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Wednesday, 9 May 2018
Page: 3532

Dr McVEIGH (GroomMinister for Regional Development, Territories and Local Government) (19:14): I present the explanatory memorandum to this bill and move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

Today I introduce into the House a bill that will strengthen how the National Capital Authority, the NCA, manages the Commonwealth interest in Canberra as our capital city.

This Australian Capital Territory (Planning and Land Management) Amendment Bill 2017 will reform the NCA's governance arrangements.

The NCA is the statutory authority that looks after the Commonwealth's interests in the capital, especially in nationally important areas. It does so through planning and the management of major Commonwealth assets.

This bill aims to improve the governance, transparency and oversight of NCA activities by enhancing the role of its authority—in effect, the NCA board.

Currently, the NCA chief executive alone is the accountable authority for the NCA under the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (the PGPA Act).

This means that the board is presently without any prescribed corporate management responsibilities, including, for example, oversight of the NCA's finances. Other than planning decisions, the board principally has an advisory role.

A reformed corporate structure will provide greater transparency and accountability. This would also provide the chief executive and the minister with an appropriate level of support.

The bill therefore amends the Australian Capital Territory (Planning and Land Management) Act 1988 to establish the board as the NCA's accountable authority under the PGPA Act.

It also empowers the board to provide the chief executive with specific directions in relation to NCA operations.

The chief executive will remain the head of the agency under the Public Service Act 1999, while the board will play a greater role in oversighting corporate management.

Most NCA day-to-day operations would still be handled by the chief executive. The chief executive will continue to have a close working relationship with the board by remaining a board member.

The bill also clarifies some legislative provisions, including that ministerial directions to the board are legislative instruments.

Further, the bill seeks to ensure that the NCA's legislation matches current practice on public sector governance.

For example, in order to engage important provisions of the PGPA Act concerning care and diligence, the bill makes all board members officials of the NCA.

Importantly, the NCA's basic functions are unchanged, including those relating to the planning of Canberra.

In conclusion, the bill will ensure that the NCA continues to operate efficiently and effectively in planning and managing our national capital. The NCA will in future operate in a way that is more consistent with the government's expectations of a modern agency.

I call on the House, and I encourage the House, to show bipartisan support for the bill and its non-controversial measures.

With this, I commend to the House the Australian Capital Territory (Planning and Land Management) Amendment Bill 2017.

Leave granted for second reading debate to continue immediately.