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Wednesday, 24 June 2009
Page: 4169


Senator LUDWIG (Manager of Government Business in the Senate) (3:37 PM) —I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, I shall move:

   That the provisions of paragraphs (5) to (8) of standing order 111 not apply to the following bills, allowing them to be considered during this period of sittings:

Coordinator-General for Remote Indigenous Services Bill 2009

Migration Amendment (Abolishing Detention Debt) Bill 2009

National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Amendment Bill 2009

Private Health Insurance Legislation Amendment Bill 2009.

I also table statements of reasons justifying the need for these bills to be considered during these sittings and seek leave to have the statements incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The statements read as follows—

STATEMENT OF REASONS FOR PASSAGE IN THE 2009 WINTER SITTINGS

COORDINATOR-GENERAL FOR REMOTE INDIGENOUS SERVICES BILL 2009

Purpose of the Bill

The bill establishes the new statutory position of Coordinator-General for Remote Indigenous Services, providing a single contact point to oversight and coordinate the delivery of housing, health, early childhood, welfare and education services to designated priority communities in remote Australia.

Reasons for Urgency

The role of the Coordinator-General for Remote Indigenous Services will drive the implementation of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Remote Service Delivery strategy, particularly at the Commonwealth level. The COAG strategy was agreed in December 2008 and the Prime Minister announced in his Closing the Gap report to the Parliament on 26 February 2009 that the position of Coordinator-General would be established. Implementation plans are currently being settled with each jurisdiction, with action to proceed from July 2009.

The legislation establishing the position of Coordinator-General is urgently required to provide the strategic central leadership and coordination needed to drive the overall strategy and address the major challenges involved, which include:

  • having the authority to work across agencies to cut through bureaucratic blockages and red tape;
  • ensuring that new COAG investments, particularly for housing and infrastructure, employment and early childhood services, are progressed in the targeted communities as soon as practicable; and
  • ensuring that services are being developed and delivered consistently with the methodology agreed by COAG.

The Coordinator-General position is also needed quickly to establish critical monitoring and reporting mechanisms underpinning greater transparency and accountability, and to establish strong working relationships with heads of agencies at both Commonwealth and State level.

The outcome of the selection process for the position was announced on 18 June 2009.

It is critical that requisite statutory powers are in place to equip the selected applicant with the necessary authority to fulfil the requirements of the position.

(Circulated by authority of the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs)

 

MIGRATION AMENDMENT (ABOLISHING DETENTION DEBT) BILL 2009

Purpose of the Bill

The Migration Amendment (Abolishing Detention Debt) Bill 2009 (the “Bill”) amends the Migration Act 1958 (the “Act”) to remove the liability for immigration detention and related costs for certain persons and liable third parties and extinguish all outstanding immigration detention debts.

Reasons for Urgency

This Bill needs to be considered and passed before the end of the 2009 Winter sittings because it contains significant measures that are of high government priority.

The Joint Standing Committee on Migration recommended in December 2008 that the Australian Government, as a priority, introduce legislation to repeal the liability of immigration detention costs and waive existing detention debts. This recommendation was based on a range of criticisms about the inequalities and inefficiencies of the current regime, with a consensus of opinion condemning the policy as punitive and discriminatory. To ensure the Joint Standing Committee on Migration’s recommendation is actioned, this Bill needs to be considered and passed before the end of the 2009 Winter sittings.

The objective of the detention debt policy was to minimise the costs to the Australian community of detention, maintenance and removal or deportation of unlawful non-citizens by ensuring that all unlawful non-citizens bear primary responsibility for the costs associated with their detention, deportation or removal. A second objective was to prevent the return of repatriated ex-detainees by requiring them to repay their debt to the Commonwealth (or make suitable arrangements for repayment) as a condition for the grant of a visa for re-entry to Australia. The deterrent objective has not been successful, as only about 3.3 percent of the detention cost has been recovered.

The costs involved in administering this debt regime are a continuing burden on the Commonwealth with no real benefit or deterrence. This Bill must be passed before the end of the 2009 Winter sittings to avoid further costs associated in administering the policy.

(Circulated by authority of the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship)

 

NATIONAL GREENHOUSE AND ENERGY REPORTING AMENDMENT BILL 2009

Purpose of the Bill

The National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Amendment Bill 2009 will amend the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act 2007 (the Act) to introduce new provisions to increase flexibility in establishing reporting arrangements under the NGER System prior to the first reporting deadline for the 2008-2009 reporting year; enhance the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting (NGER) legislative framework for auditing registered entities’ compliance with the Act; and amend requirements relating to the public disclosure of corporate energy information.

