Thursday, 3 December 2020
Australia's Foreign Relations (State and Territory Arrangements) Bill 2020, Australia's Foreign Relations (State and Territory Arrangements) (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2020; In Committee
I move opposition amendment (1) on sheet 1115R:
(1) Page 67 (before line 1), before Division 5, insert:
Division 4B—Port of Darwin Report
53B Port of Darwin Report
(1) The Minister must cause a report to be prepared on the following:
(a) whether the 99-year lease of the Port of Darwin adversely affects, or is likely to adversely affect, Australia's foreign relations;
(b) whether the 99-year lease of the Port of Darwin is, or is likely to be inconsistent with, Australia's foreign policy;
(c) what action the Minister may or may not take under this Act in relation to the 99-year lease of the Port of Darwin;
(d) any other implications of this Act for the 99-year lease of the Port of Darwin;
(e) the application of this Act to arrangements similar to the Port of Darwin lease that may be made in the future.
(2) The persons who prepare the report must give the report to the Minister within 3 months of the commencement of this section.
(3) The Minister must cause a copy of the report to be tabled in each House of Parliament within 15 sitting days of that House after the report is given to the Minister.
This is the opportunity for those who have been complaining about the Port of Darwin to actually get some accountability from this government about the 99-year lease, which they have steadfastly refused to be clear about. I would make this point: even yesterday, the minister was unable to give the chamber a clear answer about whether or not the Port of Darwin could be subject to this bill. This bill is, in effect, retrospective, so the minister can veto arrangements which have already been put in place prior to the legislation being passed. When asked about the Port of Darwin, the minister first said that, because it was leased with a private entity, it would be excluded, but then she could not rule out the potential for it to be included within the remit of the legislation, on the basis that there was a subsidiary arrangement and therefore it would be subject to the bill. What this amendment does is require the minister to provide a report. We're not seeking to actually take over the minister's role. We're seeking to ensure that there is transparency around the Port of Darwin lease, that a report be tabled in this chamber that goes to both the effect of the legislation on the lease but, as importantly, the effect of the lease on Australia's foreign policy objectives, which has been the subject of a number of contributions from senators around the chamber. I commend the amendment.