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Wednesday, 30 May 2012
Page: 6233

Mr GRAY (BrandSpecial Minister of State and Minister for the Public Service and Integrity) (10:58): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The Financial Framework Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2012 would, if enacted, amend 21 acts across six portfolios to regularise Commonwealth payments supported by special appropriations (including special accounts) consistent with the legislative requirements and section 83 of the Constitution.

It is the 10th financial framework legislation amendment bill since 2004. It forms part of an ongoing program to address financial framework issues as they are identified and assists in ensuring that specific provisions in existing legislation remain clear and up to date. This has been done in collaboration with the relevant ministers and their departments.

The bill addresses issues that have been raised by the Australian National Audit Office recently, although many of the issues have existed since before the introduction of the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997. The amendments are technical in nature but important and in some cases relate to statutory schemes that have been in place for more than a decade. Specifically, this bill implements amendments that can be discussed thematically.

The bill would amend nine acts to provide a mechanism called a recoverable payment. These amendments permit agencies to make payments on the basis of information available at the time but require overpayments, including those made in error, to be recovered in line with section 47 of the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 (relating to the duty to pursue recovery of a debt). The bill would also amend the Taxation Administration Act 1953 within the Treasury portfolio, to enable the Commissioner of Taxation to decide to make a recoverable advance. These advances would apply where the commissioner, or delegate, decides to make payments because the likely cost of not making these payments would exceed the total of the advances. If a recoverable advance were made, then the amount of the overpayment would remain a debt due to the Commonwealth and would need to be recovered.

The bill also amends seven acts that operate in the area of public sector superannuation, to authorise the Commonwealth to make recoverable death payments. These amendments allow payments to be made to recipients until ComSuper or the relevant departmental secretary is notified of the recipient's death. Where payments have been made in the interim period, those amounts would be recoverable from the deceased's estate.

The bill provides that where the recoverable payment, recoverable advance or recoverable death payment provisions are used, the relevant departmental secretary or chief executive is to ensure that a report is published.

This means that parliament would directly be requiring transparency on these issues in future.

The bill also amends 10 acts to better align current payment practices with the relevant legislation such as in the recovery of administrative costs.

The bill would also validate certain benefits under the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Act 1973 to regularise the treatment of certain benefit recipients, consistent with existing practice.

The proposed acts being amended relate, largely, to routine activities of government and, if enacted, would allow the continued effective management of these activities, while having parliament require appropriate levels of transparency and accountability.

This bill is, accordingly, another step to help ensure that specific areas of the Commonwealth's financial framework remain effective and up to date. I commend the bill to the House.

Debate adjourned.