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Monday, 11 May 2015
Page: 2721


Senator JACINTA COLLINS (Victoria) (13:14): I can indicate that we will not be proceeding with that amendment. The issues that we clarified earlier with the government and that this is incorporated in the government's batch of amendments, as Senator Brandis indicated when he moved the last batch, has satisfied our concerns on that one.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN: Senator Collins, it appears to me that the Clerk is looking earnestly in your direction and it may be an opportunity for some advice to be given.

Senator Brandis: The ball is in your court, Jacinta.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: We are happy to move to the next amendment, which is opposition amendment (2). I should say that there should be a revised amendment being circulated.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN: Senator Collins, I understand that it has a new sheet number, 7696, which is what I referred to and what I was prompting you to move previously. It is now amendment (1).

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I move opposition amendment (1) on sheet 7696:

(1) Schedule 1, item 26, page 14 (lines 2 to 6), omit subsection 13(1), substitute:

(1) The Governor-General may terminate the appointment of a member if an address praying for the termination, on one of the following grounds, is presented to the Governor-General by each House of the Parliament in the same session:

   (a) proved misbehaviour;

   (b) the member is unable to perform the duties of his or her office because of physical or mental incapacity.

This amendment has been revised to reflect some advice we received back from the government about the most appropriate way to deal with the termination of a member but without compromising disability discrimination matters. My original advice, if it please the Senate, was that it was perhaps a bit too late to do this. I did not accept that that was the case, Attorney, and so we have sought through this revision to accept your advice on this point.

This amendment reflects a recommendation contained in the Labor senators' additional comments to the report of the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee. It would retain the current arrangements for dismissal of AAT members only on the address of each house of parliament, with the change I referred to a moment ago so that we are accommodating changes to disability discrimination matters. The bill would allow dismissal simply by the Governor-General.

Participants in the committee process raised concerns about the new arrangement proposed in the bill. Again, the explanatory memorandum explains that this change is intended to reflect standard practice with other statutory officers. However, this proposed change goes to the independence of the tribunal, which has a role very distinct from many other statutory bodies. No case has been made either in the committee or in this place which would justify departing from the current arrangements in the AAT.

The explanatory memorandum also makes the point that in the SSAT and the MRT-RRT removal of members is already by the Governor-General alone. However, as I said, I think in my second reading contribution, Labor believe that the amalgamation should see standards of independence raised across the board where possible and we see no reason to depart from the current practice in the AAT.