Thursday, 13 May 2010
Customs Tariff Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2010; Health Insurance Amendment (Pathology Requests) Bill 2010; Transport Security Legislation Amendment (2010 Measures No. 1) Bill 2010
That these bills be now read a second time.
I seek leave to have the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard.
The speeches read as follows—
The Customs Tariff Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2010 contains three amendments to the Customs Tariff Act 1995 (the Customs Tariff).
Two of these amendments relate to import concessions for the textile, clothing and footwear (TCF) industry. The amendments will insert end-dates for items 61 and 73 in Schedule 4 of the Customs Tariff. These amendments reflect the Government’s change of policy from providing assistance through tariff concessions to providing a wider range of support to TCF industries as set out in the Government’s TCF Innovation Package as announced in the 2009-10 Budget.
The Government’s TCF Innovation Package will drive innovation and renewal in the Australian TCF industries by investing $401.0 million in a retargeted TCF Package from 2009-10 to 2015-16. The new TCF Innovation Package redirects $55.0 million towards innovation, including $10.0 million in new funding. The Package recognises the importance of the TCF industries, which employ over 45,000 Australians and underpin regional economies around the country. It aims to make the TCF sector stronger and more sustainable by supporting the development of new products and processes, especially at the high-tech, high-value end of the market.
The Bill amends item 61 to insert an end-date of 30 June 2010. Item 61 provides the means for duty concessions under the Expanded Overseas Assembly Provisions Scheme.
This Scheme provides duty concessions for certain TCF goods that are manufactured overseas from Australian fabric and are subsequently imported back to Australia.
The Bill amends the end-date of item 73, changing the existing end-date from 30 June 2017 to 30 June 2011. Item 73 gives effect to the Product Diversification Scheme (PDS) for certain clothing and finished textiles.
This Scheme allows a producer to earn duty credits for certain clothing and finished textiles and then to apply those credits, through item 73, to offset duty payable on qualifying imported finished products.
While importers will no longer be able to earn duty credits under the PDS after 30 June 2010, the end-date of 30 June 2011 for item 73 will provide importers with an additional twelve months to use those credits.
The Bill also inserts an end-date of 31 December 2009 for item 53C in Schedule 4 of the Customs Tariff. Item 53C provided a mechanism to reduce the general rate of customs duty from 10% to 5% for certain goods that were not of a kind used as components in passenger motor vehicles.
From 1 January 2010, the general rate of duty for the above goods reduced from 10% to 5%. As a consequence, there is no need for the item 53C concession and the item is redundant.
The Health Insurance Amendment (Pathology Requests) Bill 2010 will improve patient choice of pathology services, and encourage providers to compete on price and quality of service.
Currently the Health Insurance Act 1973 requires that, in most cases, in order for a Medicare benefit to be payable for a pathology service rendered by or on behalf of an approved pathology practitioner, a request for the service must be made to that particular pathology practitioner or the approved pathology authority at which they work. This means that a patient is effectively required to take a completed request form to the approved pathology practitioner or authority named on the form. This restriction does not apply to other diagnostic services that attract Medicare benefits.
This Bill removes this restriction so that, while there will still be a legislative requirement for a request for a pathology service to be made, there will no longer be a requirement that the request be made to a particular approved pathology practitioner or authority. This legislative change will allow patients to take a pathology request to an approved pathology practitioner or authority of their choice and will encourage pathology providers to compete on price and convenience for patients.
The Government supports a patient’s right to choose their pathology provider, just as they are entitled to choose their own GP or any other medical practitioner.
Medical practitioners who request pathology services will still be free to make recommendations to patients about which pathology provider they feel is best suited to their needs. Feedback from requesters has shown that there are often valid clinical reasons for recommending a particular pathology provider over another. The Government recognizes the importance of the doctor patient relationship and will continue to encourage medical practitioners to discuss with patients options for all aspects of their treatment, including pathology services.
Convenience and access to bulk billing are some of the reasons that a patient may wish to choose one provider over another. However, patients will also need to be aware of the potential consequences of not keeping their requesting practitioner informed of their choice, as this may impact on the continuity of their care.
In the case of diagnostic imaging requests, patients already have the option of taking their request form to any provider, not just the one named on the request form. These changes to the Health Insurance Act merely bring the arrangements for pathology requests in line with those for other diagnostic services.
The amendments will take effect from 1 July 2010.
The Government will also make changes to relevant regulations prior to 1 July 2011 to require that requests for pathology services include a clear and understandable statement, which is obviously positioned, making patients aware that requests can be taken to any approved pathology practitioner or authority.
Pathology providers will be able to continue to produce ‘branded’ request forms (that include the company logo and address) and to provide these to requesting medical practitioners. These may include a list of the locations of that provider’s collection centres. They will, however, be required from 1 July 2011 to include on their request forms a clear and understandable statement, which is obviously positioned, making patients aware that these forms can be taken to any approved pathology practitioner or approved pathology authority.
