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Office for Regional Australia Bill 2019

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2016-2017-2018-2019

 

 

 

THE PARLIAMENT OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA

 

 

 

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Office for Regional Australia Bill 2019

 

EXPLANATORY MEMORANDUM

and

STATEMENT OF COMPATIBILITY WITH HUMAN RIGHTS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Circulated by authority of

Cathy McGowan AO



Office for Regional Australia Bill 2019

 

 

OUTLINE

This bill will establish the Office for Regional Australia (the Office) as a statutory agency that will supercharge the regional development policy landscape, putting regional policy front and centre in the work of Government.

This Bill puts into action the principles and recommendations established by the Select Committee on Regional Development and Decentralisation in its report “Regions at the ready”.

Conduct inquiries and undertake research

The Office is to hold inquiries about matters relating to policy impacting regional Australia, regional development or decentralisation. Matters can be referred to it by the Minister, or it can undertake inquiries on its own initiative. The Office will conduct inquiries, research and report on matters impacting regional Australia, including the impacts of government regulation, policy and program implementation (with the same powers as the Productivity Commission).

Coordinate, collaborate, innovate

The Office will support coordination, collaboration and innovation in relation to policy impacting regional Australia, regional development or decentralisation, in partnership with government and non-government bodies.

The Office will support cross-jurisdictional cooperation and engagement on regional policy, collaborating across government and jurisdictions. As directed by the Minister, the Office may provide secretariat and research services to support collaboration on regional policy between government bodies.

Supp ort Regional Development Australia committee network

A key function of the Office is to provide independent policy and research support for the Regional Development Australia (RDA) committee network. This role as a research and analysis backbone, will boost the RDAs capacity to develop strategic regional plans, attract investment and represent the views of their communities.

The Office will work cooperatively with the RDAs in support of RDA charter.

Support regional deal making and regional strategic planning

The Office will provide advice to the Minister about matters relating to regional deals and regional planning. It will support the development of regional deals and regional strategic plans, it will also evaluate and report on the delivery and effectiveness of existing regional deals.

Educate and report on regional impacts

The Office will promote public understanding of matters relating to policy impacting regional Australia, regional development or decentralisation.

The Office will provide the Minister with a report, on 1 October each year, including an analysis of the impacts of budget initiatives and recommendations on implementation to achieve intended policy outcomes in regional areas. This report is to be known as the ‘Regional Australia Impacts Report’.

Statement that embodies the Government’s policy priorities for regional Australia

The Bill also requires that the Minister table a statement that embodies the Government’s policy for regional Australia. This may be developed through a formal white paper process. The Bill provides guidance on the content of the statement, based on Recommendation 12 of the “Regions at the ready” report, and requires a public consultation period.

The Bill requires the Minister to table the statement in both house of Parliament at least once every 5 years.

Parliamentary Joint Committee on Regional Development and Decentralisation

The Bill also provides for the appointment of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Regional Development and Decentralisation, to provide parliamentary oversight of the work of the Office.

We can’t force the Government to do a good job for regional Australia, but we can put in place checks and balances to make sure they are accountable and respond to the realities of living in a regional community.

 



 

FINANCIAL IMPACT

 

The bill will have no financial impact.

 

NOTES ON CLAUSES

Part 1—Preliminary

Clause 1: Short title

 

Clause 1 is a formal provision specifying the short title of the Act.

Clause 2: Commencement

 

This clause provides that the whole of this bill would commence on the day the Consolidated Revenue Fund is appropriated under another Act for the purposes of the Office for Regional Australia.

Clause 3: Simplified outline of this Act

 

Clause 3 provides a simplified explanation of the Bill.

Clause 4 : Definitions

 

Clause 4 provides definitions for terms used in the Act.

Clause 5: Extension to external Territories

Clause 5 provides that the Act extends to every external Territory.

Clause 6: Act binds Crown

Subclause (1) provides that this Act binds the Crown in right of the Commonwealth, of each of the States, of the Australian Capital Territory and of the Northern Territory.

Subclause (2) provides that nothing in this Act makes the Crown liable to prosecution for an offence against this Act.

Subclause (3) provides that the protection in subsection (2) does not apply to an authority of the Commonwealth.

Part 2—Office for Regional Australia

Division 1 Establishment and functions

Clause 7: Office for Regional Australia

Subclause (1) establishes the Office for Regional Australia.

Subclause (2) provides that the Office consists of a Chair and at least 4, and not more than 6, other members.

Subclause (3) provides that the office is covered by the specified terms of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 .

Clause 8: Functions of the Office

Clause 8 outlines the functions of the Office.

Clause 9: Flexibility and range of working methods in performance of Office’s functions

Clause 9 provides the office flexibility on its approach to the performance of its functions.

Division 2—Inquiries by the Office

Clause 10: Reference of matters to Office for inquiry

Clause 10 provides for referral of matters to the Office for inquiry by the Minister.

Clause 11: Notice of inquiry

Clause 11 provides that the Office must give reasonable notice of its intention to hold the inquiry.

