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Tuesday, 12 June 1984
Page: 2838


Senator GIETZELT (Minister for Veterans' Affairs)(5.27) —I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to incorporate the second reading speech in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows-

Mr President, this Bill continues the practice of introducing an omnibus Bill into each sittings of the Parliament to make a large number of non-contentious amendments. With the concurrence of the Senate I will incorporate in Hansard a supplementary statement explaining in detail many of the changes to the various Acts which are to be made by this Bill. Not every amendment being proposed by this Bill requires detailed reasons for the change; this will be self-evident from the provision itself, or the detailed explanatory memorandum circulated with the Bill. The supplementary statement, therefore, confines itself to addressing the more substantial amendments. I commend the Bill to the Senate.

Supplement to Second Reading Speech

ABORIGINAL LAND RIGHTS (NORTHERN TERRITORY) ACT 1976

The purpose of these amendments is to allow for the appointment of such additional Aboriginal Land Commissioners as are required to conduct the hearings into land claims made by Aboriginals pursuant to section 50 of the Act in the Northern Territory.

The appointment of a second Aboriginal Land Commissioner, at this time would reduce the delays in the hearing of land claims and the submission of reports by a Commissioner. That will allow the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs to deal with matters contained in those reports sooner than under present arrangements.

ADMINISTRATIVE APPEALS TRIBUNAL ACT 1975

The amendment of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act 1975 applies the Judges' Pensions Act 1968 to full-time presidential members of the Tribunal. The proposed new section 16 does not apply to presidential members who, before their appointment, were contributors to the Superannuation Fund 1976. However the section will allow such members to elect, within 3 months of their appointment, to cease being eligible to contribute under the Superannuation Act 1976, thereby bringing themselves within the operation of section 16. Where a presidential member makes an election under section 16 and no pension is payable to him or his dependants, section 16 provides that he is entitled to a lump sum benefit based upon his contributions to the Superannuation Fund. New section 16 prevents a person from receiving two pensions, or other benefits, as a result of that person having, before his appointment as a presidential member, been in government employment and entitled to a pension or retiring allowances in respect of that employment.

AIRPORTS (BUSINESS CONCESSIONS) ACT 1959

The proposed amendment of section 15 of the Act will allow the Minister to delegate to a prescribed person the power to grant an authority under the Act for the supply or sale of alcoholic liquor. It is intended that the regulations made under the Act will prescribe only persons holding senior departmental positions. Applications to sell or supply liquor are frequent and the Minister depends on the regional staff of the Department to carry out investigations and make recommendations. The proposed delegation of powers to senior officers of the Department will allow for greater administrative convenience in processing the large number of applications.

APPLE AND PEAR STABILIZATION ACT 1971

The purpose of the amendment to the Act is to enable money held in the Beurre Bosc Stabilization Fund to be paid to the Australian Apple and Pear Corporation- AAPC-and for such money to be held in trust for expenditure on research into the production and marketing of pears approved by the AAPC's Apple and Pear Research Foundation.

Under the present provisions of the Act money in the Fund, amounting to some $ 18,600, should be paid to those growers who contributed to the Fund in the 1971 and 1972 seasons. However, it has not been possible to identify these growers and representative organisations in the pear industry have agreed to the transfer of the money to the AAPC for research purposes.

AUSTRALIAN TOURIST COMMISSION ACT 1967

The Bill will increase the number of Commissioners on the Australian Tourist Commission from ten to twelve. The Government, aware of the economic, social, regional and employment potential of tourism, significantly increased the budgetary allocation of the Australian Tourist Commission, Australia's national tourism promotional agency, in 1983-84.

The Commission's operations have, accordingly, expanded into promotional campaigns and operational activities, in both domestic and overseas markets, on a scale and complexity not previously possible. A broader range of expertise on its governing body is therefore appropriate and the proposed amendments will make it possible to make appointments from complementary commercial and professional sectors.

AUSTRALIAN WINE AND BRANDY CORPORATION ACT 1980

The proposed amendment of section 14 of the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation Act 1980 will permit the Minister to extend the present period of office of a member of the Corporation for a period not exceeding 2 years. There are a number of reforms proposed for membership of the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation resulting from the review of the institutional arrangements of the wine industry. An extension of the term of office of existing members will avoid the need for the election and appointment of new members, to serve for only a short term until the proposed reforms are implemented.

