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Monday, 2 December 1985
Page: 2677

Senator GARETH EVANS (Minister for Resources and Energy)(4.03) —I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

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

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows-

The purposes of this Bill are to enact legislation to validate the past collection of various fees for services provided by the Commonwealth under the Quarantine Act 1908.

Firstly, the Bill validates the collection of certain human, animal and plant quarantine fees for which there has been no authority under the Quarantine Act as a result of the unintended effect that notices made under the Act have had in revoking the basis on which fees for some quarantine services have been charged.

Secondly, the Bill validates charges levied on airline operators under the Act to offset expenses incurred in the removal and disposal of airline waste.

The Quarantine Act was amended by the Quarantine Amendment Act 1984 with effect on 24 May 1984. As a result a new provision, section 86E, was inserted in the Act. Section 86E gave the Minister power to determine, by notice published in the Gazette, that fees of amounts set out in the notice are payable for certain services provided under the Act. The fees that were prescribed in regulations were kept in force as determinations by force of the amendment Act.

On 1 October 1984 a notice published in the Gazette revoked all the determinations that, by virtue of the amendment Act, had remained in force but only determined new fees relating to export inspection of livestock. However, the requirement that the determination should be tabled in each House of Parliament was not complied with. As a result the determination became void and of no effect on 24 October 1984 and the earlier provisions relating to fees were revived by operation of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901.

In consequence, there were no quarantine fees, other than for export inspection of livestock, in the period 1-24 October 1984. However, fees were charged in this period as though provisions covering all quarantine fees were in force.

Until 13 December 1984 the Quarantine Act was wholly administered by the Minister for Health. After that day the Minister for Primary Industry became the Minister administering the Act in relation to animal and plant quarantine.

The Minister for Primary Industry subsequently made further determintions that were also defective, but these did not apply to human quarantine fees.

Fees estimated to amount to approximately $2.5 million will have been paid and collected before new notices are published that consolidate, on the one hand, fees for export inspection of livestock, and, on the other all other fees relating to animal and plant quarantine.

The Departments of Primary Industry and Health only recently became aware that past notices may have been defective. Advice of the Attorney-General's Department was immediately sought. That advice confirmed the Departments' suspicions and indicated that legislation would be necessary to rectify the defect.

This Bill will overcome this defect in the legislative arrangements under which fees are charged for quarantine services that have been or are being provided by the Commonwealth.

The second matter for which validating legislation is required concerns the collection of quarantine fees levied by the Commonwealth for expenses connected with the removal of galley waste from aircraft arriving in Australia.

Galley waste from aircraft arriving from overseas has, for some time, been collected and disposed of either by or under arrangements made by the Department of Health in accordance with its quarantine responsibilities. Various charges, intended to offset expenses, have been levied for that collection and disposal. The amount of revenue collected from airline operators in 1984-85 is approximately $630,000.

Until the need for validating the collection of other quarantine fees became apparent, the Department of Health considered that it derived authority for charging for the collection of galley waste from section 64 of the Quarantine Act. However, with the benefit of the closer scrutiny that the need for validation elsewhere has provided, it has become apparent that there has been no legislative authority for the imposition of fees for the service.

A new determination under section 86E of the Quarantine Act to cover the levying and collection of charges for the collection and disposal of aircraft waste has since been made by the Minister for Health and took effect upon gazettal on 18 November 1985. This Bill will ensure a proper legal basis for the collection of fees for the provision of this service prior to that date.

The Bill has no financial implications.

I commend the Bill to honourable senators.

Debate (on motion by Senator Sheil) adjourned.