Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 27 June 2018
Page: 4236

Senator McGRATH (QueenslandAssistant Minister to the Prime Minister) (19:04): I table a revised explanatory memorandum relating to the Corporations Amendment (Asia Region Funds Passport) Bill 2018, and move:

That these bills be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speeches read as follows—


Australia's biosecurity system is critical for the protection of our agriculture industries, human health, the environment and the broader economy.

Our biosecurity system is critical for the protection of our unique environment, our lifestyle, our health and of course our agriculture industries.

The Biosecurity Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures) Bill 2018will help in our continuous fight to manage biosecurity risks, and further strengthen Australia's already enviable biosecurity status.

The biosecurity system must deal with a broad range of risks posed by the possibility of pests and diseases entering and establishing in Australia. It is essential that we continue to maintain and improve our biosecurity legislation to enable us to manage these threats.

The volume of goods and people entering Australia is projected to almost double between now and 2025. It is essential that our biosecurity system keeps pace with the risks posed by these increased movements.

We are continually bringing about incremental and real improvements to our risk management arrangements. It is vital that we continue to invest in our biosecurity system.

In this vein, the Coalition Government has delivered up to $200 million over four years to strengthen Australia's biosecurity system through the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper, on top of an additional $100 million to fight pests and weeds.

Since 2013, the Coalition has increased biosecurity investment by over 29 per cent, totaling $783.2 million this financial year.

Along with the increased traffic at our borders, one of the key challenges we face in the effective management of biosecurity risk is difficulty collecting the necessary information we need about goods after they have entered the country.

This can occur particularly when a good is imported, and later in time importation of that same good is suspended or prohibited based on an updated biosecurity risk assessment.

This occurred in January 2017 with the suspension of uncooked prawns.

This Bill aims to address this difficulty by providing for information gathering powers that allow for faster and more accurate identification of "at risk" goods.

These powers will enable the Director of Biosecurity or the Director of Human Biosecurity to issue a general requirement for persons in possession of goods (such as uncooked prawns) that have been released from biosecurity control to provide information to the relevant Director about the goods (such as their current location).

Having this information would then enable a 'secure' direction to be issued regarding the goods, which can prevent their further movement and will support targeted operational responses to control biosecurity risks.

It also addresses Recommendation 2 of the Senate Committee report on biosecurity risks associated with imported seafood, including uncooked prawns.

When used with existing powers in the Biosecurity Act, the new information gathering powers contribute to a more robust biosecurity system.

Further, this Bill will allow for the gathering of information about goods imported into Australia that may have breached import conditions, so that the department can assess and where required manage biosecurity risk.

The Bill also enhances our ability to update alternative import conditions quickly and easily in response to changes in biosecurity risk.

Here in Australia we are vulnerable to a huge range of pests and diseases entering our country.

With these risks continuously changing and evolving it is essential that our legislation enables us to rapidly respond to these changes.

Enhancing Australia's biosecurity system gives us the best chance of keeping damaging pests and diseases from establishing on our shores.

It is up to all of us to respect our biosecurity laws so we can continue to enjoy our unique environment, our agricultural industries, our health and our way of life and continue to be justifiably proud of our biosecurity system.


In 2009, the Australian Financial Centre Forum completed a report titled Australia as a Financial Centre. The report later became known as the 'Johnson report', named after Mark Johnson who led both the forum and the Australian Financial Centre Task Force.

The Johnson report observed that Australia had arguably the most sophisticated and advanced financial sector in the Asia-Pacific. The financial services sector remains the largest single contributor to GDP of any sector in the Australian economy and employs over 450,000 Australians. Australia also has the sixth-largest pool of managed funds in the world, and the largest in Asia.

The report noted that our financial sector would benefit substantially from greater exports ­only 4 percent of funds in Australia in 2016 were sourced from overseas. It recommended a package of reforms to make it easier for Australian fund managers to attract overseas investors.

One of these recommendations was the establishment of an Asia Region Funds Passport. The Passport would provide a multilateral framework allowing eligible funds to be marketed across member countries, with limited additional regulatory requirements.

The model for the Passport has been developed since 2010 through a series of policy and technical workshops attended by representatives from a number of APEC economies.