Reasons for Urgency

Passage of the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Amendment Bill 2009 through Senate during the Winter Sitting period is urgent.

The ‘Reporting Transfer Certificate’ provisions increase flexibility in reporting arrangements under the NGER System reduce administration and economic costs on industry for the 2008-2009 year. These provisions need to be established urgently to:

  • ensure that industry stakeholders who choose to utilise the new provisions will not have to unnecessarily register with the Regulator (by 31 August) and meet reporting obligations (at some cost), even if a Reporting Transfer certificate is issued at a later date;
  • allow adequate time for industry stakeholders to negotiate with concerned parties to transfer reporting obligations, apply to the NGER Regulator (the GEDO) for a ‘Reporting Transfer Certificate’ (RTC) and implement the required systems for gathering data; and
  • ensure industry stakeholders that utilise the new provisions the first NGER reporting year (2008-2009) will not have to amend their reporting arrangements (at some cost), prior to the commencement of the CPRS in July 2011.

The NGER external audit legislative framework must to be in place by September 2009. Passage in the Winter Sitting period would:

  • ensure potential NGER auditors have adequate lead time to prepare and register with the Regulator to undertake audits;
  • enable the Regulator to establish the required processes and systems to commence audits immediately following the submission of Year One NGER reports (mandated by 31 October 2009); and
  • allow time prepare, consult and finalise the subordinate legislation.

(Circulated by the authority of the Minister for Climate Change and Water, Senator the Hon Penny Wong)

 

PRIVATE HEALTH INSURANCE LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL 2009

Purpose of the Bill

The bill amends the Private Health Insurance Act 2007 to allow insurers to offer extended family policies that cover non-student children between the ages of 18 and 25 for an additional premium cost.  The bill also contains consequential amendments to the Private Health Insurance Act 2007 in relation to the National Joint Replacement Register Levy.

Reasons for Urgency

National Joint Replacement Registry

The bill includes consequential amendments to the Private Health Insurance Act 2007 in relation to the administration of the National Joint Replacement Register Levy which is proposed by the Private Health Insurance (National Joint Replacement Register Levy) Bill 2009, which was passed on 18 June 2009.

The purpose of the levy is to enable the recovery of the costs of operating the National Joint Replacement Register. Sponsors cannot be levied until both bills are passed and receive Royal Assent.

Extended Family Policies

In 2007, at the request of insurers, extended family policies (which allow insurers to charge a higher premium for family policies that cover adult children aged 18 to 25 with no partner, who are not full-time students) were introduced on a transitional basis. The premium charged for this type of family policy is higher than the premium for a family policy covering dependent children, but lower than the cost of an additional separate policy for the adult child. In December 2008, the transitional arrangements were extended to 31 December 2009 to enable continuity until the policy could be made permanent by amendments to the Private Health Insurance Act 2007. The bill will allow insurers to offer these extended family policies on a permanent basis.

If the bill does not progress, the transitional arrangements for extended family policies will not be able to be made permanent. A discontinuation of the policies would lead to increased private health insurance costs for such families and may lead to a reduction in private health insurance coverage for people aged 18 to 25.

(Circulated by authority of the Minister for Health and Ageing)

Senator Milne to move on the next day of sitting:

   That there be laid on the table by 4 pm on 11 August 2009:

(a)   any documents or advice prepared by or for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) or the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) since the Government came to power, relating to legal and policy issues surrounding illegal timber imports and options for addressing such imports;

(b)   all material provided to the Centre for International Economics relating to the development of the Regulatory Impact Statement for illegal timber legislation options; and

(c)   any correspondence from or to DAFF or DFAT, relating to illegal timber imports since the Government came to power, including but not limited to correspondence from other departments.

Senators Ian Macdonald and Boswell to move on the next day of sitting:

   That the Senate calls on the Government to fix by Proclamation, a day, not later than 31 July 2009, on which the provisions inserted into the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975 which treat as spent, certain convictions relating to offences against former section 38C of that Act which were passed through the Senate on 11 November 2008 and adopted unanimously by the House of Representatives on 12 November 2008, commence.

Senator Milne to move on the next day of sitting:

   That the Senate calls on the Government to implement its policy to insert a greenhouse trigger into the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.