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Monday, 16 November 2009
Page: 11715

Mr COMBET (Minister for Defence Personnel, Materiel and Science and Minister Assisting the Minister for Climate Change) (5:57 PM) —Once again, I thank the member for Lyne for his amendments. As I indicated in relation to the previous bills and the amendments moved to them by the member for Lyne, the government does not have quite the same take as the member for Lyne on the role of the executive in relation to this policy area. We do not support the member’s amendments but we recognise the motivation behind them. The proposed amendments, as the member for Lyne indicated, are identical to those previously moved. I appreciate that his intention is to ensure that the authority is able to carry out its functions with an appropriate level of independence. The government also wants to see the authority operating objectively and transparently, in accordance with the framework of rules set out in the legislation. That is why, under clause 41 of the bill, the authority is subject to ministerial direction on general matters only and the minister is not empowered to direct the authority on individual cases. I am astonished that such a grave matter draws such mirth from one of my colleagues.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr S Sidebottom)—Indeed. They’re nervous!

Mr COMBET —Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for bringing the House to order! The minister, of course, is not empowered to direct the authority on individual cases such as the allocation of emissions units to a particular person or company. This is a common approach in Commonwealth legislation dealing with independent regulatory bodies and it ensures that the authority’s operational independence is preserved while providing scope to ensure that the authority will act consistently with Commonwealth policy. Under the legislation, the minister must table any direction. That means he or she will be accountable to the parliament for any directions given. For those reasons, the government is obviously satisfied with the current provision in this bill. Amendment (9) moved by the member for Lyne proposes that the minister must appoint authority members for a period of five years. While the government anticipates that full members will be appointed for this period, we believe some flexibility is desirable in the case of acting members. There may also be cases in which an excellent candidate is only prepared to take on a shorter role, and we believe some flexibility is required to cater for such circumstances. For all of these reasons, the government strongly prefers to retain the current discretion to appoint members to the authority for periods of up to five years, and we do not support the amendment.

Question negatived.

Bill agreed to.