Wednesday, 13 March 2013
International Organisations (Privileges and Immunities) Amendment Bill 2013, Not-for-profit Sector Freedom to Advocate Bill 2013; Second Reading
That these bills be now read a second time.
I seek leave to have the second reading speech of the International Organisations (Privileges and Immunities) Amendment Bill 2013 incorporated in Hansard.
The speech read as follows—
The International Organisations (Privileges and Immunities) Amendment Bill 2013 amends the International Organisations (Privileges and Immunities) Act 1963 to bring the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Criminal Court (ICC) within the scope of the act.
The effect of the bill will be to provide a legislative basis for the subsequent enactment of Regulations conferring certain privileges and immunities on the ICRC and ICC.
In relation to the ICRC, the bill introduces a new section 9D into the act, which provides a basis for the conferral of privileges and immunities on the ICRC in accordance with the 2005 'Arrangement between Australia and the ICRC on a Regional Headquarters in Australia'. This Memorandum of Understanding confers legal personality on the ICRC in Australia and other privileges and immunities needed to facilitate its work in Australia and the Pacific Region. The ICRC is Australia's largest partner organisation in humanitarian action. The amendments will allow the Government to implement this Memorandum of Understanding.
In the case of the ICC, the bill introduces a new section 9C which provides a basis for the conferral of privileges and immunities on the ICC in accordance with the 'Agreement on Privileges and Immunities of the International Criminal Court'. This will enable steps to be taken towards Australia's accession to the Agreement on Privileges and Immunities of the International Criminal Court. This will be a further expression of Australia's strong support for the International Criminal Court.
The bill also makes consequential amendments to sections 3 and 7 of the act, regarding international conferences, to ensure that section 7 can also be used in future in relation to the ICRC and ICC, as with international organisations to which the act applies. There is no automaticity to this provision and it would require a future determination by the Governor-General plus the enactment of further regulations.
In conclusion, the bill will amend the act to allow the enactment of regulations conferring privileges and immunities on the ICRC and ICC. This will enable implementation of the Government's commitments in its Memorandum of Understanding with the ICRC and will enable steps to be taken towards Australia's accession to the Agreement on Privileges and Immunities of the International Criminal Court.
I seek leave to have the second reading speech of the Not-for-profit Sector Freedom to Advocate Bill 2013 incorporated in Hansard.
The speech read as follows—
The proposed Not-for-profit Sector Freedom to Advocate Bill 2013 will promote ongoing positive engagement, together with open communication and debate, between the Federal Government and the not-for-profit sector. The bill, if enacted, would prohibit and invalidate clauses in Commonwealth agreements that seek to limit or restrict not-for-profit entities from advocating on Commonwealth policy issues.
An unfettered not-for-profit sector is essential to building a democratic and inclusive community. Other governments have mandated 'gag clauses' in agreements with the not-for-profit sector, preventing them from advocating on government policy. This bill, if enacted, will prevent this from occurring at the Commonwealth level.
The Commonwealth Government recognises that a strong, independent and innovative not-for-profit sector is essential to building an inclusive community. The not-for-profit sector is made up of around 600,000 organisations and accounts for approximately eight per cent of employment nationally. Providing Commonwealth funding to not-for-profit entities or entering into other agreements should not prohibit the sector from engaging in policy and debate.
The bill, if enacted, will apply to all Commonwealth agreements with the not-for-profit sector, regardless of whether they were entered into prior to the commencement of the legislation. The Not-for-profit Sector Freedom to Advocate Bill 2013 specifically addresses circumstances where, despite current Commonwealth Government policy to the contrary, there may still be 'gag clauses' in existing Commonwealth agreements with the not-for-profit sector. The bill, if enacted, will invalidate any such clauses in existing agreements. This will ensure that not-for-profit entities are not disadvantaged due to clauses in existing Commonwealth agreements that should not have been included. The bill, if enacted, will also prevent any clauses in future Commonwealth agreements that purport to 'gag' the not-for-profit sector.
The proposed bill operates retrospectively, and includes a clause relating to compensation. This is intended to cover the highly unlikely circumstance where a party suffers loss because a 'gag clause' in a pre-existing agreement is invalidated by the legislation. In that rare situation, the Commonwealth will pay 'reasonable compensation' to that person.
This bill should be supported as it protects the rights of the not-for-profit entity to engage in debate and advocate on Commonwealth policy. It recognises and supports the critical role that the not-for-profit sector has in developing public policy and advocating on behalf of the community.
Ordered that further consideration of the second reading of these bills be adjourned to the first sitting day of the next period of sittings, in accordance with standing order 111.
That the bills be listed on the Notice Paper as separate orders of the day.
Question agreed to.