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Skills Australia Amendment (Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency) Bill 2012

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2010-2011-2012

 

 

 

 

THE PARLIAMENT OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

skills australia amendment (australian WORKFORCE AND PRODUCTIVITY AGENCY) BILL 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EXPLANATORY MEMORANDUM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Circulated by authority of the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research)

SKILLS AUSTRALIA AMENDMENT (AUSTRALIAN WORKFORCE AND PRODUCTIVITY AGENCY) BILL 2012

 

 

GENERAL OUTLINE

 

 

As part of the 2011-12 Budget’s Building Australia’s Future Workforce initiatives, the Australian Government announced the creation of an industry-led national workforce and productivity agency to replace Skills Australia.

 

The Building Australia’s Future Workforce initiatives provide more than $3 billion in investment for a new approach to deliver the skilled workers the economy needs and ensure more Australians have the opportunity to share in the nation’s prosperity.

 

The Skills Australia Amendment (Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency) Bill 2012 implements a key component of the 2011 reforms, establishing the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency from 1 July 2012.

 

The underlying objective of the agency is to place industry at the centre of the National Training System, giving industry a stronger voice in the direction of policy and industry skills funding.

 

The aim of the agency will be to improve long-term workforce planning and development to address skills and labour shortages, and contribute to improved industry and workplace productivity. It will build on the current role and strengths of Skills Australia, and work to deliver practical industry-led workforce strategies. The agency will also have a critical role in advising the Australian Government on the allocation of funding for the new National Workforce Development Fund.

 

To this end, the Bill makes amendments to the Skills Australia Act 2008 to:

•          change the name of the existing Skills Australia body to the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency;

•          Broaden the object of the Act to include the provision of advice on the allocation of Commonwealth industry skills and workforce development funding including the National Workforce Development Fund;

•          Broaden the functions of the body to allow for a stronger research, analysis and advisory role, and to specifically address improvements in Australian workforce productivity;

•          Expand the size of the body from a total of seven to ten members, including an independent chair; and

•          Expand on the current membership criteria to reflect the transition to a union and industry-led body. 

Date of effect : The amendments commence on 1 July 2012.

 

 

FINANCIAL IMPACT STATEMENT

The Government will provide $25.0 million over three years to establish the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency. This is in addition to the current Skills Australia budget.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Statement of Compatibility with Human Rights

 

Prepared in accordance with Part 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011

 

Skills Australia Amendment (Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency) Bill 2012

 

This Bill is compatible with human rights and freedoms recognised or declared in the international instruments listed in section 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011.

 

Overview of the Bill

The Skills Australia Amendment (Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency) Bill 2012 (the Bill) will amend the Skills Australia Act 2008 (Skills Australia Act) to establish the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency (‘the Agency’).

 

The Bill implements the Government’s 2011 Budget commitment to establish an industry-led agency to improve long-term workforce planning and development,  address skills and labour shortages, and contribute to improvements in industry and workplace productivity. As part of the Government’s Building Australia’s Future Workforce initiatives, the agency will give industry a stronger voice and ensure the Government’s investment in training delivers the skills that industry and the economy need, in the right place at the right time.

Specifically the Bill will change the name of the existing Skills Australia body to the “Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency”. The objects of the Act will be broadened to enable scope for the provision of expert and independent advice with respect to the allocation of Commonwealth funding in order to meet certain objectives.

 

The Bill will also increase the primary functions of the Agency to enable the Agency to provide advice to the Minister with respect to improving the productivity of the Australian workforce and with respect to the allocation of Commonwealth funding. The Bill will also create additional functions to enable the Agency to assess research relating to improving the productivity of the Australian workforce and to enable the Agency to analyse the funding available to address such matters.

 

The Bill will make amendments to increase the size of the Agency from a total of seven to ten members, which includes an independent chair, and will expand on the current membership criteria, in particular to ensure that the Agency has at least one member with experience in the representation of employees.

 

The Bill also makes various other consequential amendments throughout the Skills Australia Act to reflect the change of name to the Agency.

 

 

Human rights implications

 

The Bill engages the following human rights:

 

Right to Work



Article 6 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) recognises the right to work. In particular it recognises that persons should have the opportunity to gain their living by work which they freely choose or accept. In safeguarding this right, Article 6 provides that steps should be taken to protect the right such as technical and vocational guidance and training programmes, policies and techniques to achieve steady economic, social and cultural development and full and productive employment under conditions safeguarding fundamental political and economic freedoms to the individual.