Subsequently, the Australian Government, along with Japan, Korea, New Zealand and Thailand signed a Memorandum of Cooperation on the Establishment and Implementation of the Asia Region Funds Passport, which took effect on 30 June 2016. Since then, signatories have each been implementing the Memorandum into domestic law.

The Passport will support the development of the Asian funds management industry through improved market access and regulatory harmonisation. This will bring many benefits for our region, and for Australia in particular.

It will allow Australian managed funds to become Passport funds and sell their products in other participating economies. This will enable them to market their products to Asia's expanding middle class, and to the growing numbers of high net worth, and ultra-high net worth individuals in the region. Australian fund managers will be able to sell a single product across Asia and achieve greater economies of scale. This should also lower costs for consumers.

The Passport will also allow managed fund providers from other participating economies to become Passport funds and sell their products into Australia. This will increase competition and choice for Australian investors. It will provide cost effective opportunities to gain investment exposure to a wider range of assets, while ensuring protection for consumers.

This Bill introduces legislation to give effect to agreements made under the Memorandum and to prepare Australia for the Passport.

Schedule 1 establishes a new Chapter 8A in the Corporations Act, which mainly implements the common regulatory arrangements in Annex 2 of the Memorandum. Chapter 8A, among other things, sets out the process whereby Australian managed investment schemes may be registered by ASIC as passport funds. It also sets out the process whereby foreign passport funds may notify ASIC of their intention to offer interests in their respective funds to Australian investors, and the circumstances in which ASIC may reject such notifications.

The new chapter also provides for a mechanism to incorporate the Passport Rules in Annex 3 of the Memorandum into Australian law through the making of a legislative instrument. These Rules form a common set of obligations on all operators of passport funds. It imposes an obligation on passport funds and operators registered in Australia, as well as foreign passport funds and operators offering interests in Australia, to comply with these rules.

Schedule 2 makes amendments to other parts of the Corporations Act clarifying, among other things, how the obligations in those parts are to apply to foreign passport funds, as allowed under Annex 1 of the Memorandum. Key areas in which statutory obligations are made to apply to foreign passport funds in this manner include financial reporting, licensing and disclosure.

Finally, the Bill also includes consequential changes to related Acts that refer to managed investment schemes.

The Passport complements two other initiatives recommended by the Johnson report and supported by the Australian Government: an Investment Manager Regime and a new corporate collective investment vehicle. Parliament already passed legislation establishing the Investment Manager Regime in June 2015. This has clarified that investments by non-residents in foreign assets would generally be exempt from tax in Australia, ensuring that Australian fund managers can compete with overseas financial centres, including Hong Kong, Singapore, London and Tokyo.

The corporate collective investment vehicle Bill is to be brought before Parliament later this year. It will allow Australian fund managers to market their funds, including through the Passport, using a globally consistent corporate structure.

The Legislative and Governance Forum on Corporations was consulted in relation to amendments in the Bill, as required under the Corporations Agreement 2002, and has approved them.

Full details of the measure are contained in the Explanatory Memorandum to the Bill.


The Farm Household Support Amendment Bill 2018 is to amend the Farm Household Support Act 2014.

The Bill proposes to extend the cumulative period of Farm Household Allowance from three years to four years for each recipient.

Farm Household Allowance is more than a social security payment — it is a package of assistance comprising income support, an independent financial assessment of the farm business, individualised case management, and an activity supplement that pays for advice and training. The safety net provided by this program ensures the government can appropriately support farmers in hardship while they take steps to improve their situation.

The government has worked to achieve its vision for a profitable, competitive, resilient and sustainable agriculture sector. It is an industry that all Australians should be proud of— it is a pillar of the Australian economy, and it is the lifeblood of many rural and regional communities.

While the agriculture sector continues to be a strong performer, it is not immune to fluctuations, and variability is part and parcel of running a farm business.

The government is committed to supporting our farming communities to generate wealth and build strength and prosperity. Like every other Australian, we want farmers to put money aside for a comfortable retirement. We want them to take time away from the farm for learning and development, and to take advantage of our substantial investment in research and innovation. We want them to be able to support their kids so they can dream big and achieve those dreams. Sometimes this means supporting farmers in financial hardship to help them build resilience for the future.