Clause 12: Notice of hearings

Clause 12 provides that the Office must give reasonable notice of its intention to hold hearings.

Clause 13: Procedure at hearings

Clause 13 outlines the procedure at hearings.

Clause 14: Notice to person to provide information and documents

This clause gives the Office the power to obtain, by written notice, relevant information and documents for the purposes of an inquiry under section 11 (including for the purposes of a competitive neutrality complaint). The information and/or documentation must be forwarded within the period specified by the Chair (at least 14 days) in the notice. The clause prescribes the penalty for failing to comply - being a maximum penalty of 6 months imprisonment.

Clause 15: Summons to person to attend hearing

This clause provides for the Chair to summons a person, in writing, to give evidence at a hearing and to provide specified documents. The clause prescribes the penalty for failing to comply - being a maximum penalty of 6 months imprisonment

Clause 16: Refusal to answer questions or produce documents

This clause prescribes that a witness at a hearing must not fail to answer a question as required by the Chair or provide documents, as required by a summons.

The clause prescribes the penalty for failing to comply - being a maximum penalty of 6 months imprisonment

Clause 17 : Preservation of the privilege against self-incrimination

This clause exempts a person from complying with clauses 14 and 16 if a statement or a response to a question would tend to incriminate the person or result in further attempts to obtain information that would tend to incriminate the person. This does not apply if a person has waived his or her right under this clause.

Clause 18 : False or misleading evidence or information

This clause provides that a person must not knowingly provide false or misleading material or information at hearings for the purposes of an inquiry or an inquiry held under section 14 (including for the purposes of a competitive neutrality complaint). The clause prescribes the penalty for failing to comply - being a maximum penalty of 6 months imprisonment.

Clause 19: Restrictions on publication of evidence

This clause gives the Office power to restrict the publication of evidence given before a hearing or of documents provided to the Office in connection with a hearing. The clause prescribes the penalty for contravening any such direction - being a maximum penalty of 6 months imprisonment

Clause 20: Documents produced in relation to inquiry

This clause provides that the Office may take possession of documents tendered under this Part for purposes of an inquiry, may keep them as long as necessary for the purposes of an inquiry and must permit them to be inspected by people who would be entitled to inspect them if they were not in the possession of the Office.

Clause 21: Allowances to witnesses

The clause provides for the payment of a person's travelling and other prescribed expenses when that person attends a hearing of the Office as a result of being summoned.

Clause 22 : Written statements etc. to be made public

This clause provides that all information made available to an Office inquiry hearing shall be made public. in any way it thinks fit, unless the source of that information objects to it being made public and the Office would have taken the information in private if it had been given in a hearing.

Clause 23 : Report of inquiry to be tabled

This clause ensures the final inquiry report shall be made public as soon as possible after the Minister receives it, unless the Office recommends a delay. The 25 sitting day period allowed for the Minister to table the report has been set to allow sufficient time for printing.

Division 3 Advice , research and secretariat functions

Clause 24: Requests for advice

This clause states that if the Minister refers a matter to the Office for advice the Minister may prescribe that the advice be in writing, a time frame in which the advice is to be given and any other matter the Office is to have regard to in their advice. This reference may be withdrawn by the Minister at any time.

In preparing advice requested by the Minister the Office may also advise on any matters it considers relevant to the matter referred.

Clause 25: Minister must table Office’s advice

This clause provides that the Minister must cause a copy of any advice given by the Office under section Clause 24 to be tabled in each House of the Parliament within 15 sittings days of that House after the Minister receives the advice.

Before tabling the copy of the advice, the Minister may delete from the copy information whose publication would, in the Minister’s opinion, be contrary to the public interest.

Clause 26: Secretariat services and research services to government bodies

The Minister may, in writing, direct the Office to provide secretariat services or research services to a government body. The Minister may specify the conditions for undertaking these services.

Clause 27 : Research services on request of RDA committees

The Office may, with the written agreement of the Minister, undertake a specified research project for a body or person (other than a government body). The Minister may specify the conditions for undertaking this research project.

Division 4—Regional Australia impact reports

Clause 28: Regional Australia impact reports

This clause provides that on 1 October each year, the Office must give the Minister a “Regional Australia impact report” including an assessment of the impact of the Commonwealth Government’s budget decisions on regional Australia.

The Minister must table the report in each House of the Parliament within 15 sitting days of that House after its receipt by the Minister.     

Part 3—Parliamentary Joint Committee on Regional Development and Decentralisation 

Clause 29: Parliamentary Joint Committee on Regional Development and Decentralisation

This clause provides that there will be a Parliamentary Joint Committee on Regional Development and Decentralisation.

Clause 30: Membership of the Committee

This clause provides the arrangements for membership of the Committee.

Clause 31: Powers and proceedings of the Committee

This clause provides that all matters relating to the powers and proceedings of the Committee are to be determined by resolution of both Houses of the Parliament.

