendments ensure that all relevant parties are expressly recognised as having rights to participate in anti-dumping and countervailing investigations as an “interested party”.

An “interested party” to an investigation is currently defined in section 269T of the Customs Act to comprise, in broad terms, domestic manufacturers and producers, importers, exporters, trade organisations and foreign governments.

Submissions to Government suggest that in the present system some stakeholder groups, who should be engaged, are not properly engaged in anti-dumping investigations.

The amendments clarify that industry associations, trade unions and downstream industry (whether or not they are an importer) who have a direct interest in a particular matter can be treated as interested parties. The amendments further confirm that these parties can participate in an investigation.

This change will not affect the present standing requirements determining who can bring an application for anti-dumping or countervailing measures. Rather, the amendments make it clear who has a right to participate in investigations once an application is initiated.

These amendments will facilitate the provision of relevant information to Customs and Border Protection during the investigation phase and ensure that reports and recommendations made to the Minister take account of the views and interests of this broader range of stakeholders.

Concluding remarks

The Government is committed to ensuring that we have an effective, accessible anti-dumping system that complies with WTO obligations. The first tranche of changes set out in this Bill, directly respond to concerns expressed by stakeholders about the accessibility and timeliness of the anti-dumping system. These amendments will further strengthen the anti-dumping system by improving decision-making in relation to how material injury to an Australian industry is assessed.

It will also improve accessibility by ensuring that interested parties with a stake in an anti-dumping matter will have the opportunity to participate and be heard in anti-dumping investigations.

The Government believes that better support can be provided to our local industries and workforce with a streamlined, rigorous and better resourced anti-dumping system. The Government’s package of improvements, of which this Bill is the first tranche, will provide more certainty for local manufacturers and primary producers resulting in more confidence to invest in the future. Indeed, the rules against unfair dumping practices will be more effectively applied.

This Bill will result in better access to the anti-dumping system; improved timeliness; improved quality of decision making and greater consistency with other countries, in line with WTO guidelines.

INDUSTRIAL CHEMICALS (NOTIFICATION AND ASSESSMENT) AMENDMENT (INVENTORY) BILL 2011

I am pleased to introduce the Industrial Chemicals (Notification and Assessment) Amendment (Inventory) Bill 2011 which amends the Industrial Chemicals (Notification and Assessment) Act 1989 (the Act).

The Industrial Chemicals (Notification and Assessment) Act establishes a national system of notification and assessment of industrial chemicals used in Australia to aid in the protection of human health and safety and the environment, to provide for registration of certain persons proposing to introduce industrial chemicals and to enable making of national standards for cosmetics manufactured or imported into Australia. The National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS), administers the Act. The activities of NICNAS therefore underpin essential advice to other Government agencies which collectively make up Australia's regulatory system for industrial chemicals

The Bill presents amendments that continue to deliver on the Government's commitment to decreasing regulatory burden and efficiently using resources while maintaining health and environmental safety.

The Bill does this by implementing important parts of NICNAS's continuing reform program, namely, the completion of the reforms to the cosmetic therapeutic interface and making technical, but no less important changes to enhance the administration and efficiency of the scheme's assessment processes.

The Bill underpins completion of the cosmetic regulatory reforms largely implemented through amendment of the Act in 2007 as part of the Low Regulatory Concern Chemicals reform initiative.

In 2007, in order to facilitate the transfer of regulatory responsibility for certain low-risk products at the therapeutic-cosmetic interface from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (the TGA) to NICNAS, changes to the Act resulted in the introduction of the NICNAS Cosmetics Standard. The Standard enabled NICNAS to regulate certain cosmetics by prescribing minimum standards for these products in Australia and imposed penalties for non-compliance. However, a mechanism to transfer the chemicals in these cosmetic products from the TGA onto the Australian Inventory of Chemical Substances (AICS) had not been developed at that time.

In the absence of the transfer mechanism, some introducers of the chemicals have to meet the requirements of the new chemicals framework with the associated notification and assessment costs or reporting obligations.

The proposed Bill will make the necessary changes to the Act to address this regulatory gap in the protection of public health and enable proper regulation of chemicals in these cosmetics products through entry of the chemicals on the national Inventory.

This regulatory mechanism used to transfer chemicals in cosmetics (which have been transferred from the TGA to NICNAS) can also be used for other chemicals. This means that chemicals in products previously regulated by other Commonwealth agencies can be smoothly transferred to NICNAS.

The power to place chemicals that have been transferred to NICNAS onto the AICS will be open and transparent. As some chemicals to be transferred to NICNAS may not have been assessed by the other Commonwealth agency, the transfer procedure will allow public submissions on a proposal to include or not include a transferred chemical onto the AICS. The Director's decision to include or not include a transferred chemical on AICS is also reviewable by the AAT.