But this support has to be equitable with other types of support. The government's general position is that Farm Household Allowance should be aligned with mainstream social security, unless there are good reasons for departure. The most significant departure is the two tier asset test, which has a significantly higher threshold for farm assets than other payments. This setting recognises that a farmer's biggest asset is their land, but in times of hardship that land is not capable of generating a return that sustains the family.

The book value excludes the farmer from other income support payments, yet the farmer cannot realise those assets for self-support without taking away some, or all, of the longer-term income producing capacity of the farm enterprise.

A key element of the program includes an independent financial assessment of the business to sustain the family into the future. This assessment is backed up by one on one case management and an activity supplement of $3,000 per person from day one to put towards advice or training to improve their situation. Under the Agriculture White Paper we added a further $1,000 per recipient in the final year of payment. That's $8,000 over and above the fortnightly payment for a couple on payment. This extension of the payment will also give people longer to choose activities that will help them into the future.

This supplement is not limited to agricultural extension activities — it pays for things that are going to increase the total household income. It can pay for truck and bus licences, forklift tickets, welding qualifications, drone training, teacher training, web site design — whatever our farmers and their partners can reasonably think of to generate income.

And we don't stop there. Since 2013, this government has committed more than $90 million to the Rural Financial Counselling Service program. This is not a bricks and mortar service. Staff are highly mobile and visit people on-farm or in town, as it suits them. Rural financial counsellors complement and support the work of the Farm Household Case Officers by working closely with recipients so they can make sustainable changes. Although the overwhelming majority of people remain on farm, some do make that tough decision to sell up and try something new. Farm Household Allowance provides the breathing space for these big decisions. The support of the case officer and the rural financial counsellor can make a huge difference. People can plan their next move and take some time to make that happen. They can come on and off payment as many times as suits their circumstances, truly using it as a safety net.

We know the Farm Household Allowance is well received. The government has outlaid more than $230 million that has helped over 7,900 farmers and their partners. Recipients of the support have been surveyed and almost 90 per cent of respondents reported that the program had improved their current financial circumstances, and more than 50 per cent expect to stay on farm with greater farm income and/or less debt.

The extension of support for a further year will help farmers who have not had the opportunity to implement their plans for financial self-sufficiency. The government has listened to many farmers suffering due to the ongoing unfavourable climatic conditions across parts of the eastern seaboard. The additional income to small towns and rural centres will also assist regions as a whole by broadening the economic base.

When the Farm Household Allowance program was introduced in 2014, the cumulative period of Farm Household Allowance available to an eligible farmer or their partner was set at three years, or 1,095 days.

However, this government has seen first-hand and listened to the experiences of Australian farmers. We know that some farmers and their families have been, and continue to be, subject to pressures that extend beyond a cumulative three year period, and need more time to recover from hardship and get back on their feet.

The Bill therefore proposes extending the cumulative period of Farm Household Allowance to four years, or 1,460 days. This extension will apply to current and future recipients, as well as those who have already concluded their initial three year cumulative period of entitlement.

In short, extending the Farm Household Allowance will give recipients greater opportunities to improve their circumstances, or consider an alternative future.

In seeking to extend the cumulative period of Farm Household Allowance from three years to four years, this Bill further demonstrates this government's responsiveness to the needs of the farming community and the conditions faced in rural and regional Australia. The Government will continue to look for opportunities to improve the Farm Household Allowance program, including streamlining applications where it is necessary appropriate.


This Bill delivers the first tranche of the Turnbull Government's commitment to review and reform our intellectual property arrangements, ensuring that they provide an appropriate balance between access to ideas and products, and encouraging innovation, investment and the production of creative works.

The Bill proceeds following extensive consultation, giving stakeholders an opportunity to reflect on their experiences and ensure that costs, barriers and red tape are reduced for businesses seeking to bring great ideas to the market. This consultation has indicated that the measures in this Bill have been welcomed by stakeholders, and will modernise and improve Australia's intellectual property system.

The continuing success of the Australian economy will depend on our ability to innovate, lift our productivity, and compete in the global market place.

