Senate debates

Monday, 16 June 2014

Bills

Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Legislation Amendment (Removing Re-approval and Re-registration) Bill 2014, Australian National Preventive Health Agency (Abolition) Bill 2014, Energy Efficiency Opportunities (Repeal) Bill 2014, Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Cost Recovery) Bill 2014, Health Workforce Australia (Abolition) Bill 2014, Migration Amendment (Offshore Resources Activity) Repeal Bill 2014, Paid Parental Leave Amendment Bill 2014, Railway Agreement (Western Australia) Amendment Bill 2014, Student Identifiers Bill 2014, Tax and Superannuation Laws Amendment (2014 Measures No. 2) Bill 2014, Tax and Superannuation Laws Amendment (2014 Measures No. 3) Bill 2014, Tax Laws Amendment (Implementation of the FATCA Agreement) Bill 2014, Textile, Clothing and Footwear Investment and Innovation Programs Amendment Bill 2014, Veterans' Affairs Legislation Amendment (Mental Health and Other Measures) Bill 2014, Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Amendment Bill 2014; Second Reading

9:00 pm

Photo of Nigel ScullionNigel Scullion (NT, Country Liberal Party, Minister for Indigenous Affairs) Share this | Hansard source

I table a revised explanatory memorandum relating to the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Amendment Bill 2014 and move:

That these bills be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speeches read as follows—

AGRICULTURAL AND VETERINARY CHEMICALS LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (REMOVING RE-APPROVAL AND RE-REGISTRATION) BILL 2014

Australia currently has around 11 700 separate agricultural chemicals and veterinary medicines (agvet chemicals) registered with the Australian Pesticide and Veterinary Medicines Authority, also known as the APVMA. Each of these products contains one or more of only 782 active constituents.

Agvet chemicals protect crops and animals from pests and diseases and so help improve the productivity and competitiveness of Australia's rural industries. Agvet chemicals help to ensure the quality and safety of food production while protecting human and animal health and the environment. They are essential tools for managing weeds, vital to keep our pets healthy, a necessary part of our indoor and outdoor lifestyle.

Australia's gross value of farm production is worth an estimated $47.9 billion a year with an export value of farm commodities of around $38 billion. The agvet chemicals industry is vital to quality food and fibre production and makes essential tools for primary producers. The crop protection industry body CropLife Australia estimates in a recent report that '$17.6 billion of Australian agriculture output is attributable to the use of [crop protection products], or 68 per cent of the total value of crop production'.

This Bill aims to reduce the unnecessary regulatory burden on this industry resulting in reduced costs to that industry that will eventually flow on to benefit primary producers. This may also lead to greater investment in newer, safer innovative products for the future.

An efficient regulator is important to ensure timely and cost effective registration of new chemistries and review of emerging risks in registered chemicals and to provide the best possible environment for companies to register products in Australia.

The Australian Government has committed to 'easing the burden imposed on the Australian economy and agricultural sector by reducing red and green tape on business by at least $1 billion per year'. The Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Legislation Amendment (Removing Re-approval and Re-registration) Bill 2014 contributes to this commitment by implementing the government's election commitment to remove the requirement for agvet chemicals to be re-registered.

The Bill builds on earlier progress that has already been made through the National Registration Scheme, a partnership between the Commonwealth and all the states and territories, and on elements of the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Legislation Amendment Act 2013 (Amendment Act). These changes will improve the effectiveness of the regulatory system and reduce inefficiency at the APVMA while continuing to protect human and animal health and safety and protect the environment.

This Bill proposes amendments principally to the Agvet Code (the Schedule to the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Code Act 1994). The Bill also proposes amendments to the previous government's Amendment Act.

This Bill is divided into two schedules, both commencing immediately after Schedule 1 to the Amendment Act (effective 1 July 2014).

Removing re-approval and re-registration

Schedule 1 implements the election commitment to remove re-registration.

