House debates

Tuesday, 1 December 2015


Omnibus Repeal Day (Spring 2015) Bill 2015, Amending Acts 1990 to 1999 Repeal Bill 2015, Statute Law Revision Bill (No. 3) 2015; Second Reading

7:31 pm

Photo of Mark DreyfusMark Dreyfus (Isaacs, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Attorney General) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to speak on the Omnibus Repeal Day (Spring 2015) Bill 2015, the Amending Acts 1990 to 1999 Repeal Bill 2015 and the Statute Law Revision Bill (No. 3) 2015. These bills were introduced as part of the fourth so-called red tape repeal day in the life of this government.

How far it has come from the former Prime Minister giving the ministerial statement, in early 2014, to a packed chamber, trumpeting and boasting about the government's repeal efforts, with debate to follow, a week later, with multiple members from the government benches all standing up to copy the Prime Minister's boasting and trumpeting about the imagined commitment of this government to so-called red-tape removal. There was even a gag motion put forward in association with this first repeal day in 2014 but it, actually, prevented government members from talking about red tape. Now, we have the ministerial statement being given by the third parliamentary secretary—now they are called assistant ministers—looking after deregulation policy.

The three bills being debated today, combined, contain a claimed $6.9 million in deregulatory savings. It is the second-lowest amount of deregulatory savings contained in a set of these bills that have been brought forward by this government. When the government talks about its $4.5 billion figure in deregulatory savings it is clear that the legislation introduced on these repeal days have not contributed much to them at all. In fact, the four sets of repeal day bills have a combined $63.6 million in deregulatory savings. Out of the $4.5 billion claimed figure, that is 1.4 per cent of the total amount.

Before going to the bills being debated today, I want to touch, briefly, on this total figure being claimed as deregulatory savings. As far as we can tell, it still includes nearly $200 million through the original plan to water down consumer protections as part of the Future of Financial Advice Reforms. The government, of course, has now abandoned its original plan and, with our support, minor technical amendments to the Future of Financial Advice reforms have been made that are in line with the original intent of our reforms. The figure seems to include, still, some $5 million that is claimed through the abolition of the Commonwealth Cleaning Services Guidelines, resulting in the pay of cleaners being cut—despite the former Prime Minister saying the opposite in the parliament. Cutting cleaners' pay, under the guise of removing red tape, says a lot about this government, which is why Labor, if elected, will reinstate the Commonwealth Cleaning Services Guidelines.

According to the government's document, there are $2.1 billion in new deregulatory savings since the last of these repeal days earlier this year. The overwhelming majority are not being debated today. This includes nearly $520 million claimed through changes to the renewable energy target, $300 million claimed through enhancing communication through digital disclosure—business will be able to provide disclosures through digital means to the Australian Securities and Investment Commission—$187 million claimed through the two-speed letter-delivery service of Australia Post, $109 million claimed through the upgrade of the Australian Taxation Office's online services—providing individuals and sole traders with more options—and $21.4 million claimed through the government's proposal to reform Australia's shipping industry, which the shadow minister for infrastructure and transport has described as being Work Choices on water.

There is a new measure that was introduced in another piece of legislation: $2.8 million in deregulatory savings in the Treasury Legislation Amendment (Spring Repeal Day) Bill 2015. In there is a measure that winds back penalties for employers who fail to correctly pay super on time to their employees. To call this red tape, again, shows this government's priorities on superannuation after it abolished the low-income superannuation contribution and delayed the increase to the superannuation guarantee. Australians are losing $2.6 billion a year in unpaid super—that is, employers who are not correctly paying the superannuation they should be paying to their employees—yet this government wants to wind back the penalties on employers who do not pay up.