 

The amendments made by the Bill engage Article 6 of the ICESCR. In particular the Bill amends the object of the Act to provide scope for the provision of expert and independent advice with respect to the allocation of Commonwealth funding in order to identify training priorities to respond to Australia’s workforce skills needs and workforce development needs as well as to increase workforce participation, improve productivity and competitiveness, identify and address skills shortages and promote the development of a highly skilled workforce. To the extent the right is engaged, it is engaged positively as this amendment will further facilitate the provision of expert and industry based advice to be considered by the Government when Commonwealth funding is being allocated to support improvements in these areas.

 

In addition, the Bill makes amendments to the primary functions of the Skills Australia body to enable the Agency to provide advice to the Minister on matters relating to improving the productivity of the Australian workforce and with respect to the allocation of Commonwealth funding, including the National Workforce Development Fund, to address this issue (in addition to the existing functions of providing advice on Australia’s current and emerging and future workforce development and workforce skills needs). This positively engages the rights protected by Article 6 of the ICESCR as it will facilitate well informed funding decisions based on advice from industry representatives, ensuring skills and workforce development funding is directed to areas of greatest need. In addition, as the Agency’s role is advisory (to government), it is unlikely that the actions or functions of the Agency will have any direct impact on the rights of individuals.

 

A further amendment will increase the number of persons to be appointed as members of the Agency, and in particular will provide that persons with experience in the representation of employees are represented as part of the Agency. To the extent that this engages the rights protected under Article 6, it does so positively, as the Government will have access to the expertise of a member who has experience representing employees.

 

Conclusion

The Bill is compatible with human rights because it advances human rights as outlined above.

Skills australia amendment (Australian workforce and productivity agency) Bill 2012

 

NOTES ON CLAUSES

 

Clause 1 - Short title

 

This clause provides for the Act to be cited as the Skills Australia Amendment (Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency) Act 2012.

 

Clause 2 - Commencement

 

Clause 2 provides that the Act will commence on 1 July 2012.

 

Clause 3 - Schedule(s)

 

Provides that each Act that is specified in a Schedule is amended or repealed as set out in the applicable items in the Schedule and that any other items in the Schedule have effect according to its terms.

 

For ease of description, this Explanatory Memorandum uses the abbreviations:

 

‘Agency’ means the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency

 

‘Skills Australia Act’ means the Skills Australia Act 2008.

 

Schedule 1 - Amendment of the Skills Australia Act 2008

 

Part 1 - Main Amendments

 

Item 1 - Title

 

Item 1 amends the title of the Skills Australia Act to remove reference to Skills Australia and substitute this reference with the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency.

 

Item 2 - Section 1

 

Item 2 amends the short title of the Act as described in section 1 of the Skills Australia Act, so that the Act will be cited as the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency Act 2008.

 

A note explains that if a later amendment of the Skills Australia Act makes reference to its previous title, then it is to be regarded as an amendment of the Act under its title as changed by this Bill (i.e. the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency Act 2008 ).

 

 

 

Item 3 - Section 3

 

Item 3 amends section 3 of the Skills Australia Act by inserting a definition of Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency. The definition makes reference to the establishment provision in section 5 of the Act under which the Agency is established.

 

Item 4 - Section 4 (heading)

 

Item 4 makes a minor amendment to the heading “Objects” to reflect that the Act has a single object.

 

Item 5 - Section 4

 

The object of the Skills Australia Act is set out in section 4 which is to provide for expert and independent advice in relation to Australia’s workforce skills needs and workforce development needs. Item 5 will include an additional matter as part of the object of the Act which is to provide for expert and independent advice with respect to “the allocation of Commonwealth funding”.

 

Item 6 - Section 5

 

Section 5 of the Skills Australia Act establishes the body Skills Australia. Item 6 repeals and substitutes this section to provide that the body known immediately prior to the commencement of this section as Skills Australia continues in existence but is known as the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency.

 

Note 1 draws reference to section 25B of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901 , which concerns where an Act changes the name of a body.  Note 2 draws reference to section 2 of this Bill which would provide that the Bill (once enacted) commences on 1 July 2012.