That Schedule prevents the expiry of active constituent approvals and prevents the application of dates after which a registration cannot be renewed. Active constituent approvals are to continue in force so long as they are not cancelled. In the same way a person obtains a car drivers licence that then is subject to periodic renewal, under the new legislation agvet chemical registrations continue in force subject to periodic renewal. Schedule 1 also removes provision for applications to be made to re-approve active constituents or re-register chemical products.

Schedule 1 further reduces red-tape by allowing for less frequent renewal of registrations. The current process is for the renewal of registrations to occur annually. Again like your car licence instead of an annual renewal, these amendments will allow longer time frames for renewal. The regulations will set the period which could be up to seven years. Less frequent renewals will mean less red tape and less cost to business.

Addressing concerns with chemical product quality

To give the opportunity for the APVMA to confirm that chemical products supplied to the market are the same as the product evaluated and registered by the APVMA this Bill includes amendments that improve the ability of the APVMA to require a person who supplies an agvet chemical product in Australia to provide information (for example, a chemical analysis) about the product they are supplying.

The Bill would provide that the APVMA may, by written notice, require a person to provide information about substances supplied or intended for supply as a chemical product (or an active constituent for a chemical product) if they have, will have, or have had possession of the substance. The information that may be required includes details of the composition of the substance, manufacturing details, packaging, labelling and advertising information and about conformance of the substance with any relevant standard.

The APVMA is to be able to require a chemical analysis of the product and for the results of the analysis to be provided to the APVMA. The power is to apply only if the APVMA considers the information is necessary to protect human, animal and environmental health and safety or protect trade. Used appropriately, the power will improve community confidence that the APVMA is effectively managing risks to human, animal and environmental safety and to trade.

Reducing red-tape by allowing for simpler variations to approvals and registrations

The Bill proposes to streamline simple variations to an approval, registration or label.

For the simplest variations, Schedule 2 of the Bill provides that the APVMA will have to make the variation at the time the holder of registration or approval notifies the APVMA of the change. For some less simple variations, the APVMA will have to make the variation after a fixed period if it is a prescribed variation.

Without these amendments to the Code, the APVMA would have to complete a more onerous technical assessment of these variations with no benefit to improved chemical safety. This is another sensible reduction in red tape that makes the regulator more user friendly without impacting health or safety.

Obliging access to information about chemicals that the APVMA holds

Currently, the APVMA is often asked to provide information to the company that is responsible for a chemical product about its registrations. This information is then provided under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act).

Payments for information sought under the FOI Act are not covering the costs of providing the information. As a result, companies that do keep good records are subsidising the records costs of those that do not.

The Bill amendments will allow persons to apply to the APVMA for copies of documents it holds about a chemical for a fee. This provision will not allow release of confidential commercial information unless the recipient was entitled to the information. For example, because they were the person that provided the information.

Schedule 2 of the Bill proposes to 'turn off' access under the FOI Act for these documents but will not prevent access to the information. The FOI Act anticipates this by allowing an exemption for access to documents (at paragraph 12(1) (b) of the FOI Act) that is open to public access in accordance with another enactment, where that access is subject to a fee or other charge.

Other amendments consequential to existing reforms

In preparing for implementation of the Amendment Act, the Department of Agriculture and the APVMA found further minor improvements that could be made.

Several small technical amendments are added to the Agvet Code to improve the readability of the legislation and reduce the possibility of difficulties in implementing it.

The Bill also includes appropriate transitional measures to allow processing to continue for those products currently registered in the APVMA system.

Conclusion

The Australian Government is implementing reforms to the regulation of Agvet chemicals for the benefit of the community, manufacturers, importers, wholesalers, retailers and users of agvet chemicals. These reforms aim to reduce red tape for farmers and other businesses and encourage the development of new chemistry with a range of benefits for farmers and other users, the environment and the community.

Overall, the Bill will increase the efficiency of the regulator and provide greater clarity to stakeholders on the intent of the legislation. The measures in the Bill are a good start towards easing the burden imposed on the Australian economy and agricultural sector by reducing red and green tape on business.