Options for the wording of this statement is one of a range of implementation issues being discussed with requesters, providers and consumers of pathology services as part of the stakeholder consultation process currently being conducted by my Department.
Informed patient choice is a key element of quality health care. This amendment will ensure that patients have a right to choose their pathology provider and are made aware of that fact, leading to increased competition and better service among providers.
The Transport Security Legislation Amendment (2010 Measures No. 1) Bill 2010 amends the Aviation Transport Security Act 2004 and the Maritime Transport and Offshore Facilities Security Act 2003.
Australia’s aviation security legislation framework consists of a number of layers of security measures, and is under constant review to ensure that Australia’s aviation industry is safeguarded and able to quickly adapt to new threats to security.
The Aviation Transport Security Act 2004 establishes a preventive security regime to safeguard against acts of terrorism and unlawful interference with the Australian aviation sector.
The failed terrorist attempt on Christmas Day last year against a United States-bound flight clearly demonstrates the continuing need for stringent preventive security measures.
Australia’s maritime industry is critical to the social and economic prosperity of Australia. Nearly 4000 ships carry goods and commodities to and from Australian shores each year, carrying 99 percent of Australia’s imports and exports by volume. These ships represent nearly 10 percent of world seaborne trade by mass – the 5th largest shipping task in the world.
The Maritime Transport and Offshore Facilities Security Act 2003 establishes a preventive security regime to safeguard against acts of terrorism and unlawful interference with Australia’s ports, port facilities, ships and offshore facilities.
It gives effect to Australia’s international obligations as a Contracting Administration under the International Maritime Organisation’s International Ship and Port Facility Security Code, established under Chapter 11-2 of the Safety of Life at Sea Convention.
To quote from the recently released Counter-Terrorism White Paper “terrorism continues to pose a serious security challenge to Australia ... the threat of terrorism is real and enduring. It has become a persistent and permanent feature of Australia’s security environment”.
Objective of the Bill
The Transport Security Legislation Amendment (2010 Measures No. 1) Bill 2010 contains two amendments to the Aviation Transport Security Act 2004. Both amendments have been developed to better equip the Australian Government’s capacity to respond in the event of an aviation incident.
The bill also amends the Maritime Transport and Offshore Facilities Security Act 2003 to implement a range of proposals which emerged from a recent examination of security arrangements for passenger ships undertaken by the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government.
Together, the measures in this Bill ensure Australia’s preventive transport security arrangements continue to deliver effective security outcomes, both now and into the future.
Measures in the Bill
I will first provide an overview of the measures in the Bill to amend the Aviation Transport Security Act 2004.
The first amendment will allow the prohibited items list to be made in a notice issued by the Minister responsible for administering the Act. Currently, the prohibited items list is made in the regulations, and as such, any amendment to be made to the prohibited items list currently involves a relatively lengthy legislative process. This amendment will ensure that the prohibited items list can be more easily amended and updated to reflect emerging threats and vulnerabilities to aviation security, while still preserving Parliamentary scrutiny.
The second aviation security amendment will enable the Secretary of my department to delegate all or any of his powers and functions to a Senior Executive Service employee in the Attorney-General’s Department. While this amendment is administrative in nature, it is being made in preparation for the establishment of the ‘Commonwealth Incident Coordinator’ position within Attorney General’s Department from 1 July 2010. The creation of the position of the Commonwealth Incident Coordinator forms part of the Australian Government’s all-hazards approach to crisis and consequence management.
The role of the Commonwealth ‘Incident Coordinator’ is to coordinate response planning and the implementation of Australian Government crisis management decisions across relevant domains. By delegating these powers to the Commonwealth Incident Coordinator, the Australian Government will be better placed to respond in a fully coordinated fashion to rapidly developing security incidents.
For example, as part of a coordinated response to a terrorist incident, the Commonwealth Incident Coordinator could use the powers to direct an aircraft subject to a bomb threat to land at a particular airport, or park in a specific part of an airport, where emergency services are best placed to respond to the threat.
I will now describe the measures in the bill which amend the Maritime Transport and Offshore Facilities Security Act 2003.
Firstly, the bill inserts provisions to allow ship operators to be given exemptions from certain security requirements in certain circumstances, where there is no impact on the security outcome.
From time to time, Australian ships that are not required to be security regulated under the Act need to travel overseas or to another Australian state or territory on an exceptional basis. These ‘one-off’ voyages every five years or so are typically for maintenance purposes, but mean that these ships must comply with all of the security obligations under the Act, at a significant additional cost to their operations.
The amendment proposed in the Bill would allow operators of Australian ships to apply to the Secretary for an exemption from the requirement to hold an International Ship Security Certificate or a Ship Security Plan. Such an exemption would only be granted in exceptional circumstances, and if security in the maritime environment was not reduced. This amendment is consistent with that provided for in the Safety of Life at Sea, or SOLAS, Convention, to which Australia is a signatory.