 

Item 7 - At the end of subsection 6(1)

 

Subsection 6(1) has the effect of setting out the primary functions of the Agency which are to provide advice to the Minister on matters relating to: Australia’s current, emerging and future workforce development needs and Australia’s current emerging and future workforce skills needs. Item 7 inserts two additional matters which the Agency will have responsibility for providing advice to the Minister on. These matters are: improving the productivity of the Australian workforce and the allocation of Commonwealth funding(including through the National Workforce Development Fund) to address the matters mentioned in paragraphs (a),(b) and (c).

 

Item 8 - After paragraph 6(3)(b)

 

Subsection 6(3) of the Skills Australia Act sets out additional functions of the Agency. Paragraph 6(3)(b) refers to the Agency’s role in assessing various matters. Item 8 inserts additional paragraphs into subsection 6(3) to provide that  additional functions of the agency are to assess research relating to improving the productivity of the Australian workforce and to analyse the funding available to address the matters mentioned in paragraphs 6(1)(a)(b) and (c).

 

Item 9 - Paragraph 8(b)

 

Section 8 sets out the constitution of the Agency. Currently the Agency is comprised of a Chair and 6 other members, however Item 9 will amend section 8 so that the Agency is comprised of a Chair and 9 other members.

 

Item 10 - Subsection 9(2)

 

Subsection 9(2) of the Skills Australia Act has the effect of providing that, in making appointments, the Minister must ensure that members have certain specified experience between them. Item 10 repeals and substitutes subsection 9(2) in order to include an additional criterion of experience which is to ensure that members of the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency have experience in the representation of employees.

 

Part 2 - Consequential amendments

 

Division 1 - Changing the name of Skills Australia

 

Item 11 - Multiple amendments and Items 12 to 21

 

Division 1 of Part 2 contains a number of consequential amendments to the Skills Australia Act to reflect the change of name to the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency. Item 11 provides that the specified provisions in the Skills Australia Act 2008 which are listed in Items 12 to 21 of Division 1 are amended by omitting “Skills Australia” wherever occurring and substituting “the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency”.

 

These amendments will affect the following provisions of the Skills Australia Act: section 3, subsections 6(3), 7(1), 7(3), 9(2) and 15(3), paragraph 15(5)(a), subsection 15(6), paragraph 18(2)(b), subsections 19(2) and 21(1), paragraph 21(2)(a), subsections 24(2), 24 (3) and 25(3) and section 26.

 

Division 2 - Further changes to the name of Skills Australia

 

Item 22 - Multiple amendments and Items 23 to 25

 

Division 2 of Part 2 contains a number of consequential amendments to the Skills Australia Act to reflect the change of name to the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency. Item 22 provides that the specified provisions in the Skills Australia Act 2008 which are listed in Items 23 to 25 of Division 2 are amended by omitting “Skills Australia” wherever occurring and substituting “The Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency”.

 

These amendments will affect the following provisions of the Skills Australia Act: s ubsection 6(1), 6(2) and 7(4), section 8, subsections 19(1), 23(1), 23(2), 24(4), 25(1), 25(2), 25(6), 27(1) and 27(2).

 

 

Division 3 - Other consequential amendments

 

Items 26 to 41

 

Division 3 ( Items 26 to 41 ) contains a number of consequential amendments to the Skills Australia Act to reflect the change of name to the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency.  These amendments will affect the following provisions of the Skills Australia Act:

 

Part 2:  section 3(definition of Skills Australia ), Part 2 (heading), subsection 6(4), paragraph 6(4)(b), section 7 (heading), and Part 3 (heading).

 

Part 3:  section 15 (heading), subsection 15(1), subsection 15(4), paragraphs 15(4)(a) and 15(4)(b) and Part 4 (heading).

 

Part 4:  subsection 24(1), paragraph 24(1)(b), section 26 (heading) and subsection 27(1).  

 

Part 3 - Transitional Provisions

 

Item 42 is a transitional provision which has the effect of terminating the appointment of current members of Skills Australia upon commencement of this Act.

 

Item 43 is a transitional provision, the effect of which is to provide that any committees established under section 25 of the Skills Australia Act and which are in existence immediately before Item 43 commences (ie 1 July 2012), will cease to exist after that date.