The government will continue to work with industry to implement further improvements through legislation and administrative change.

It is with great pleasure that I introduce this Bill to make this important reform a reality.

AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL PREVENTIVE HEALTH AGENCY (ABOLITION) BILL 2014.

Repealing the Australian National Preventive Health Agency Act 2010 through this Bill will abolish the Australian National Preventive Health Agency, or ANPHA. This will streamline and better coordinate public health efforts that are currently spread across two agencies and remove duplication and unnecessary costs.

Australia has a long history in supporting people to make healthy lifestyle choices and providing health services that accompany good health outcomes. The Coalition Government continues to be committed to supporting an effective and responsive health system to deliver the health care services and measures needed by our population. An effective health system includes supporting preventive health and broader public health efforts.

The Government also recognises that individuals need to take responsibility for the lifestyle actions that affect their health. To fully support individuals and communities in implementing healthy lifestyle choices, this Government will remain focused on ensuring information is available to inform health related behaviours. Essentially, the Government wants to empower and inform people so that they are in the best position to take control of their own health and wellbeing.

In 2010, the former Labor Government established ANPHA, with a primary focus on the prevention of the harmful use of alcohol, obesity and tobacco.

In addition to this core focus and its role in advising the Commonwealth, ANPHA was established with the capacity to be directed by state, territory and local governments to provide preventive health advice. However, since its inception, no jurisdiction has provided direct funding to the Agency for its work on prevention.

ANPHA has been solely funded by the Commonwealth, creating an additional separate agency with associated costs, which continued to have overlapping responsibilities with the Commonwealth Department of Health.

The Commonwealth Department of Health has long played a critical national leadership and advisory role in supporting action in public health and in implementing preventive health measures, including activities to address chronic disease as well as significant reforms and initiatives on alcohol, tobacco and obesity.

There is currently a lack of clear demarcation of responsibilities between ANPHA and the Department of Health. This current arrangement has led to a fragmented approach to preventive health and inefficiencies through duplication of administrative, policy and programme functions between ANPHA and the Department.

Under the bill transitional arrangements will enable the smooth, transparent and appropriate wind down of ANPHA and reintegration of functions to the Department of Health. Essential functions will be integrated with the Department’s existing work addressing alcohol, tobacco and obesity and in line with current policy and priorities, enabling a better coordinated and appropriate focus on key health priorities and the most efficient use of government funding.

Existing commitments to grants and social marketing efforts will continue. Ongoing analysis and advice, policy development and stakeholder and expert involvement on key health issues will continue. Action on alcohol, tobacco, obesity and chronic disease priorities will continue.

We know tobacco smoking is the largest cause of preventable death and disease in Australia. We remain committed to reducing smoking rates, including through national tobacco control measures and education programmes.

We know obesity is an increasing public health problem with multiple consequences. We remain committed to supporting measures that encourage Australians to make informed lifestyle decisions to reduce the risk of chronic disease consequences. This is why the Government is developing a National Diabetes Strategy.

We know harmful use of alcohol continues to occur, with associated short and long term health risks. We remain committed to addressing these issues, including through education activities and by working with states and territories, stakeholders and communities.

The Australian Government can continue its focus in these priority areas, without the need for a separately established and Commonwealth-funded agency.

Additional staffing and administrative costs have been required to run ANPHA for functions that can be effectively performed by the health portfolio’s lead Department. Ceasing ANPHA will ensure there is no confusion about the Commonwealth Government’s responsibilities and action in public health and will ensure Commonwealth funding is not wasted on maintaining a separate agency.

Abolishing ANPHA through this Bill will enable a more coherent and streamlined approach to preventive health by the Commonwealth, facilitate stakeholder navigation and interactions with the Government on related health issues, remove unnecessary overlap and inconsistencies and produce administrative efficiencies and savings by reintegrating essential functions into the Department of Health.

