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National Water Commission (Abolition) Bill 2015

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2013-14

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia

 

 

 

 

 

 

Senate

 

 

 

 

 

National Water Commission (Abolition) Bill 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

SUPPLEMENTARY Explanatory Memorandum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Circulated by the authority of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment, Senator the Hon Simon Birmingham)



 

National Water Commission (Abolition) Bill 2014

General OUTLINe

1.                   On 25 September 2014, the Government introduced the National Water Commission (Abolition) Bill 2014 (the Bill) into the Senate. The Bill gives effect to the Government’s 2014-15 Budget commitment to abolish the National Water Commission (the NWC) from 1 January 2015 and transfer key NWC functions to existing Commonwealth agencies.

2.                   The Bill was referred to the Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee (the Committee) for inquiry on 25 September 2014. The Committee handed down its report on 24 November 2014.

3.                   The Government has considered the Committee’s report as well as the submissions made by stakeholders to the Committee inquiry. The Government has made a number of refinements to the Bill due to this Committee process.

4.                   The amendments relate to the provisions of the Bill that amend the Water Act 2007 (Water Act) to transfer to the Productivity Commission (PC) two key statutory functions. These functions are: the triennial assessments of progress on implementation of the National Water Initiative (NWI); and the five-yearly audits of the implementation of the Basin Plan 2012 (Basin Plan) and associated Basin State water resource plans.

5.                   The purpose of the amendments is to ensure that the PC undertakes these functions in consultation with a stakeholder reference panel or working group, and to ensure that PC Commissioners have extensive skills and experience in an area relevant to these functions.

Summary of Amendments

6.                   The amendments require at least one Commissioner to have extensive relevant skills and experience in water resource management, as an area relevant to the triennial assessments of progress on implementation of the NWI, and five-yearly audits of the implementation of the Basin Plan.

7.                   The amendments also amend the Bill to require the PC to establish a stakeholder working group to be established for each matter referred to the PC for inquiry. A stakeholder working group established under the amended Bill is to exchange information, and may provide the PC with advice. 

8.                   The stakeholder working group will be established on a voluntary basis, and will consist of such persons appointed by the Productivity Minister who are representatives of agricultural, environmental, industry or Indigenous bodies, or any other body with an interest in the matters referred to the PC under the Bill.

9.                   The amendments also require the PC to have regard to the objectives set out in clause 23 of the NWI in conducting triennial assessments of progress toward NWI implementation under new section 88 of the Water Act, as amended by the Bill.

10.               The Bill, as amended, will commence on 1 January 2015.

FINANCIAL IMPACT STATEMENT

11.               The amendments made by this Bill will have no financial impact.

12.               The financial impact of the closure of the NWC, as effected by the Bill, is a saving of $20.9 million over four years.

STATEMENT OF COMPATIBILITY WITH HUMAN RIGHTS

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

13.               These amendments are compatible with the human rights and freedoms recognised or declared in the international instruments listed in section 3 of the Human Rights ((Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011 .

14.               The Bill’s compatibility with human rights was outlined in the Explanatory Memorandum to the Bill.

15.               This amendment to the Bill includes minor refinements to improve stakeholder consultation and PC expertise and has been assessed to be compatible with human rights, consistent with the Explanatory Memorandum to the Bill.

16.               This amendment is compatible with human rights as it does not engage any of the applicable rights or freedoms.

NOTES ON INDIVIDUAL AMENDMENTS

Amendments to Productivity Commission Act 1998 - Expertise of Commissioners

17.               This item amends section 25 of the Productivity Commission Act 1998 (the PC Act), which provides that the Productivity Minister may appoint Associate Commissioners following consultation with the PC Chair.

18.               This item inserts new subsections 25(2) and 25(3), which require the Productivity Minister to appoint an Associate Commissioner for the purposes of inquiries into the effectiveness of Basin Plan implementation and progress toward NWI objectives and outcomes. An Associate Commissioner appointed under subsection 25(3) must have extensive skills and experience in water resource management.

19.               There is also a consequential amendment to renumber subsection 25(1) due to the addition of new subsections 25(2) and 25(3).

Amendments to clause of Bill - Basin Plan audits

20.               This amendment will amend Item 6 of the Bill so that new subsection 87(3A) requires the Productivity Minister to establish a stakeholder working group under new section 89 for the purposes of the PC’s five-yearly audits of Basin Plan implementation and water resource plans. 

21.               There is also a consequential amendment to change the heading of subsection 87(3) ‘ Reports on inquiries ’ to add ‘ etc. ’ to encompass the new provisions relating to the stakeholder working group.

Amendment to clause of Bill - Triennial assessments

22.               These amendments will amend Item 6 of the Bill so that new subsection 88(3A) requires the Productivity Minister to establish a stakeholder working group under new section 89 for the purposes of the PC’s three-yearly assessments of progress toward NWI objectives and outcomes.

23.               These amendments will also provide that the PC must, in conducting inquiries under new section 88, consider the objectives provided for in clause 23 of the NWI.

24.               There is also a consequential amendment to change the heading of subsection 88(3) ‘ Reports on inquiries ’ to add ‘ etc. ’ to encompass the new provisions relating to the stakeholder working group.

Insertion of new section 89 - Stakeholder working group

25.               This amendment will amend Item 6 of the Bill to insert new section 89 into Part 3 of the Water Act. New subsection 89(1) will require a stakeholder working group to be established for each referred matter (that is, for each matter referred to the PC for inquiry under new sections 87 and 88).

26.               New subsection 89(2) provides that a stakeholder working group for a referred matter:

(a)  is to exchange information and views on the referred matter or any issues relevant to it; and

(b)  may provide advice to the PC on the referred matter or any issues relevant to it.

27.               New subsection 89(3) provides that a stakeholder working group for a referred matter is to consist of such persons appointed by the Chair of the Productivity Commission who are representative of any:

(a)  agricultural, environmental, industry or Indigenous body. An agricultural body encompasses a reference to both agricultural and irrigated agricultural bodies; or

(b)  other body with an interest in an interest in the referred matter.

28.               New paragraph 89(4)(a) provides that the Chair of the Productivity Commission may determine any allowances that are payable to a member of a stakeholder working group in relation to his or her contribution as a member of the stakeholder working group, subject to new subsections 89(5) and 89(6). It is anticipated that allowances would only be paid to members of the stakeholder working group in exceptional circumstances.

29.               New paragraph 89(4)(b) provides that the Chair of the Productivity Commission will also be able to determine any other matter relating to the functioning of a stakeholder working group on a case by case basis for each inquiry, for instance, the terms of reference of the group and the duration of its operation.

30.               New subsections 89(5) and 89(6) provide that a member of a stakeholder working group is not to be paid any remuneration in relation to his or her contribution as a member of the stakeholder working group despite the provisions of the Remuneration Tribunal Act 1973 , and that membership of a stakeholder working group is not a public office within the meaning of the Remuneration Tribunal Act 1973 .