In cases where transferred chemicals have been assessed and controls have been implemented by the other agency, the controls will be able to be maintained, ensuring that legal obligations to comply with pre-existing controls are preserved.

For example, the cosmetic reforms in 2007 included the transfer of regulatory responsibility for secondary sunscreen products which are applied to the skin (for example, moisturisers containing a sunscreening chemical). Currently, NICNAS assesses the UV filter chemicals in these products by requesting, on a case by case basis, the additional data required for sunscreens under the TGA.

The Bill addresses the more efficient collection of these data by creating a new section in the schedule of data requirements to include those requirements that are specific to UV filters.

The intent of this amendment to the Schedule is to formalise current arrangements and maintain a consistent approach to the assessment of these chemicals across regulatory schemes.

The Bill also makes technical amendments to the Schedule to the Act to improve clarity and consistency to other data requirements for new chemicals assessments. These proposed technical amendments will not place any significant additional requirements on the industrial chemicals industry.

One technical amendment removes the current requirement for NICNAS to publish summary assessment reports.

The need to publish summary reports was originally included in the Act at a time when NICNAS assessment reports were only available in hard copy and had to be purchased. As a result, a summary report was made available free of charge. With the advent of the Internet, the NICNAS assessment reports are now freely available on the NICNAS website, rendering the publication of summary reports obsolete. However, to facilitate public access to these reports, NICNAS will publish a short notice outlining the key content of new assessment reports in the Chemical Gazette, with a link to those reports.

These amendments have been developed in response to industry and community concerns and in close consultation with industry, government and the community. The proposed amendments enable NICNAS to properly regulate chemicals used in cosmetics (and any other chemicals transferred from other Commonwealth regulatory schemes) and improve current data requirements and administrative processes to provide a more efficient process and make more information available to stakeholders. The Bill does this while, of course, maintaining existing levels of worker safety, public health and environmental standards.

These amendments therefore represent an important step in improving the operation of Australia's framework for regulating chemicals and reflect the Government's commitment to ensure the most efficient regulatory system is in place for industrial chemicals, including those in cosmetics.

NATIONAL HEALTH REFORM AMENDMENT (NATIONAL HEALTH PERFORMANCE AUTHORITY) BILL 2011

Today I am introducing legislation that will form part of the new backbone of a modern, integrated, high performing health system.

It is a result of the Government’s historic agreement with all states and territories to undertake fundamental reform of our health and hospitals system.

Today I am taking a critical step with the introduction of this legislation to create a National Health Performance Authority - the new watchdog for Australia’s health system.

The performance authority will work to:

open up the performance of the health and hospital system to new levels of national transparency and accountability

allow for the identification of high performing parts of the health system so those successes can be transferred to other areas

identify areas of the health system that require improvement so that action can be taken; and

improve the health care choices of Australians in making key decisions about their own health care needs

This forms one critical element of a new health system - one that is sustainable, transparent, efficient, high-performing and well resourced.

The reform of Australia’s health system is one of the most important public policy challenges of this generation.

In many ways we are lucky that Australia has one of the most impressive public health systems in the world - our doctors and nurses are world class, our public system provides free hospital care for all and it delivers outcomes such as low infant mortality and long life expectancy.

But we’re faced with a health system that is fragmented, costly, under resourced, unsustainable, overly focused on acute care and with constant pressure to deliver for more patients with more complex needs.

And our access is not truly universal - improving the health of Australia’s first peoples remains a massive challenge.

All of this would be challenge enough - but add to this the fact that Australia’s ‘baby boomers’ are now starting to retire. This population bubble will place more pressure on our hospitals as doctors and nurses retire, and more people require acute care.

We’ve attacked these challenges ferociously since we entered office in 2007. We’ve taken the short term measures that have been needed to avert pressures becoming crisis while we’ve worked to reshape our health system for the long term.

Hospital funding increased by $20 billion, over 70,000 more elective surgery operations have been delivered, the cap on the number of GPs being trained has been lifted with 475 new doctors now in training, the number of nurse places in universities has increased by over 1,000 a year, and primary care and preventative health is a renewed focus for government. And just this week I have announced 518 trainee specialist places - a ten fold increase compared to 2007.

But truly putting our health system on a sustainable path requires fundamental reform. A genuine national deal was needed to make the changes necessary to ensure our health system is not overwhelmed by the rising costs of health treatment, to provide safer and higher quality services, to manage the demand for health services from an ageing population and the need for effective reporting and monitoring on the performance of health service providers.

The Government is now delivering this. Our 13 February agreement with all Australian states and territories on health reform creates a genuine partnership that will deliver much needed change to our health system.

The partnership that this Government has entered into with the states and territories demonstrates our commitment to action on health reform, and most importantly, to take decisive action to deliver a better deal for patients, and a better deal for communities.

It means more money for hospital beds, increased local control of health services, greater transparency and less waste.