Cross-government action will not be jeopardised as a result of abolishing ANPHA. ANPHA is currently solely Commonwealth funded and there are established and transparent mechanisms available to progress national issues, including through the Standing Council of Health and its sub committees.

The new streamlined arrangements do not diminish the Government’s focus on preventive health or action on alcohol, obesity and tobacco. The Bill will enable essential actions to continue under much more appropriate arrangements, without the inefficiencies, confusion and costs associated with maintaining a separate Commonwealth agency alongside the well-established and suitably placed Commonwealth Department of Health.

I reiterate that this Coalition Government is committed to prevention. However our commitment to preventive health is broader than just the work of this Agency.

This Government’s actions on preventive health will encompass efforts across the entire health system, including support to GP’s and other primary healthcare services, long term sustainability of the Medicare Benefits and Pharmaceutical Benefits systems, and supporting people to access preventive health and early detection services, such as immunisation and screening programs.

The previous Coalition Government has a strong record on supporting preventive measures, and we will continue to build on this record.

It was the previous Coalition Government who began the National Bowel Cancer Screening Programme back in 2006, and this Government has committed funding to fully implement a biennial screening interval for all Australians aged 50 to 74.

It was the previous Coalition Government who lifted childhood immunisation rates dramatically from 52% in 1995-1996 to over 90% and we are committed to improving those rates further.

We are a Government committed to improving the health of all Australians.

I am pleased to be able to introduce the Australian National Preventive Health Agency (Abolition) Bill 2014, to achieve the aforementioned benefits and efficiencies in the health portfolio, with flow on benefits to the health sector and the Australian population more broadly.

ENERGY EFFICIENCY OPPORTUNITIES (REPEAL) BILL 2014

Introduction

The purpose of the Energy Efficiency Opportunities (Repeal) Bill 2014 is to repeal the Energy Efficiency Opportunities Act 2006. Savings from the program were announced in the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook, on 17 December 2013.

The Bill repeals the Act, which took effect on 1 July 2006. The program requires large energy using businesses to assess their energy use and identify cost effective energy savings opportunities. The programme is mandatory for organisations that use over 0.5 petajoules of energy annually and may be undertaken voluntarily by medium energy-users. This applies to over 300 corporations. For those corporations falling within the program, the Act imposes mandatory compliance and reporting obligations.

This Government acknowledges the burden regulatory programs, such as the Energy Efficiency Opportunities program impose on business and has committed to cutting red tape. Repealing the Energy Efficiency Opportunities Act 2006 will save Australian businesses $17.7 million per year.

Australian businesses are well aware of the impact of higher electricity prices on the bottom line.

Since 2006, when the Energy Efficiency Opportunities Programme was introduced, Australian businesses, including Australia's largest energy users, have worked to develop energy management capabilities that have strengthened their resilience to rising energy prices and other changing economic conditions.

Changing conditions and increasing awareness of energy efficiency have lifted energy management capability and responsiveness, with many corporations reporting that key elements of the EEO Programme are now standard business practice.

While the Energy Efficiency Opportunities Programme has played an important role in this process and resulted in the development of a range of energy efficiency projects which companies can choose to implement based on energy prices and their specific circumstances, it has now become superfluous given the actions businesses and large energy users are already taking of their own accord to reduce energy costs and therefore reduce business costs.

The energy market and energy costs have changed considerably since the programme's inception in 2006. As a result of these changes, including increasing energy costs, businesses have developed a suite of mechanisms for better energy management. Energy productivity is now core business for Australian industry and industry is best placed to define the processes and make decisions on how best to manage energy.

The Emissions Reduction Fund will help businesses and industry to take direct action to reduce emissions and improve their energy efficiency. The Government will continue to explore options for improving energy productivity through the current Energy White Paper process.

In addition, energy productivity is also being considered by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Energy Council. Work is underway to review priorities in relation to national coordination on energy productivity.

Specifics of the Bill

I now turn to the specific aspects of the Bill.

The Bill repeals the Energy Efficiency Opportunities Act 2006.