The intellectual property system is an important element of the economy because it promotes and incentivises investment in creativity, innovation, research and technology. It rewards great new ideas and helps businesses to grow and expand, entering new markets and creating more Australian jobs.

The Government is committed to ensuring Australia has a world-class, effective and efficient intellectual property system. To this end, in 2015 we asked the Productivity Commission to undertake a comprehensive review of the intellectual property system, including copyright, trade marks, patents, designs and plant breeder's rights.

The Government responded to the Productivity Commission's recommendations in August 2017 and we have acted quickly to implement a number of recommendations that did not require legislative changes already.

Schedule 1 to this Bill will implement the Government's response to several of the Productivity Commission's recommendations that do require legislative changes, and which are ready for immediate implementation.

Part 1 clarifies the circumstances in which the importation of genuine trade marked goods do not infringe a registered trade mark. Recent legal decisions have increased the difficulty for importing legitimately marked goods into Australia. This Bill will amend the Trade Marks Act 1995 to reduce uncertainty for importers, which will ultimately strengthen competition, benefitting the market and consumers.

Part 2 closes a loophole that allows free-riding to occur on protected plant varieties. This Bill will amend the Plant Breeder's Rights Act 1994 to expand the circumstances where an essentially-derived variety (EDV) declaration can be applied for, providing greater protection for plant varieties. As EDV declarations can currently only be made where a second breeder has filed a Plant Breeder's Right (PBR) application on the new variety, breeders can avoid an EDV declaration by not filing a PBR application. This Bill will allow an EDV declaration to be made on a new variety regardless of whether a PBR application has been filed or not. Plant breeder's rights encourage breeders to invest in developing new, improved varieties and are a significant export industry.

Part 3 changes the period that must elapse before third parties can seek the removal of a trade mark registration on the basis that a trade mark has not been used. This Bill will amend the Trade Marks Act 1995 helping to reduce the number of unused registered trade marks. This aims to reduce barriers to competition while achieving greater alignment with international standards for this type of action.

Part 4, the last in Schedule 1, will repeal section 76A of the Patents Act 1990 to remove a requirement for owners of patents with an extended term to provide certain data about their research and development costs such as Commonwealth funding. This requirement has become unnecessary and duplicative, as this type of information is being collected more effectively by the Government from other sources, including through the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, and the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Schedule 2 to this Bill will amend the Patents Act 1990, the Trade Marks Act 1995, the Designs Act 2003, the Plant Breeder's Rights Act 1994, the Copyright Act 1968, and the Olympic Insignia Protection Act 1987 to implement a number of measures to streamline and modernise aspects of the Australian intellectual property system, reducing barriers and regulatory costs for Australian businesses.

Technological developments have and will continue to change the way government does business. This schedule seeks to future-proof the intellectual property system, updating written and filing requirements to allow greater flexibility and allow communication with clients and stakeholders through the most efficient and effective means. The Schedule also allows the use of computerised decision-making to assist with the efficient administration of intellectual property rights, with appropriate safeguards.

Schedule 2 will provide protection from unjustified threats of infringement in the Plant Breeder's Rights Act 1994 and reinforce the protection in the Designs Act 2003, the Patents Act 1990 and the Trade Marks Act 1995 by allowing the courts to award additional damages. Such threats from owners of intellectual property rights can hinder competition.

A number of provisions in this Schedule will strengthen plant breeder's rights and better align them with other intellectual property rights. This Bill will amend the Plant Breeder's Rights Act 1994 to allow the award of additional damages for particularly wilful or blatant infringement, and allow exclusive licensees to take infringement actions.

I am very pleased to introduce this Bill, which builds on and enhances Australia's intellectual property system and further supports innovation, creativity and business growth in this country.


Today I introduce a Bill to implement s series of reforms to support Australian consumers.

Schedule 1 to this Bill amends the Australian Consumer Law, contained within the Competition and Consumer Act 2010, to increase the maximum civil pecuniary penalties and penalties for criminal offences resulting from breaches of the law.

This Bill delivers on the 2017-18 Budget commitment to strengthen the Australian Consumer Law's penalty regime.