BROADCASTING AND TELEVISION ACT 1942

The amendments made by the Bill repeal certain provisions of the Broadcasting and Television Act which are obsolete, or have no application to broadcasting or television stations regulated under the Act.

COMMONWEALTH INSCRIBED STOCK ACT 1911

The amendment of this Act removes the right to issue bearer securities in respect of new loan raisings. In addition, it will allow two further classes of investor, trustees and unincorporated bodies, to hold Commonwealth securities in inscribed form.

There are several advantages in the proposed amendments. One is the substantial reduction in the administrative costs associated with the issue of bearer securities. Another is the concern that some investors choose to hold their inscribed stock in bearer form as a means of evading either income tax and/or the upper limit of $200,000 on holding by any one investor in Australian Savings Bonds.

COMPLAINTS (AUSTRALIAN FEDERAL POLICE) ACT 1981

The purpose of the amendments proposed to the Complaints (Australian Federal Police) Act 1981 is to ensure the effectiveness and the consistency of confidentiality provisions under the Act, while providing scope for the disclosure of information in appropriate cases. The amendments extends the current restrictions on disclosure to all members of the Australian Federal Police and their support staff who may, in the normal course of their employment , become privy to the details of an investigation or inquiry under the Act. The amendments will also vest the Commissioner of Police with a discretion to disclose information about an investigation or inquiry to persons or the public.

CORAL SEA ISLANDS ACT 1969

This Act defines the Coral Sea Islands Territory as comprising all islands within a given geographic area. That geographic area overlaps the maritime delimitation jurisdiction boundaries agreed with France under the Torres Strait Treaty and will also encroach upon similar boundaries arising from a proposed treaty with the Solomon Islands.

The proposed amendments will re-define the boundaries of the geographic area used to define the Coral Sea Islands Territory so as to contain all the islands which comprise the Territory, whilst avoiding any overlap with current or proposed maritime jurisdiction delimitation boundaries.

CUSTOMS ACT 1901

Of the several amendments of this Act that deserve specific mention one is the removal of references to ''Comptroller'' and its substitution with a reference to ''Collector''. This will have the effect of eliminating the need for a considerable number of delegations in respect of the determination of the value of imported goods for the purposes of the Customs Tariff Act 1982.

New section 273GAA will provide for the notification of certain decisions taken by the Minister, the Comptroller or Collector, as the case may be, under a large number of provisions in the Act including the reasons for the decision and refer to evidence or material upon which the decision is based. New section 273GAB makes similar provisions for the notification of certain decision relating to depot licences.

DEFENCE SERVICE HOMES ACT 1918

There are several amendments designed to clarify definitions in the Act which specify the classes of persons who are eligible for Defence Service Homes benefits. The amendment of section 50B will bring audit reporting requirements of the Act into line with legislation of other Commonwealth statutory authorities.

DISTILLATION ACT 1901

The purpose of the amendments of this Act is to simplify and modernise a number of definitions in the legislation following a detailed review of legislation relating to wines and spirits undertaken jointly by the Food Standards Committee of the National Health and Medical Research Council and Commonwealth Government Departments. The amendments will bring the Distillation Act into harmony with the new National Health and Medical Research Council Standards for wines and spirits that are being adopted by State Governments. The changes are the first significant reform in this area since 1906 and the Government expects that the industry will be able to more readily comply with the modernised and simplified form.

EXCISE ACT 1901

The purpose of the amendments of this Act is to insert new provisions relating to the making of regulations and departmental by-laws.

The proposed provisions are similar to the regulation and by-law provisions of the Customs Act. Amongst other things the proposed provisions prohibit the making of a by-law imposing duty where the effect of the by-law is to retrospectively increase the rate of duty payable on goods entered for home consumption.

At present the Prefatory Notes to the Schedule of the Excise Tariff Act 1921 includes a definition of 'Departmental By-law' to mean by-laws made by the Minister and published in the Gazette. Legal advice confirms that that definition is part of the Act however, it is considered desirable to place the Minister's power to make by-laws beyond question by including in the body of the Excise Act.

