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Wednesday, 11 August 2004
Page: 26232

Senator HARRIS (9:36 PM) —I concur with Senator Ridgeway's comments and I raise an additional problem that we face in working our way through the implementation legislation—that is, we are being constantly reminded by the government of relevance. Unfortunately, Senator Ridgeway has moved a considerable number of Democrat amendments together which has reduced our ability to work through the individual sections of the implementation legislation. Each time we raise an issue we are told, `That's not relevant.'

The difficulty that I see now is how to put some rigour into this debate. We need to test the rigour of the changes to the legislation at this initial stage. Senator Ridgeway's amendments cover the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Code Act 1994 and the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation Act. I believe the amendments would encapsulate part of the Therapeutic Goods Act, plus the Copyright Act. All of those sections are bundled into one area of this enabling legislation and it becomes virtually impossible to address them in detail.

I have raised questions in relation to the Customs Act. The only saving grace that we have at the moment is that, having moved the One Nation amendments in the Customs legislation, at least when the Customs bill comes on for debate, I can address a lot of those issues. But it is going to be quite difficult now to address issues relating to the agricultural and veterinary chemicals code legislation and, as I said, the other sections that are now being condensed. I understand Senator Ridgeway's reasons for moving these amendments together, but our concern is that it is restricting our ability to test the rigour of the amendments.

I mentioned previously the danger that I see here. If the bill stands as printed and the alterations are made to those 10 acts, we have to have some guarantee from the government that, aside from the effect on the free trade agreement, there will be no effect on the primary powers of that legislation. The last thing we want to find from altering any one of those 10 acts—to implement the commitments the government has made under the free trade agreement—is that at a later date the legislation is detrimental to someone who has to work in the domestic environment. That is a real concern I have.

We need a clear indication from the government that any right an Australian citizen has accrued under those 10 acts, prior to their alteration to accommodate the free trade agreement, stands. That is very clear and very concise. If we cannot get that assurance from the government, we will be walking into a situation where we may inadvertently alter the heads of powers of those 10 acts of parliament to the detriment of an Australian citizen who has to comply with that legislation but who has nothing whatsoever to do with exporting or importing.