Currently, the maximum penalties in the Australian Consumer Law are $1.1 million for a body corporate and $220,000 for a person other than a body corporate.

These current maximum penalties are failing to deter large corporations from breaching the Australian Consumer Law, particularly where the non-compliant conduct may be highly profitable.

For example, the $10 million penalty imposed against Coles in 2014 for unconscionable conduct in its dealings with 200 of its suppliers were referred to in the Federal Court as insufficient for a company with annual revenue in excess of $22 billion.

In some cases, the benefits gained from a breach of the Australian Consumer Law can generate profits greater than the value of the penalties imposed. When penalties are low, businesses may be prepared to factor the risk of a low penalty into their pricing structures.

This puts consumers and small businesses at risk, with some large corporations viewing penalties simply as a 'cost of doing business', rather than a deterrent to non-compliant conduct.

The Australian Consumer Law Review found that penalties must be sufficiently high that a business, acting rationally and in its own best interest, would not be prepared to treat the risk of such a penalty as a cost of doing business.

This Bill achieves that.

Schedule 1 to this Bill increases those penalties for body corporates to the greater of $10 million, or three times the value of the benefit obtained from the offence (if this can be determined), or 10 per cent of the annual turnover (if the value of the benefit cannot be determined). For persons other than body corporates, the maximum penalty will increase to $500,000.

The offences that carry the maximum penalty include unconscionable conduct, a range of unfair practices - such as misleading and deceptive conduct - offences related to product safety and offences related to information standards.

These increases bring the maximum penalties in the Australian Consumer Law into line with the penalties in the competition provisions of the Act.

This will give certainty and confidence to consumers that the Government is acting to protect their best interests.

These amendments have the strong support of the states and territories, who jointly enforce this law with the Commonwealth.

Schedule 2 to this Bill amends the Australian Consumer Law to provide protection, through a safe harbour, for egg producers who comply with the requirements of the Free Range Egg Labelling Information Standard.

This safe harbour will provide certainty to those egg producers who choose to label their eggs as 'free range' that if they have fulfilled the requirements set out in the information standard they will not face prosecution under the misleading or deceptive conduct provisions of the Australian Consumer Law.

This certainty will increase confidence in the egg industry, encourage further investment and will equally give consumers increased confidence that they are getting what they pay for when choosing their eggs.

This measure is the result of a decision of Commonwealth, State and Territory consumer affairs ministers, who decided that both producers and consumers needed more clarity in the area of free range egg labelling.

The extensive consultation that was undertaken resulted in an information standard for free range egg labelling that requires the eggs to be laid by hens that had meaningful and regular access to the outdoors and were able to roam and forage. It also requires that the laying hens be subject to a stocking density of 10,000 hens or less per hectare.

For the first time, the disclosure of the producer's actual stocking density will also be compulsory on all labels of eggs that claim to be free range. This will allow consumers to easily compare free range egg brands and to make decisions according to their own preferences.

The safe harbour will provide an extra layer of protection and certainty for those complying with the information standard.

Schedule 3 to this Bill amends the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 to support the role of the Australian Energy Regulator to monitor the wholesale electricity market.

It will do so by removing inconsistencies between the treatment of confidential supplier information in the National Electricity Law and the Competition and Consumer Act.

In 2016 the Australian Energy Regulator was granted new wholesale market monitoring and reporting functions via an amendment to the National Electricity Law.

These functions require the Australian Energy Regulator to monitor and report on the wholesale electricity market to determine if there are features of the market that undermine its effective functioning.

However, parts of this amendment are inconsistent with parts of the Competition and Consumer Act. As the Competition and Consumer Act is Commonwealth law, it takes precedence over the National Electricity Law. This means that the Australian Energy Regulator cannot fully use these functions until this inconsistency is mended.

Schedule 3 to this Bill amends the Competition and Consumer Act to fix the inconsistency between it and the National Electricity Law.

As such, this change will fully enable the National Electricity Law amendment which granted the Australian Energy Regulator these new wholesale market monitoring functions.

These functions will help ensure that the Australian Energy Regulator can continue to enforce the energy laws proactively, fairly, and efficiently.

Full details of the measure are contained in the Explanatory Memorandum.