A similar situation exists for foreign flagged ships; they are occasionally granted an exemption by their flag State from complying with their requirement to hold an International Ship Security Certificate (or its equivalent). Such an exemption is often granted to allow the ship to travel to Australia as part of one-off overseas voyage to conduct maintenance on the ship, a similar situation to the one I just explained.
There is currently no ability under the Act to recognise an exemption made by another Contracting Administration to the SOLAS Convention, meaning that a foreign ship arriving in Australia without an International Ship Security Certificate is in contravention of the Act. The proposed amendment would allow for regulations to be made prescribing certain kinds of regulated ships that are exempt from the requirement to have or obtain a valid ship security certificate on arrival in Australia.
Secondly, the bill makes amendments with regard to passenger ships to enable regulations to be made to define different classes of passenger ships and to enable screening officers to conduct frisk searches of passengers and crew.
Currently a ‘one size fits all’ approach is applied to passenger ship security regardless of the operational characteristics of the specific ship or class of ship. This approach does not allow individual factors, constraints and considerations to be taken into account when prescribing an appropriate and customised range of preventive security measures in relation to the level of threat for their operating environments.
This amendment would allow for the prescription of different classes of security regulated ships in the maritime security Regulations. For example, this would allow passenger ships to be defined by, say, any combination of size, passenger capacity, areas of geographical operation, type of items carried or the types of activities they conduct. It would allow for customised security measures to be developed and applied to each class, avoiding the issues attached to over or under-regulation.
Passenger ship security will also be strengthened through the introduction of frisk search powers to enhance the screening and clearance of passengers and crew in certain circumstances. The establishment of frisk search powers for the passenger ship sector means that more effective security screening processes can be promptly introduced, should the nature and level of threat in the maritime environment suddenly escalate. The recent events of Christmas Day highlight the need to have a responsive security framework, adaptable to rapid changes in circumstances. The power to conduct frisk searches in certain circumstances already exists for aviation travellers and the proposed amendment would mirror these arrangements.
The Bill will also provide greater flexibility to make regulations with regard to screening and clearing matters.
I propose to amend the Act so that regulations can be made to address all necessary aspects of maritime security screening practices, and not be limited to the matters specified in that section.
Thirdly, the bill enables certain persons to be appointed as ‘security assessment inspectors’ to conduct security assessments of maritime industry participants.
Currently the Act does not have any explicit powers of entry into security regulated areas other than for Departmental offices and law enforcement officers.
This amendment will enable the Secretary to appoint a person as a security assessment inspector if that person meets criteria to be specified in regulations. Appointed security assessment inspectors will be able to survey the extant security environment at a regulated maritime site and examine the effectiveness of current security policies; this will enable timely responses to changing and emerging threats to be developed to ensure the regime continues to meet the threat of terrorism both now and into the future.
Fourthly, the bill provides for measure to allow the Secretary of my Department to delegate his powers under the MTOFSA to Agency Heads and certain SES officers in other agencies in certain circumstances.
Currently, the Secretary of my Department may delegate all or any of their powers and functions under the Act to an SES employee in my Department only. This amendment would allow the Secretary to delegate all or any of their powers and functions to the Agency Head of an agency that conducts national security activities and an SES employee in the Attorney Generals Department. In respect of delegations to Agency Heads, these may be sub-delegated within the agency to an SES Band three employee.
This amendment would also allow the Secretary to delegate his or her powers and functions to the Commonwealth Incident Coordinator, to be created in the Attorney-General’s Department at the SES level and mirrors the aviation security amendment I mentioned earlier.
The ability to delegate powers externally across the aviation, maritime and offshore environments provides my Department with the maximum flexibility within the legislative framework to enable an appropriate incident response to be made in unexpected and often urgent situations.
Finally, the Bill makes some minor amendments to modernise image recording powers for maritime security inspectors. To modernise the options for use of recording media and to align with the newly introduced powers of a Security Assessment Inspector, the Bill replaces the power to photograph equipment with the power to make a still or moving image, or any recording of equipment. To correct a drafting anomaly, the Bill introduces is a similar power to allow for the recording of images by maritime security inspectors when inspecting equipment at a place, or a vehicle or vessel under control of a regulated maritime industry participant, to align with their existing power to photograph on board a security regulated ship and on a security regulated offshore facility.
Just as terrorists will continue to alter their methods, so too must we ensure that our preventive transport security arrangements evolve to meet this threat. The Transport Security Legislation Amendment (2010 Measures No. 1) Bill 2010 will enhance the operation of the aviation and maritime security regimes for the benefit of our maritime, offshore and aviation industries and the Australian public. I am confident that the measures introduced in this Bill will contribute to a transport system that is more secure against the threat of terrorism.
Debate (on motion by Senator Sherry) adjourned.
Ordered that the bills be listed on the Notice Paper as separate orders of the day.