One of the greatest challenges facing our health system is ensuring it has enough money into the future.

Therefore, the Government will inject an extra $19.8 billion into public hospitals, on top of the extra $20 billion we have already provided, and develop robust national standards to make sure that money is directed straight to hospitals and patients.

The Government will meet 45 per cent of the growth in efficient hospital costs by 2014-15 and 50 per cent from 2017-18. From that point, the Commonwealth and the states and territories will meet the cost of efficient hospital funding growth on an equal basis. The Commonwealth’s contribution will include funding of no less than $16.4 billion towards public hospital funding growth over the next decade, and $3.4 billion extra for emergency departments, elective surgery and 1,316 sub-acute hospital beds over the next four years.

A new national funding pool will be created which will deliver unprecedented transparency in the way hospitals are funded. These changes to the funding arrangements will provide security for hospital services into the future, combined with important changes in the delivery of vital health services.

But in order to drive improvements in patient outcomes, it is vital that patients have access to better information about the performance of hospitals and other key health care providers.

This Government is committed to increasing the transparency of government and the services it delivers.

We firmly believe that with transparency comes a greater chance of improving public services and empowering the public to make decisions based on the best information.

There’s no better example of that than our reforms to the way that parents can make decisions about their children’s education through the MySchool website.

Building on this success in the health portfolio we have also implemented the MyHospitals website which for the first time allows all Australians to see the performance of their individual hospitals including waiting times for elective surgery procedures and emergency department care.

Our health reforms will drive this further. We’ve listened to the advice of the National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission that said performance reporting would “promote a culture of continuous improvement” and improve consumer literacy of the health system. .

They recommended the development of national access targets, performance reporting that compares the clinical performance of hospitals and health services (both public and private) and reporting on safety and quality performance and patient satisfaction.

Our health reform agreement delivers on that reporting, targets and transparency to improve health services.

This includes:

new national standards for emergency department care and elective surgery to improve waiting times for patients in our hospitals; and

a new Performance and Accountability Framework so that hospitals will have to measure and report on a range of performance, safety and quality and output measures.

This work to improve transparency will not happen by itself. It requires dedicated resources and an independent authority to oversee the work.

So the Bill I am moving today will establish an independent body to drive this performance and transparency agenda. The National Health Performance Authority will exist to improve quality, increase transparency and drive value for money in the health system.

It will drive transparency in the health system by improving Australian’s access to vital health information. Australians will have more access to information on their local hospitals, health services, primary health care and community health services.

The Authority will monitor and report assessments on the new Local Hospital Networks, public hospitals, private hospitals, and Medicare Locals.

The Authority will publicly report this information through new Hospital performance reports and Healthy Community Reports - that will be available for Australians to see on the Internet.

These reports will show how each Local Hospital Network and Medicare Local is performing - as well as individual hospitals, private hospitals and other organisations.

To achieve this the Authority will collect, analyse and interpret performance information and promote and conduct research into new and existing performance tools. Where performance needs to be measured in a new way - the authority will have the ability to develop new measurements to assess performance.

Other performance related tasks may also be referred to the Authority.

Its independence will ensure that Australians know that nationally comparable information will be available and that it has been independently analysed.

It will mean that Australians will have a much better picture of how their health services are performing - and the differences in performance between big cities, outer metropolitan areas, regional centres and remote services. That will give further impetus to improve the equality of service provision.

To ensure the Performance Authority’s membership has the necessary degree of health care expertise in rural and regional health issues, at least one member must have substantial experience and standing in the health care needs of people living in regional or rural areas, and must understand the challenges of providing first class health care services to these Australians.

Seven members of the authority will be ministerially appointed in line with the health reform agreement - a chair from the Common­wealth, a Deputy Chair from the states and territories and five members to be appointed with the agreement of the Commonwealth and the states and territories.

Consistent with COAG’s original decision in April 2010, the Performance Authority is to be established as a statutory authority under the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997, or FMA Act.

A Chief Executive Officer will be ministerially appointed after consultations with the National Health Performance Authority. The Chief Executive Officer will manage the Authority and will be directly accountable to the Common­wealth Health Minister for the financial management of the Agency. The Chief Executive Officer will serve on a full time basis for a period of up to five years, and is eligible for re-appointment.

Through this Bill, Australia can take another large leap on the path to a modern, high-performing health system. One that prioritises continuous improvement and accountability to the patients it serves.

This will be a powerful independent watchdog body that by using the power of accurate information will push our hospitals to deliver better services and push our primary health sector to develop and improve.

It will guide policy makers to develop better solutions that give greater account to our regional differences - and will help patients to make better decisions on their own care.

This is one of the first steps of our major national health reforms. Reforms which are critical to delivering for Australians a health system that delivers the services to Australians that we deserve and expect.

Debate adjourned.