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Wednesday, 14 November 2018
Page: 8146


Senator BURSTON (New South Wales) (15:40): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to table an explanatory memorandum relating to the bill.

Leave granted.

Senator BURSTON: I table an explanatory memorandum and seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—

PARLIAMENTARY JOINT COMMITTEE ON THE AUSTRALIA FUND BILL 2018

The purpose of this bill is to establish a Joint Parliamentary Committee to investigate establishing an Australia Fund. Such a fund would be designed to assist in the support and reconstruction of Australian rural and manufacturing industries in times of crisis, including natural disasters (such as drought, floods and bushfires) or in cases of a world financial crisis or unfair market intervention or manipulation.

It is envisaged that the Australia Fund would have the ability, on the basis of an assessment of the industry and/or businesses, to provide emergency and ongoing drought/flood/bushfire relief, loan money to businesses, act as a guarantor for loans, capitalise or waive interest, purchase existing bank loans, and assume control of relevant property of the business for a specified time. In this way, the Fund would be designed to enable businesses to continue operations to earn revenue, employ workers and pay taxes, rather than be prematurely wound up, and support communities affected by natural disasters.

It would also provide funds for industry and/or company restructuring and the acquisition of new technologies to make businesses more economically viable and internationally competitive.

As part of its investigation as to the need for the Fund, it is intended that the Committee would undertake hearings in all capital cities and major rural centres and specifically examine the impact on rural Australia of ongoing drought and world market price fluctuations for primary industry produce.

The Committee's terms of reference would also include reviewing existing bankruptcy and insolvency laws with the aim of introducing legislation designed to assist companies to trade through difficult times, rather than be closed down. The existing taxation laws relating to bankruptcy would also be reviewed. The possible introduction of the equivalent of the United States Chapter 11 provisions would also be investigated.

Administrative support to the Committee could be provided by the House and/or Senate Departments.

At the completion of its inquiry the Committee would table before Parliament a detailed report of its findings and recommendations.

Senator BURSTON: I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.