It provides for a retrospective date of 29 June 2014 to come into force. This will provide clarity to companies and stakeholders that reporting and assessment obligations under the Act will cease on 29 June 2014. This includes variations to existing assessment plans under new developments and expansions which were due to be submitted on 30 June 2014, and which will no longer be required. This is a practical action that shows the government's commitment to reducing regulation for Australian business.

ENVIRONMENT PROTECTION AND BIODIVERSITY CONSERVATION AMENDMENT (COST RECOVERY) BILL 2014

The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Cost Recovery) Bill 2014 (the Bill) amends the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth) (the EPBC Act) to allow for cost recovery for environmental assessment activities under the EPBC Act. The EPBC Act already includes cost recovery for some permitting activities.

The purpose of the Bill is to allow for cost recovery for environmental impact assessments, including strategic assessments, under the EPBC Act, consistent with the Australian Government Cost Recovery Guidelines.

Environmental assessment activities are appropriate for cost recovery because the activities deliver a clear benefit for a particular beneficiary, by enabling them to undertake an activity approved under the EPBC Act. Cost recovery will also provide a sustainable source of resources to improve the efficiency of the assessment process. It will also provide incentives to industry to undertake early engagement and incorporate the most environmentally acceptable outcomes into their business planning, as this may reduce the level of assessment required and therefore the costs payable.

The Australian Government is also committed to delivering a 'one stop shop' for environmental approvals that will accredit state planning systems under the EPBC Act through approval bilateral agreements, to create a single environmental assessment and approval process. Today I have also introduced into Parliament a Bill to ensure the efficient implementation and operation of approval bilateral agreements. The implementation of cost recovery provides an incentive for proponents to encourage states to finalise approval bilateral agreements with the Commonwealth.

Cost recovery arrangements under the EPBC Act will only apply to Commonwealth assessment activities, not to state assessment activities. States have the option of cost recovering for their assessment activities.

The environmental impact assessment fees will be specified in the Regulations, except for fees in relation to assessment by an inquiry or strategic assessment. The Bill will also allow the Regulations to specify administrative requirements for applications, processes for payment, and for refunds, exemptions and waivers. The Regulations can also specify a method for calculating fees – for example where a fee will be calculated with reference to the complexity of an action. The Bill provides a process for proponents to apply for a reconsideration of the way in which a method was used to calculate fees. My Department will shortly release a Cost Recovery Impact Statement, which will detail the fees payable and the methods for calculating variable fees.

The Bill ensures that where a fee which a person is required to pay remains outstanding, the assessment process will be paused. Statutory timeframes will not run until a fee is paid, and the Minister or Secretary will not need to make any decisions otherwise required by the EPBC Act.

Fees in relation to inquiries or strategic assessments will be made through a Ministerial determination, due to the wide variations in the complexity and scale of such assessments. Some strategic assessments which deliver a public benefit will continue to be budget funded. Cost recovered strategic assessments would be considered appropriate where the outcome of the strategic assessment delivers a clear private benefit to an identifiable beneficiary (or identifiable group of beneficiaries), and charging would be efficient and effective. Costs could be determined on a case by case basis.

The Bill also allows for cost recovery for the assessment and approval of action management plans submitted after the Minister has granted an approval under the EPBC Act, and for the variation of those plans. Action management plans are plans for managing the impacts of the action on a matter protected by a provision of Part 3, such as a plan for conserving habitat of a species.

The preparation of and approval of action management plans is a common requirement of conditions of approval. The Bill allows for cost recovery for these activities by allowing a person to elect to submit a management plan for approval after the decision is made approving the action. The Regulations can then specify that a fee can be charged for the assessment and approval of the plan when it is submitted.

Action management plans allow the Minister to have flexibility to specify required environmental outcomes or management strategies as more data becomes available or new technologies develop for environmental management. If proponents choose to submit action management plans prior to approval, there will be no additional fee for assessment of the plan, providing a cost incentive for proponents who can provide the plan up front to do so. Once an approval has been issued, the approval holder would be charged for assessments of variations to the plan.