FAMILY LAW ACT 1975

One category of proposed amendments to the Family Law Act arise out of the need to remedy the unsatisfactory situation of States of the United States of America being declared under the Regulations to be ''countries'' for the purpose of reciprocal maintenance enforcement. In the United States and Canada, the constituent States and Provinces, respectively, exercise legislative power in relation to family law. Reciprocal arrangements have been entered into with only some of these States and Provinces. Accordingly the word jurisdiction has been substituted for country. That word imports more clearly the notion of a geographical area subject to the authority of one legislature or one body of law .

The amendments of paragraph 37A (1) (n) makes it clear that Rules of Court may prescribe certain relatively minor powers of the Family Court which may be exercised by Registrars of the Court.

The amendments to section 44 restore the power of a Family Court of a State to nominate a suitable person, or organisation, to assist the parties of a marriage of less than 2 years duration who are contemplating divorce to consider reconciliation. That power was formerly contained in sub-section 14 (6) of the Act and was unintentionally deleted by the Family Law Amendment Act 1983.

FEDERAL COURT OF AUSTRALIA ACT 1976

New sub-section 24 (1A) provides that an appeal does not lie to the Court from an interlocutory judgement except by leave of the Court or a Judge of the Court. At present an appeal lies to the Court as of right from an interlocutory judgment.

Proposed new sub-section 25 (2) makes it clear that a single judge of the Court has power to determine an application for an extension of time within which an appeal to the Court may be instituted. At present the Act can be interpreted as requiring this to be determined as part of the Court's appellate jurisdiction by a Full Court.

The amendments included in new section 35A will permit Registrars and Deputy Registrars of the Federal Court of Australia to exercise the powers of the Court relating to 'pre-trial' procedural matters and at the direction of the Court or a judge. The exercise of any of these powers would be subject to review by the Court. The effect of the proposed amendments will be to achieve a more effective use of judicial time by enabling judges to devote more time to substantial defended matters.

JUDICIARY ACT 1903

Sub-section 39 (2) of the Act invests State courts with federal jurisdiction subject to certain conditions and restrictions. Paragraph 39 (2) (d) of the Act presently requires federal jurisdiction of State Courts of Summary Jurisdiction to be exercised by a Stipendiary or Police or Special Magistrate, or a Magistrate of the State who is specially authorised by the Governor-General to exercise such jurisdiction. The proposed amendment will extend the class of persons who may exercise the federal jurisdiction of a State Court of Summary Jurisdiction to include an arbitrator on whom the jurisdiction, or part of the jurisdiction of the Court has been conferred by a prescribed State law. The exercise of such jurisdiction will be limited to the jurisdiction that is conferred by State law.

The proposed amendment of sub-section 44 (2) of the Act will enable the High Court to remit to the Federal Court matters arising under section 75 (iii) of the Constitution.

MANAGEMENT AND INVESTMENT COMPANIES ACT 1983

There are 2 changes of substance to the Act made by the Bill. Under existing section 29 the Management and Investment Companies Licensing Board may certify a business entity as an eligible business entity provided the business entity fulfils certain criteria. There was doubt whether all the criteria specified had to be fulfilled by a business entity, or only a certain number had to be met. The original intention was that only 3 of the 5 criteria specified had to be satisfied by a business entity. The proposed definition of ''prescribed business entity'' clarifies the original intention.

The proposed amendment of section 38 (5) will remove a potential conflict with the proposed amendments of the Income Tax Assessment Act. Under existing section 38 (5), it may be possible for a licensed Management Investment Company to issue shares for the full amount of its approved capital, but to issue these shares at a premium. However, under the proposed changes to the Income Tax Assessment Act there will be a tax deduction on the premium element for shares issued at a premium. As a result investors in Management Investment Companies may have been able to claim a tax concession for a larger amount than had been approved by the Management and Investment Companies Licensing Board. Proposed sub-section 38 (5) will provide that the amount of paid-up prescribed share capital and the amount in any share premium account of a Management Investment Company shall not exceed its approved capital.

NATIONAL HEALTH ACT 1953

The Act is being amended to establish an internal review mechanism through which unsuccessful claimants under the Isolated Patients' Travel and Accommodation Assistance Scheme must pursue internal review before exercising their rights of appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT). Under the internal review procedure a person dissatisfied with a decision may request the Permanent Head to review it.

