Senate debates

Wednesday, 14 June 2017


Enhancing Online Safety for Children Amendment Bill 2017, Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Management Legislation Amendment Bill 2017, Treasury Laws Amendment (GST Low Value Goods) Bill 2017; Second Reading

5:36 pm

Photo of Anne RustonAnne Ruston (SA, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources) Share this | | Hansard source

I 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—


The Enhancing Online Safety for Children Amendment Bill contains important amendments to implement the Government's announcement of 23 November 2016 to broaden the general functions of the Children's eSafety Commissioner to cover online safety for all Australians, not just Australian children.

The Bill will also change the name of the Children's eSafety Commissioner (the Commissioner) to the eSafety Commissioner, to reflect the expanded general functions.

The expansion of the Commissioner's general functions, as proposed by the Bill, will allow the Commissioner to take on a broader online safety role and carry out important work on the Government's election commitments relating to women's safety and to online safety for older Australians.

The Bill amendments address feedback received by the Government that adult members of the public are not aware that they can go to the Children's eSafety Commissioner for assistance with concerns around illegal or offensive online content, the sharing of intimate images without consent – commonly referred to as 'revenge porn', or for general advice about how to manage technology risks and online safety.

There are already a broad range of existing functions performed by the Commissioner that go beyond online safety for children. The Commissioner has a wealth of expertise in technology use and in developing educational, promotional and community awareness programs on online safety for children for a wide range of audiences.

Expanding the Commissioner's role and changing the name of the Children's eSafety Commissioner to the eSafety Commissioner will make it easier for the public to identify where they can seek assistance and advice in relation to a range of online safety issues, irrespective of age.

The Bill will make minor consequential amendments to five other Acts to reflect the change to the Act's short title and the change in name of the statutory office of the Commissioner. These Act are:

    Australian Communications and Media Authority Act 2005
    Broadcasting Services Act 1992;
    Criminal Code Act 1995

The Commissioner's responsibilities for administering the online content scheme under the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 remain unchanged by the Bill. The statutory scheme for complaints about cyberbullying material on social media services will also remain unchanged and will continue to only relate to material that is targeted at, and harmful to, an Australian child.

The statutory office of the Children's eSafety Commissioner has been in place since 1 July 2015. The office was created by the Enhancing Online Safety for Children Act 2015.

The Office of the Children's eSafety Commissioner has been a huge success by any measure and the Government is looking to build upon this success and help to improve the online experiences of all Australians.

Achievements of the Office of the Children ' s eSafety Commissioner

Since its establishment, the Office of the Children's eSafety Commissioner has:

                  The Office's role has already expanded since its establishment, recognising that staff have a wealth of expertise in all areas of online safety which should be put to good use.

                  For example, in December 2015 the functions of the Commissioner were expanded to include online safety for women at risk of domestic violence.

                  The Commissioner also manages the existing eSafetyWomen website, established with a $2.1 million funding commitment from the Government's Women's Safety Package announced in September 2015. eSafetyWomen offers a range of resources to help women manage technology risks and abuse by giving them the tools and information they need to encourage confidence and safety online.

                  The Government recognises that there are other groups within the community that can benefit from the expertise of the Commissioner's office.

                  Prior to the 2016 federal election, the Government committed to provide additional support for victims of non-consensual sharing of intimate images – commonly referred to as 'revenge porn', and to improve the digital confidence and online safety of older Australians.

                  Improving the digital confidence and skills of older Australians

                  The Government is committed to ensuring older Australians have the digital skills and knowledge to take advantage of new technology and stay connected with loved ones online.

                  Around 80 per cent of Australians own a smartphone and thousands more own a tablet and other smart devices.

                  Despite this strong take-up, only around 20 per cent of older Australians own a smartphone. Older Australians often cite a lack of confidence and knowledge as one of the key reasons for not participating online.

                  The Turnbull Coalition is committed to bridging this digital divide. The Government is investing $50 million to improve the digital literacy of older Australians and improve their safety online.

                  The Children's eSafety Commissioner is working with the Department of Social Services to develop a digital inclusion and online safety strategy for older Australians.

                  Like many Australians, face-to-face contact remains an important form of engagement for older Australians. But the convenience of technology provides an additional avenue to keep older Australians connected, especially to family and friends.

                  The Government is ensuring that older Australians who have access to existing devices will be supported to learn how to take full advantage to keep in touch and stay connected.

                  Smart devices provide unparalleled opportunities for older Australians to continue to participate fully in our society. They provide opportunities for grandparents to stay connected to their families and grandchildren, and for older Australians to retain their independence.

                  The Government will leverage existing community infrastructure such as libraries, retirement villages, community centres, and aged care facilities to support older Australians develop the confidence and skills they need to stay connected.

