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Wednesday, 18 October 2017
Page: 7826

Senator RUSTON (South AustraliaAssistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources) (10:56): The government will not be supporting the Labor Party's amendments (1), (3), (4) and (6). The reasons for this have been largely canvassed in the previous discussions prior to the moving of these amendments. In effect, the government believe that the operating mandate should not be a disallowable instrument, as it deals with matters over which the executive arm of government should retain control. We believe that the approach in the bill gives the parliament the right level of oversight of the operating mandate, given the nature and significance of that direction to the entity. Firstly, the bill requires and provides for the mandate to be a legislative instrument, which requires it to be tabled. The approach has been taken despite the express exemption that exists for directions of ministers to corporate Commonwealth entities. We have required that to be included. We believe the government is being open and transparent and, in this instance, going beyond the minimum requirements. As I said before, this approach is not unusual, and I have cited the CEFC as an instrumentality in which the operating mandate is not a disallowable instrument.

In relation to amendment (3)—that the terms and conditions of water agreements be prescribed in rules and be disallowable—we believe it is inappropriate, as these, once again, are matters over which the government should have control. We believe it would also reduce the Commonwealth's flexibility when negotiating with the states and territories and could be confusing for the corporation in terms of compliance. We believe the parliament has the appropriate level of visibility of these grants for financial assistance and for water infrastructure projects, and this will be achieved through the tabling of the operating mandate and the contents thereof, as well as through the reporting requirements for corporate Commonwealth entities under the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013.