The introduction of cost recovery by this Bill will provide an incentive to businesses proposing to take activities which require approvals under the EPBC Act to engage early and actively with my Department to reduce costs. Cost recovery will also drive efficiencies in the environmental assessment process. The introduction of cost recovery complements the Government's commitment to streamlining environmental approvals under one stop shop by ensuring Commonwealth assessment activities are as efficient and effective as possible.

HEALTH WORKFORCE AUSTRALIA (ABOLITION) BILL 2014

Today I introduce the Health Workforce Australia (Abolition) Bill 2014. This Bill will streamline the delivery of programmes to build our health workforce, and remove an unnecessary layer of administration and bureaucracy.

This government is committed to reducing red tape. In health, there has been too much officialdom, too much duplication. We need to refocus our attention away from the bureaucrats and back onto patients. We need to focus on the needs of all Australians accessing our health care system.

We know that without our health workforce, we would have no health care system. We need to support and build our health workforce; these are the doctors, nurses and allied health professionals delivering front line health services to Australians. However, setting up a health workforce agency has created another layer of bureaucracy in our health care system, and this is taking valuable resources away from front line health services.

The Health Workforce Australia (Abolition) Bill 2014 will close Health Workforce Australia. The programmes and functions of HWA will transfer to the Department of Health. The government will continue to support the health workforce and the programmes that are helping to build a sustainable, well distributed health workforce. The government is delivering on its commitment to reduce red tape and streamline programmes so that they are effective and efficient. The programmes currently managed by Health Workforce Australia will continue. But aligning these with those already delivered through the Department of Health, will allow us to save valuable resources by reducing duplication, in both service delivery and in the significant overheads required to run an agency.

Health Workforce Australia was established by the Rudd Government through the Council of Australian Governments under the National Partnership Agreement on Hospital and Health Workforce Reform. This was a four year agreement that expired in June 2013. Under the NPA, Health Workforce Australia was to act as a national body working to Health Ministers to streamline clinical training arrangements and support workforce reform initiatives. The NPA also set out the expectations of the Commonwealth and States and Territories to jointly fund Health Workforce Australia. The States and Territories were expected to provide almost $540 million over four years. This did not occur. The Commonwealth government is the sole funder of HWA and therefore is taking the decision to deliver its funding in the most efficient way.

Having both Health Workforce Australia and the Department of Health managing health workforce programmes has created duplication and confusion. The previous Government’s review of health workforce programmes, which reported in 2013, identified legitimate stakeholder concerns about the lack of clarity defining the respective roles of HWA and the Department of Health. It also identified inconsistencies between the two agencies in delivery of funding. By bringing HWA’s programmes into the Department of Health, we are addressing these issues; there will be more clarity for stakeholders, consistent funding arrangements and the opportunity to align programmes with key government priorities. 

Perhaps HWA’s most notable achievement is the publication of national health workforce modelling, giving long term projections of supply and demand for the Australian health workforce. This work will continue. All priority activities will continue to be delivered and organisations funded by HWA can be assured that all current funding agreements will be met.

The Government recognises the role of the States and Territories when considering our health workforce. While the Commonwealth government will continue to provide national leadership for health workforce reform, as the largest employers of the health workforce, the States and Territories have an enormous role to play. The ability to achieve maximum productivity, boost employee retention and achieve effective delivery and deployment of the health workforce varies significantly across jurisdictions and employers. The Commonwealth government remains committed to working with States and Territories towards national workforce planning and reform, and to making sure that the significant interest of the private sector in this planning and reform work is recognised. Our private health employers have a lot of experience in driving innovation and productivity, and we need to be able to bring this into our national conversation on workforce reform. The Department of Health already works closely with its State and Territory counterparts, and the private sector. We do not require a separate agency to do that.

The closure of Health Workforce Australia is not a withdrawal of support or resources for the health workforce. By creating efficiencies, by

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