Clause 32: Functions of the Committee

This clause outlines the functions of the Committee.                                                              

Part 4—Ministerial reports on regional Australia

Clause 33:   Ministerial reports on regional Australia

This clause provides that the Minister must table a report that embodies the Governments policy for regional Australia. It outlines what the report must include and that it must be developed through public consultation. It also provides that this report must be tabled in both house of Parliament once every 5 years.            

Part 5—Administrative provisions for the Office

Division 1 Appointment of members of the Office

Clause 34:   Appointment of members of the Office

This clause provides for the appointment of members of the office.

Clause 35:   Period of appointment for members of the Office

This clause provides for the period of appointment of members of the Office must not exceed 5 years.

Clause 36:   Acting members of the Office

This clause provides to the acting arrangements for members and the chair of the office.

Clause 37:   Vacancy in the office of a member of the Office

This clause provides an interpretation of when there is a vacancy in the office. .

Division  2 Terms and conditions for members of the Office

 

Clause 38: Remuneration

Clause 39:  Disclosure of interest

Clause 40: Paid work

Clause 41: Leave of absence

Clause 42: Resignation

Clause 43: Termination of appointment

Clause 44: Other terms and conditions

These clauses provide for the appointment and conditions of appointment of members of the Office.

Division 3 Operation of the Office

Clause 45: Meetings of Office

This provision provides for meetings of the Office.

Division 4—Staff of the Office etc.

 

Clause 46: Staff

Clause 47: Consultants

These clauses provide for the appointment of staff and engagement of consultants.

Part 6—Miscellaneous

Clause 48: Protection from civil actions

This clause provides that civil action cannot be taken against a member of the Office in relation to any loss or damage etc suffered by a person while fulfilling the Office 's functions or powers. Similarly, civil proceedings cannot be brought against a person who, in good faith, provided a submission, statement or material to the Office which caused another person t loss, damage or injury.        

Clause 49: Hindering or disrupting Office

This clause provides that a person must not obstruct or hinder a member of the Office in the performance of the Office’s functions or disrupt an Office hearing. The clause prescribes the penalty for failing to comply - being a maximum penalty of 6 months imprisonment

Clause 50: Intimidation etc.

This clause protects persons who propose to give or have given assistance, evidence or information to the Office from intimidation, threats, coercion, damage or loss. The clause prescribes the penalty for failing to comply - being a maximum penalty of 6 months imprisonment.

Clause 51: Constitutional limits

This clause outlines the constitutional limits on the Office in performing its functions.

Clause 52: Rules

This clause provides that the Minister may, by legislative instrument, make rules prescribing certain matters.



STATEMENT OF COMPATIBILITY WITH HUMAN RIGHTS

 

Prepared in accordance with Part 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011

 

Office for Regional Australia Bill 2019

 

This bill is compatible with the human rights and freedoms recognised or declared in the international instruments listed in Clause 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011 .

 

Overview of the bill

 

This bill establishes the Office for Regional Australia.

 

The Office has functions relating to policy impacting regional Australia, regional development or decentralisation.

 

Those functions include:

a)     holding inquiries about matters relating to policy impacting regional Australia, regional development or decentralisation that are referred to it by the Minister; and

b)     undertaking research about matters relating to policy impacting regional Australia, regional development or decentralisation; and

c)     supporting the development of innovation and experimentation in relation to policy impacting regional Australia, regional development or decentralisation; and

d)     supporting cross-jurisdictional cooperation and engagement on regional policy; and

e)     providing secretariat and research services to support collaboration on regional policy between government bodies; and

f)      functions relating to supporting the Regional Development Australia committees and regional deal making; and

g)     promoting public understanding of matters relating to policy impacting regional Australia, regional development or decentralisation; and

h)    preparing reports annually that include an assessment of the impact of the Commonwealth Government’s budget decisions on regional Australia.

 

At least once every 5 years, the Minister must cause to be prepared reports providing a statement of Commonwealth Government policy relating to regional Australia.

 

This bill also provides for appointment of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Regional Development and Decentralisation.

 

The Committee’s functions include:

a)     examining reports by the Office; and

b)     monitoring and reviewing the Regional Development Australia committee program and the implementation of the Regional City Deals program; and

c)     examining incentive and strategies to improve private sector investment in regional areas; and

d)     reviewing existing decentralisation of both public and private sector entities and identifying further potential opportunities for decentralisation; and

e)     undertaking inquiries into matters relating to regional development and decentralisation referred to it by either House of the Parliament.

 

Human rights implications

 

This bill promotes greater equity and the right not to be discriminated against based on the individuals place of residence.

 

The bill promotes the rights defined under Article 2, 16 and 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and 2(2) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). The bill gives effect to a number of Australia's human rights obligations ensure that no one is denied their rights because of factors such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property or birth or other status. This includes discrimination on certain other grounds, including: age, nationality, marital status, disability, place of residence within a country and sexual orientation.

 

Conclusion

 

This bill is compatible with human rights because it advances the protection of human

Rights, in particular it promotes the right to equality and non-discrimination.

 

 

Cathy McGowan AO