Thursday, 3 December 2020
National Emergency Declaration (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2020; Second Reading
That this bill be now read a second time.
The National Emergency Declaration (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2020 will consolidate and streamline enumerated emergency powers across the statute books of the Commonwealth to enable ministers and officials to act decisively in respect of a declared national emergency.
The bill will operate in conjunction with the National Emergency Declaration Bill 2020 (NED Bill), which enables the Governor-General, on the advice of the Prime Minister, to declare a national emergency. It will also implement recommendation 5.1 of the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements by complementing the legislative framework for declaring national emergencies enacted by the NED Bill.
The consequential amendments bill complements the national emergency declaration framework by amending the legislation listed in its schedule, to add alternative tests for the exercise of powers that can support the response and recovery effort where a national emergency has been declared. It achieves this objective in three key ways.
First, where the powers currently contain an 'emergency' test, the bill removes the legal requirement for each decision-maker to separately consider whether there is an 'emergency' in circumstances where a national emergency has been declared.
Second, in the case of powers that are often exercised in an emergency, but that do not currently contain an emergency test, the bill enables decision-makers to exercise each power if they are satisfied that it is necessary to respond to, or support the recovery from, the declared national emergency.
Third, where the tests for those emergency powers contain elements that overlap with the test for making a national emergency declaration, the bill creates an alternative simplified test where a national emergency has been declared that does not contain the overlapping elements.
Together, these amendments ensure that ministers and officials can act quickly once a national emergency declaration is made. The amendments integrate the making of a national emergency declaration into each power's respective frameworks.
These are necessary amendments to bring together the disparate powers across the statute book, and, most importantly, ensure ministers and officials have a comprehensive picture of the powers at their disposal that can be employed to ensure an efficient and effective response and recovery effort.
This framework does not duplicate existing powers, or displace the availability of the powers outside of a national emergency.
It is not the intention that these alternative tests preclude decision-makers from relying on pre-existing tests for the exercise of a power during a national emergency if it would be more convenient or appropriate to do so. Rather, these amendments do not alter which minister or official is responsible for exercising each power.
The intent of the amendments is to assist ministers and officials to make critical decisions in the most timely way possible where a national emergency declaration has been made.
The consequential amendments bill makes important amendments to support a clear and comprehensive legislative framework for the exercise of the Commonwealth's national emergency powers.
I commend the bill to the House