I turn to the bills being debated today and will, first, deal with the Omnibus Repeal Day (Spring 2015) Bill 2015. In this bill, out of a total of 37 measures, only four have deregulatory savings attached, totalling $6.2 million. A majority of the measures have no deregulatory savings attached to them. For example, in the Agriculture portfolio, there is the repeal of an advisory body, the Fishing Industry Policy Council, which has never actually met since the legislation that established it was enacted in 1991. So it is hard to imagine how there will be any deregulatory savings associated with that repeal. In the Finance portfolio, there is the repeal of seven old appropriations acts from the 2012-13 financial year and eight old appropriations acts from the 2013-14 financial year. Given these financial years have come and gone, these acts can be repealed. Again, it is difficult to imagine that there are any actual deregulatory savings associated with those repeals. In the Industry, Innovation and Science portfolio, the repeal of the Patents Amendment (Patent Cooperation Treaty) Act 1979 is to be found. This act amended the Patents Act 1952. As an amending act, it became spent as soon as it amended the principal act. Further, the principal act was repealed in 1990 and replaced by the Patents Act 1990, so the bill is getting rid of a piece of legislation that had ceased to have any practical effect for decades. Again, it is difficult to imagine that there are any deregulatory savings associated with that repeal.

There are even some recycled provisions from an old omnibus repeal bill that has not passed the parliament yet. The Omnibus Repeal Day (Spring 2014) Bill 2014 has not passed because the government will not accept our amendments in relation to the Future Submarine project tender process around whether the successful tenderer would give an undertaking that the building, maintenance and sustainment of the submarines would take place in Australia, with the majority of the work on the build undertaken by Australian labour and the majority of the materials used sourced from Australian suppliers. As further examples, there is the Patents Amendment (Patent Cooperation Treaty) Act 1979 repeal, amending the Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory Act 2012, the repeal of the Papua and New Guinea Loan (International Bank) Act 1970 and the repeal of the Customs (Tariff Concession System Validations) Act 1999. These were all in the spring 2014 omnibus repeal bill. In total, there are actually 19 measures—over half—that have been recycled from the spring 2014 bill. So far from creating any real new reform or new repeal measures, we have a government that is resorting to recycling old alleged reforms or old alleged repeal measures.

There are four measures that, as I said, do have deregulatory savings attached, and two of these are recycled measures. First, I would mention the repeal of section 19AD of the Health Insurance Act 1973 that removes the requirement for a five-yearly review of the operation of the Medicare provider number legislation. There have been no issues and no unintended consequences found in the previous reviews, and so the legislative requirement is deemed to be no longer required. This has a mighty sum of some $3,000 in deregulatory savings attached. Second, there is the repeal of the requirement to use administrator/adviser panels to assist approved aged-care providers under sanction. Other guidelines exist that put restrictions on who can be appointed an administrator/adviser, and so this requirement is deemed also to be no longer required. This has the slightly more impressive sum of some $5 million in deregulatory savings attached. Third, there is the amendment of approved provider obligations for an approved provider of aged care to notify the secretary of changes to any of its key personnel. The requirement would be where the change would materially affect the provider's suitability to be a provider of aged care. This has some $1.2 million claimed in deregulatory savings attached, but, importantly, this too is a recycled measure from the spring 2014 bill. Fourth, and last, there are amendments to the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999 that would allow a person to disclose or further use or record protected information that has been disclosed to them for the purpose of research, statistical analysis or policy development where it is consistent with the purpose of the initial disclosure. Given that the information has been already disclosed to them, there is no need for a public interest certificate process or to seek a further decision from the secretary in order to further disclose the information. This measure has the, again, mighty sum of some $5,000 in deregulatory savings, but, just like the third measure with deregulatory savings, this too is a recycled measure from the spring 2014 bill. So, out of the $6.2 million of claimed deregulatory savings, $1.2 million are from recycled measures.

Notably, there is a section in this bill that makes a series of amendments to Commonwealth legislation to recognise the fact that there is self-government in the Australian Capital Territory. I am sure that is something that the member for Fraser, who is sitting with me in the chamber, will be pleased to hear being recognised.


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