The Act is also being amended to remove the provision that Departmental officers be members of the Medical Services, Dental Services and Pharmaceutical Services Committees of Inquiry in each State. As investigations are undertaken by Departmental officers before members are referred to those Committees, it is considered inappropriate that officers also be members of the respective Committees.

NAVIGATION ACT 1912

The amendments of the Navigation Act 1912 are intended to clarify certain provisions of the Act and to facilitate the administration of the Act.

The amendments of section 392 and 394 of the Act are significant and result from an agreement reached by Commonwealth and State Transport Ministers to provide for penalties, in all Commonwealth, State and Territory Marine legislation, for a breach of the Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea. An element of the agreement is that offences will be dealt with summarily only.

POSTAL SERVICES ACT 1975

The financial provisions of the Act are amended to place beyond doubt certain borrowing powers of the Australian Postal Commission. Legal advice is that although these powers already exist in law, there may be reasons to clarify these. A similar amendment was made to the Overseas Telecommunications Act 1946 in 1983.

SPIRITS ACT 1906

The Spirits Act is being amended for the same reasons that I have outlined above in relation to the Distillation Act 1901.

I should mention that these amendments do not alter the compulsory maturation requirements for rum. The Government has recently considered this matter and has decided to retain the compulsory maturation requirement for brandy, whisky or rum for the time being. However, the Government is to immediately examine this issue with a view to the abolition of these requirements in 3 to 4 years time.

STUDENT ASSISTANCE ACT 1973

The amendments of the Student Assistance Act 1973, will partially implement the recommendations made by the Administrative Review Council (ARC) in its Report to the Attorney-General on the Student Assistance Review Tribunals.

The principal effect of the amendments will be to enable a party to proceedings before a Student Assistance Review Tribunal (SART) to request a review of the SART's decision by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT). This in part implements the ARC's Recommendation 1. Recommended restrictions requiring leave to appeal have not be adopted. In accordance with the ARC's proposals, the right to a review by the AAT will be additional to, rather than in place of, the right to a review by a SART. While the AAT will, for the first time, have jurisdiction to review a decision made by another review body with full deliberative powers, the result will not differ in substance from the mechanism of internal reconsideration and review preceding a right of appeal to the AAT employed in other legislation.

A number of amendments are proposed to improve the current procedures of SARTs in accordance with the ARC's other recommendations.

In accordance with the ARC's Recommendation 2, it is proposed to amend section 28 of the Student Assistance Act to enable legal practitioners to appear before SARTs.

Proposed sub-section 25 (1) implements Recommendation 3 by providing that a student who seeks a review by a SART should receive, before the hearing, copies of all material forwarded to the SART concerning the matter under review. This provision will be subject to proposed sub-section 25 (2), which provides that the Chairperson of a SART is not to release confidential material.

Recommendation 5 proposed that the Minister's power under sub-section 6 (2) to make directions to authorized persons, i.e. to the original decision-makers, be clarified with regard to their application to the review body, i.e. to a SART. The Government's legal advice is that such directions do not bind a SART, and it is proposed to delete sub-section 6 (2).

Recommendation 6 proposed that SARTs be given power to review a refusal of an authorized person to allow further time for the lodging of a request for reconsideration. Recommendation 7 proposed that authorized persons and SARTs be empowered to extend the time for an applicant to request a reference for review. A decision of an authorized person to refuse to extend the time limit for a request for reconsideration or review would be reviewable by a SART. The amendments implementing Recommendations 6 and 7 are confined to giving authorized persons discretion to accept a late request for review of a decision or a primary decision. There was no need to make special provision for a SART to extend time as recommended by the ARC as the Attorney-General's Department had advised that the Student Assistant Act already empowers SARTs to review refusals by authorized persons to extend the time limit for lodging requests for reconsideration.

Recommendation 8 is implemented by proposed new section 22. This section will provide for the decision of an authorized person to be reconsidered by a senior authorized person. The Bill includes a definition of 'senior authorized person'.

The amendments of the Student Assistant Act will not lead to any material increase in Government expenditure. There are currently some 200 SART cases a year and, on this basis, the number of additional AAT cases is expected to be about 15 annually.

With Bills of this nature it is difficult to indicate what costs/savings are applicable overall and to quantify such costs/savings. There will be some saving associated with these amendments of the Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Act but it will not be very much.

Debate (on motion by Senator Reid) adjourned.