Today I introduce a Bill that implements a series of enhancements to the capabilities of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).

ASIC is Australia's integrated corporate, markets, financial services and consumer credit regulator. ASIC is an independent Commonwealth Government body set up under the Australian Securities and Investments Commission Act 2001.

This Bill enacts key recommendations from the Financial System Inquiry and the ASIC Capability Review. It is further evidence of this Government's commitment to strengthening ASIC and to ensure the financial system delivers fair outcomes for Australians.

It builds on other key steps taken by this Government to improve ASIC's performance including:

providing ASIC with a stronger funding base through the introduction of the industry funding model. This will ensure the cost of regulation is borne by those that have created the need for it, rather than the Australian public who too often bear the costs of financial sector misconduct;

implementing other recommendations of the Financial System Inquiry that will provide new tools and powers to ASIC including the power to intervene in the sale and distribution of financial products, where there is a risk of significant consumer detriment; and

considering the recommendations of the ASIC Enforcement Review Taskforce, established by the Turnbull Government in October 2016 to assess the suitability of the existing regulatory tools available to ASIC.

Schedule 1 to this Bill amends the Australian Securities and Investments Commission Act 2001 to mandate that ASIC must consider the effects that the performance of its functions and the exercise of its powers will have on competition in the financial system. An explicit reference to take competition issues into account will require ASIC to consciously consider how its actions may impact on competition in the financial system.

This Government considers that competition, not regulation, is the best means of ensuring consumers get value for money in financial services. This measure complements other key initiatives undertaken by this Government to support competition including tasking the Productivity Commission to review competition in Australia's financial system and funding the ACCC to undertake in-depth inquiries into specific financial system competition issues.

This measure fulfils the Government's commitment to implement recommendation 30 of the Financial System Inquiry (FSI). This recommendation stated the Government should include consideration of competition in ASIC's mandate.

Schedule 2 to this Bill amends the ASIC Act to remove the requirement for ASIC to engage staff under the Public Service Act 1999 (Public Service Act). Consequential amendments are also made to the Business Names Registration Act 2011, Corporations Act 2001, and the Mutual Assistance in Business Regulation Act 1992.

Removing the requirement for ASIC to employ people under the Public Service Act will promote greater operational flexibility, bringing ASIC into line with Australia's other financial regulators - the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority and the Reserve Bank of Australia.

To be able to perform their roles effectively in accordance with their legislative mandate, financial regulators need to be able to attract and retain suitably skilled and experienced staff.

In ASIC's case, this means recruiting staff with knowledge of financial markets and financial services. ASIC is therefore often competing against the private sector, as opposed to other public sector agencies, when recruiting suitable staff.

Removing the obligation for ASIC to engage staff under the Public Service Actmeans ASIC will be able to compete more effectively for suitable staff. It will also allow ASIC to tailor management and staffing arrangements to suit its needs, ensuring it is fit for purpose to deliver effectively on its mandate.

ASIC staff who are APS employees immediately before the commencement of the Bill on 1 July 2019 will maintain their continuity of service with ASIC, but cease to be employed under the PSA. They will become employed on the same terms, conditions and will maintain the same accrued entitlements under the ASIC Act.

This measure fulfils the Government's commitment to implementing recommendation 24 of the ASIC Capability Review Report. This recommendation stated that the Government should remove ASIC from the Public Service Act as a matter of priority, to support more effective recruitment and retention strategies. A similar finding was also found in the context of the Financial System Inquiry.

The Legislative and Governance Forum on Corporations was notified in relation to the measures in this Bill as required under the Corporations Agreement 2002.

In conclusion, this Government is committed to ensuring Australia has strong and effective regulators governing our financial system. This is the best way of ensuring our financial system meets the needs of Australians and assists them in promoting their financial wellbeing. The measures in this Bill ensure that ASIC can consider competition when undertaking its activities and can recruit staff with appropriate capabilities.

Full details of the measures in this Bill are contained in the Explanatory Memorandum.

Ordered that further consideration of the second reading of these bills be adjourned to the first sitting day of the next period of sittings, in accordance with standing order 111.

Ordered that the bills be listed on the Notice Paper as separate orders of the day.