Senate debates

Thursday, 20 June 2013


Australian Education (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2013, Banking Amendment (Unclaimed Money) Bill 2013, Regulatory Powers (Standard Provisions) Bill 2013; Second Reading

12:37 pm

Photo of David FeeneyDavid Feeney (Victoria, Australian Labor Party, Parliamentary Secretary for Defence) Share this | | Hansard source

I table a revised explanatory memorandum relating to the Regulatory Powers (Standard Provisions) Bill 2013, 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—


Through the comprehensive amendments to the Australian Education Bill 2012 the Government is enshrining in law a new nationally consistent approach to funding school education based on the needs of schools and students.

This is the Government's commitment to ensure that the nation supports our schools so that every child gets the best possible start in life.

This legislative framework will make certain that Australia's schooling system is fair, appropriately supported and based on a culture of improvement and good practice.

We are ensuring that there is a plan for our children to be taught well in schools that are funded well.

This new national approach to schools funding is in response to the first comprehensive review of Australian school funding in almost 40 years.

Through the Australian Education Bill 2012, the Government's purpose is to ensure a high quality and highly equitable schooling system for all students, to achieve a national goal of being placed in the top five countries in reading, science and mathematics, quality and equity in recognised international testing by 2025.

For the first time all recurrent Commonwealth funding for participating schools will be delivered through fair and transparent needs-based arrangements, providing new investment linked to reforms that will help to improve each student's achievements at school.

For participating schools, additional investment will support the evidence-based reforms in the National Plan for School Improvement that are focused on quality teaching, quality learning, transparency and accountability, meeting student need and empowering school leadership.

No matter how rich or poor your parents are, the school you attend or the circumstances of your birth, school funding should be based on what it takes to ensure every student gets an excellent education.

The Australian Education (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2013 would amend certain Commonwealth laws and contains transitional arrangements consequential to the enactment of the Australian Education Bill. It forms part of the Government's national school education reform agenda.

The Government has agreed that Commonwealth recurrent funding for all Australian schools and capital funding for non-government schools will be provided under the proposed Australian Education Act from 1 January 2014. This includes funding for schools participating in the reform arrangements and for government schools in States or Territories that choose not to participate.

The Australian Education Bill when enacted will succeed the provisions for recurrent funding under the Federal Financial Relations Act 2009 for government schools and recurrent and capital funding under the Schools Assistance Act 2008 for non-government schools.

Commonwealth funding to States and Territories for the administration of school systems and their associated recurrent expenditure, the national specific purpose payment for schools, is currently provided under section 11 of the Federal Financial Relations Act 2009. The funding is determined on a financial year basis, indexed and apportioned between the States and Territories by determination by the Treasurer under that Act. The estimated financial year payment, based on the latest available estimates of relevant growth parameters, is paid to the State in advance under section 19 of that Act. By convention, and consistent with the Intergovernmental Agreement on Federal Financial Relations, these payments are made in monthly instalments. The Minister makes a final determination after the end of the financial year and any adjustment is made in the subsequent financial year.

Schedule 1 of the bill would repeal section 11 of the Federal Financial Relations Act 2009 in relation to national specific purpose payments to schools and transitional provisions would enable a smooth transition from a financial year appropriation under the Federal Financial Relations Act 2009, to a calendar year appropriation under the proposed Australian Education Act.

Schedule 1 would also amend the Schools Assistance Act 2008 to cease calendar year funding for non-government schools for capital purposes under this Act from the end of the 2013 calendar year. Commonwealth capital funding for non-government schools is currently appropriated under the Schools Assistance Act 2008 through to December 2014 but is intended to be appropriated under the proposed Australian Education Act from January 2014.

Schedule 1 would also repeal a number of provisions of the Federal Financial Relations Act that deal with the total amount of financial assistance for the 2008-09 financial year, as these provisions are spent.

Schedule 2 of the bill contains transitional provisions, including providing for certain approvals and determinations required by or referred to under the Australian Education Bill to be deemed to have been made in reference to schools and authorities existing prior to 1 January 2014.

These provisions will ease transition and reduce the administrative burden for existing schools and systems moving to the new arrangements.

Specifically, these provisions would allow an approved authority for a non-government school or system under the Schools Assistance Act 2008 as of 31 December 2013 to be deemed an approved authority under the proposed Australian Education Act as of 1 January 2014. A similar provision applies in relation to block grant authorities who administer capital funding for non-government schools. The Minister will also be taken to have approved a State or Territory to be the approved authority for government schools located in their State or Territory.

Further, these transitional provisions also suspends requirements for an approved authority to be a body corporate and have a school improvement plan for each school until 31 December 2014, meaning compliance is not required until 1 January 2015, rather than immediately on 1 January 2014.

The changes in this bill support the implementation of the Government's schools funding reform and the National Plan for School Improvement.


Schedule 1 of the Bill amends the Banking Act 1959 to exclude ‘reactivated accounts’ (accounts that have been assessed unclaimed but are transacted prior to be transferred to the Commonwealth) from being transferred to the Commonwealth and to allow the Commonwealth to return moneys collected unnecessarily to authorised deposit-taking institutions (ADIs).

