House debates

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Australian Civilian Corps Bill 2010

Second Reading

9:32 am

Photo of Bob McMullanBob McMullan (Fraser, Australian Labor Party, Parliamentary Secretary for International Development Assistance) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

Mr Deputy Speaker, I hope you will allow me a brief indulgence to say that moving the second reading of the Australian Civilian Corps Bill 2010 gives me an opportunity that is not exactly unique but very rare. I do not think that anybody since John Gorton has had the chance to have introduced, on behalf of the government, a bill in each House of the parliament. It is a very small privilege, for which I am grateful.

Australia is putting in place a new capability to assist countries in crisis.

The Australian Civilian Corps will deploy Australian expertise into countries experiencing or emerging from disaster or conflict to assist with stabilisation and recovery efforts.

The Australian Civilian Corps will complement Australia’s existing humanitarian support by helping governments and communities to achieve durable and sustainable growth and prosperity.

Through the corps, Australian expertise will be deployed overseas to help restore essential services and infrastructure and to help rebuild government institutions to establish economic and social stability.

The concept of an Australian Civilian Corps formally emerged from the Australia 2020 Summit in April 2008.

The government responded to the idea of ‘a deployable public service’ by agreeing to develop an Australian Civilian Corps.

This bill provides for the establishment and management of the Australian Civilian Corps.

To serve with the corps, civilian specialists will be engaged as a new category of Commonwealth employee.

They will be known as Australian Civilian Corps employees.

Australian Civilian Corps employees will be a unique category of Commonwealth employee, engaged for specified periods of work in crisis environments overseas before returning to their regular employment.

These employees will be drawn from a register of civilian specialists selected for their technical skills and ability to work in challenging environments overseas.

They will have expertise in areas such as public administration and finance, law and justice, engineering, health administration and community development.

They will be sought from all levels of government and the broader Australian community.

As Commonwealth employees, these individuals will be clearly identifiable as Australian government representatives overseas.

They will have the rights and protections afforded to Commonwealth employees, as well as the associated obligations.

The central purpose of the bill is to create an effective and fair employment and management framework for Australian Civilian Corps employees.

The bill provides for terms and conditions and other employment arrangements specifically designed for this kind of employment.

The Australian Civilian Corps will be administered by AusAID, in cooperation with other Australian government agencies.

The bill provides that the Director General of AusAID will be responsible for managing the Australian Civilian Corps.

The bill gives the director general, on behalf of the Commonwealth, the power to engage individuals as Australian Civilian Corps employees.

The bill also gives the director general the power to determine the remuneration and other terms and conditions of Civilian Corps employees.

These terms and conditions will be tailored to the particular requirements of the Australian Civilian Corps.

Australian Civilian Corps employees will be covered by the applicable minimum standards of employment under the Fair Work Act.

A set of values and a code of conduct for the Australian Civilian Corps will be prescribed by regulation.

The Australian Civilian Corps Values will set out the principles, standards and ethics to be embodied by the corps.

The Director General of AusAID will be required to uphold and promote the values.

The Australian Civilian Corps Code of Conduct will set out the standards of behaviour and conduct expected of Australian Civilian Corps employees.

Breaches of the code of conduct will be subject to disciplinary action.

It is important that civilian specialists can transition easily between Australian Civilian Corps employment and their regular employment.

The bill contains provisions to facilitate this transition, including a provision to enable employers to grant leave without pay to their employees so that they can serve with the Australian Civilian Corps.

The bill also enables the Prime Minister to issue directions to Commonwealth employers about the participation of their employees in the corps.

The Australian Civilian Corps will take part in assistance missions led by Australia and those in which Australia plays a major role as part of a regional or international community effort.

It will also be able to contribute to bilateral or multilateral efforts, including through the secondment of Australian Civilian Corps employees to bodies such as the United Nations.

The bill contains a provision to enable the Director General of AusAID to arrange such secondments.

Other employment arrangements also dealt with by the bill include assignment of duties, suspension and termination from employment.

The Australian Civilian Corps builds on Australia’s proud history of providing assistance in times of crisis, such as that provided in East Timor, the Solomon Islands and Indonesia.

The corps will enable Australia to make further contributions to stability in our region and beyond.

Australia will be better positioned to help vulnerable populations in times of great need and play its part as a good international citizen.

By creating an appropriate employment and management framework for the Australian Civilian Corps, this bill will help ensure the success of this important Australian initiative.

Debate (on motion by Mrs Gash) adjourned.