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Infrastructure Australia Bill 2008

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2008

 

THE PARLIAMENT OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA

 

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

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INFRASTRUCTURE AUSTRALIA BILL 2008

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SCHEDULE OF THE AMENDMENTS MADE BY THE SENATE TO WHICH THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES HAS DISAGREED

 

(1)           Clause 5, page 4 (lines 18 and 19), omit subclause (2)(j), substitute:

                      (j)  any functions that the Minister, by writing, directs Infrastructure Australia to perform, provided that the Minister must first table in each House of the Parliament a description of the additional functions the Minister proposes that Infrastructure Australia perform;

(2)           Clause 5, page 4 (lines 23 to 26), omit subclause (3), substitute:

             (3)  Infrastructure Australia may perform a function under subsection (1) or paragraph (2)(a), (b), (c), (d), (e), (f), (g) or (i) if it thinks fit or on request by the Minister.

(3)           Clause 5, page 4 (lines 27 and 28), omit subclause (4).

(4)           Clause 5, page 4 (lines 29 to 31), omit subclause (5).

(5)           Clause 29, page 16 (after line 5), after subclause (1), insert:

          (1A)  Before appointing the Infrastructure Coordinator, the Minister must consult with the Chair and members of Infrastructure Australia.

 

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HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES REASONS FOR DISAGREEING TO THE SENATE AMENDMENTS

         

The Government opposes the Infrastructure Australia Bill 2008 as amended by the Senate.

 

The proposed amendments would not enhance the Bill or the functions to be performed by Infrastructure Australia.

 

Senate Amendment (1)

 

This amendment seeks to enable the Parliament to scrutinise the Minister’s power to give Infrastructure Australia new functions by requiring that such functions first be tabled in Parliament.

 

Transparency is already built into this Bill and the proposed amendment does not add any further value.

 

The amendment would delay Infrastructure Australia’s work program.

 

The Government Bill provides transparency, scrutiny and accountability, while maintaining the flexibility for Infrastructure Australia to respond to evolving infrastructure issues by requiring Infrastructure Australia to prepare an annual report on its operations for tabling in Parliament, which would include details on any directions given by the Minister.

 

Senate Amendments (2) and (3)

 

The Government drafted Bill ensures that Infrastructure Australia is engaged in work that allows it to provide advice where it is needed most and focuses Infrastructure Australia limited resources on issues of national significance.

 

It would not be an efficient use of Infrastructure Australia’ s time to consider numerous business cases it might randomly receive from individual organisations.

 

Nor would it be a good use of its time to duplicate work that is being undertaken by other bodies or other Ministers.

 

The Government’s formulation prevents Infrastructure Australia from being diverted from its major task and allows it to respond to national issues and support decision makers at the Council of Australian Governments.

 

Senate Amendment (4) 

 

The amendment would decrease the clarity of the Bill by removing the clause that makes plain that directions relating to the functions of Infrastructure Australia are not legislative instruments.

 

Clauses, as included in the Government Bill, are examples of good drafting practice and avoid potential ambiguity.

 

Removal of this clause would have no effect other than decreasing the clarity of the Bill.

 

Senate Amendment (5) 

 

The effect of this amendment would be such that the Minister would have to consult with the Chair and members of Infrastructure Australia before appointing the Infrastructure Coordinator.

 

This proposed amendment reduces transparency in appointments.

 

On 5 February 2008, the Australian Government introduced a policy implementing transparent and merit-based assessment in the selection of statutory offices working in, or in conjunction with, APS agencies.

 

The appointment of the Infrastructure Coordinator will therefore follow the rules set out in this policy.



The merit-based selection of statutory office holders includes requirements for:

(a)       oversight of the advertising process and assessment of applicants’ claims to be undertaken by the Secretary of my Department and the Public Service Commissioner;

(b)      selections to be made against a core set of selection criteria;

(c)       a report, endorsed by the Public Service Commissioner, to be provided by the Secretary to the Minister recommending short listed candidates.

 

Where the Minister wishes to appoint someone not recommended by the panel, the Minister will need to write to the Prime Minister setting out reasons why.

 

The amendment is therefore substantially weaker in terms of transparency than that which will be followed under the Government’s policy and would only create uncertainty around the processes.

 

Accordingly the House of Representatives does not accept these amendments

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                                              I C HARRIS

                                                                      Clerk of the House of Representatives

 

 

House of Representatives

19 March 2008