The Government provided a transitional arrangement to ADIs assisting them to implement the legislative changes made late last year, which allow them to choose an assessment date between 31 December 2012 and 30 May 2013 for unclaimed bank accounts.

I am advised that some ADIs have implemented the changes on the basis of an assessment date that has already passed but have subsequently allowed transactions on accounts were unclaimed as at the assessment date. The holders of these accounts may think that they have reactivated their accounts and consequently they would not be transferred to the Commonwealth. However, under the current legislation, ADIs are required to report and transfer unclaimed moneys, including reactivated accounts, to the Commonwealth as at the reporting date.

The legislation amendments will allow ADIs to exclude reactivated accounts from their reports and transfers of unclaimed moneys to the Government. This will ensure reactivated accounts are not transferred to the Government unnecessarily.

The amendments will also allow the Government to provide refunds directly to ADIs for moneys collected unnecessarily.

Full details of the amendments in this Bill are contained in the Explanatory Memorandum.


The Regulatory Powers (Standard Provisions) Bill 2012 will cut legal 'red tape'. This bill will cut up to 80 pages from Commonwealth acts and regulations.

It is an important initiative. The bill is part of the government's Clearer Laws project. The Clearer Laws project is designed to increase access to justice and improve the accessibility, equity, efficiency and effectiveness of the federal justice system by simplifying and streamlining the statute book.

This bill is a bill of general application. Perhaps the most well known act of general application that is currently on the statute book is the Acts Interpretation Act 1901, which contains definitions and statutory interpretation rules that are referred to across the Commonwealth statute book. The Regulatory Powers (Standard Provisions) Bill, like the Acts Interpretation Act 1901, is an act of general application for the enforcement of regulatory regimes that other acts can refer to and trigger.

This bill has two main aims. Firstly, to reduce the length of the statute book, as provisions relating to the enforcement of a regulatory regime can easily add 30 pages to an act.

Secondly, the bill will provide greater clarity to those agencies that use regulatory powers. It will make the law easier to understand for Australians and Australian businesses that are the subject of a regulatory regime.

Currently agencies with a regulatory function may enforce a number of different regulatory regimes, each of which may have different governing legislation. Similarly, businesses may be subject to a number of different regulatory regimes, each of which has slightly different enforcement and investigatory powers.

It is important to note that the powers that the bill provides will only be available to a regulatory agency if their governing legislation triggers or engages the bill. The powers contained in the bill can be triggered in whole or in part by a regulatory agency's governing legislation. For example, a regulatory agency's governing legislation may be amended to trigger only the part of the bill that deals with enforceable undertakings.

The bill will be rolled out carefully in three stages. In stage 1, new bills that require investigation or enforcement powers of the kind available under the Regulatory Powers (Standard Provisions) Bill will be drafted to trigger the relevant provisions.

In stage 2, acts that have been drafted over the past 18 months using precedents based on the Regulatory Powers Bill will be amended to remove those provisions and instead trigger the relevant provisions.

In stage 3, where substantial amendment is required to existing investigation and enforcement regimes, those regimes will be reviewed and, if appropriate, amended to instead trigger the relevant provisions in the Regulatory Powers Bill.

In some cases the powers contained in this bill will not be appropriate or sufficient for some regulatory agencies' requirements. For example, law enforcement agencies that deal with national security will continue to require their specialised powers. Similarly, some regulatory agencies may have specific requirements that are not met in this bill and consequently they may choose to not trigger the bill. Alternatively, they may choose to only trigger certain parts.

All three stages of the bill's application will still be required to undertake the scrutiny and approval processes of the parliament. For the regulatory provisions in the bill to be activated, new or existing legislation would need to be amended to remove its existing regulatory powers and incorporate the Regulatory Powers Bill's provisions. This also ensures that individual assessments of human rights engagement and compatibility will also be apparent in the drafting and scrutiny process.

The Regulatory Powers Bill provides a framework of standard regulatory functions carried out by agencies across the Commonwealth. The key features of the bill include monitoring and investigation powers as well as enforcement provisions through use of civil penalty, infringement notices, enforceable undertakings and injunctions.

The monitoring powers in the bill are based on the standard monitoring powers that can already be found across the statute book. The bill provides for monitoring whether legislation is being complied with, or that information given to the Commonwealth in compliance, or purported compliance, is correct.

Similarly, the investigation powers contained in the bill are also commonly found across the statute book. The powers allow investigation of suspected contraventions of offences and civil penalty provisions. The suite of investigation powers provided in the bill include the powers to search and seize evidential material as well as inspect, examine, measure and test anything on the premises.

The bill also provides for the use of civil penalties, infringement notices, enforceable understandings and injunctions to enforce provisions.

In conclusion, the Clearer Laws project will make Australian laws and legal system simpler. By improving the accessibility and consistency of the Commonwealth statute book, the law can be better understood, complied with and administered.

The Regulatory Powers Bill is integral to achieving this goal. By providing a consistent and central suite of regulatory powers provisions, this bill ensures that laws affecting agency oversight are both consistent, to ensure that the law is sufficiently certain and predictable, as well as flexible, to effectively take account of differences in agencies' functions.

This bill will cut legal 'red tape' and reduce the length of statutes by up to 80 pages in some cases.

Debate adjourned.

Ordered that bills be listed on the Notice Paper as separate orders of the day.