                  This Government's measures will include:

                                The Turnbull Coalition is committed to supporting older Australians and ensuring they have the skills to participate in our modern digital economy.

                                Additional support for victims of non-consensual sharing of intimate images

                                The Coalition's commitment to keeping women and children safe from domestic and family violence is comprehensive, multi-faceted and unwavering.

                                The Government recognises that the sharing of intimate images without consent, commonly referred to as 'revenge porn', is emerging as an issue of great concern in the community.

                                That's why this Government has put the issue on the Council of Australian Governments' agenda to ensure that the Commonwealth and states and territories are working together to ensure there is a coordinated approach.

                                The Government will also conduct a public consultation process on a proposed civil penalties regime targeted at both perpetrators and sites which host intimate images and videos shared without consent.

                                A discussion paper will be released in the near future and feedback will be sought from the eSafety Commissioner, Federal and State police, women's safety organisations, mental health experts, schools and education departments, the Online Safety Consultative Working Group and others.

                                Impacts on individual ' s rights and freedoms, including freedom of speech and privacy

                                It is important to note that these amendments to change the Commissioner's statutory functions only relate to the general, or 'soft', functions of the Commissioner and do not relate to the statutory scheme for complaints about cyberbullying material, which will continue to only relate to material that is targeted at, and harmful to, an Australian child.

                                The amendments do not create any new offences or civil penalties, provide any new regulatory powers, impose any taxes, or set any amounts to be appropriated from the Consolidated Revenue Fund.


                                The Children's eSafety Commissioner has been a huge success in enhancing online safety for Australian children.

                                The amendments proposed will assist the good work of the Commissioner to continue to have a positive impact on a broader range of vulnerable Australians, including older Australians, victims of domestic and family violence, and for people who have had intimate images shared without their consent.

                                I commend this Bill to the Senate and look forward to implementing the next stages of the Government's agenda to promote the online safety of all Australians, and to work across government, the private sector and in the community to allow all Australians to enjoy safe and positive experiences online.


                                This Bill will amend the Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Management Act 1989, which implements Australia's obligations under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.

                                It will improve the efficiency of the ozone protection and synthetic gas management program, achieve significant environmental outcomes and reduce Australia's emissions.

                                The Bill implements the outcomes of a significant review of the program, streamlining the administration of the Act, reducing burdens on industry and ensuring a high standard of environmental protection. It will reduce the number of businesses required to hold a licence, halve the reporting obligations and reduce the number of invoices sent by 94 per cent.

                                The central element of this Bill is an 85 per cent phase-down of the importation of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) by 2036.

                                HFCs are powerful gases, primarily used in the air-conditioning and refrigeration industry, that can be thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide, making up around 2% of Australia's yearly emissions.

                                The phase-down will be achieved by establishing a quota scheme and diminishing cap on imports starting on 1 January 2018. A similar approach was used successfully to phase-out prior gases such as CFCs and HCFCs.

                                This phase-down will be in line with the Kigali Amendment, under which all 197 parties to the Montreal Protocol agreed to phase down HFCs.

                                Australia played a leadership role, co-chairing negotiations to secure this global agreement, culminating in October 2016, and I pay tribute to my predecessor, the Member for Flinders, in this regard.

                                The phase-down, together with other measures included under this program, will reduce emissions by up to 80 million carbon dioxide equivalent tonnes by 2030. This will contribute significantly towards our Paris target.

                                Globally, the HFC phase-down is expected to bring major benefits. It could result in 72 billion tonnes of emissions reduction by 2050 – the equivalent of at least 1.3 times one year's global emissions. And it has been estimated it will avoid up to 0.5 degrees of temperature rises by 2100, according to the United Nations Environment Programme.

                                The Australian market is well placed for this domestic phase-down and industry supports the measures. Consumers will be able to use their existing equipment and systems until the natural end-of-life. The phase-down will also leave a 15 per cent residual from 2036 to ensure that maintenance of hard to replace and existing equipment can continue.

                                Australia has a proud record of leadership in addressing ozone depletion and issues related to the Montreal Protocol. It is widely considered the world's most successful environmental protection agreement, being the only one with universal acceptance.

                                It has reduced the production and import of ozone depleting chemicals by over 99 per cent globally. Concentrations of ozone depleting chemicals in the atmosphere are reducing and scientists confidently predict the ozone layer will be repaired by the middle of this century in the mid-latitudes and about 20 years later in Antarctica. A truly remarkable achievement.

                                Through this Bill, Australia will continue to show the same leadership on HFCs. I commend it to the House.

                                TREASURY LAWS AMENDMENT (GST LOW VALUE GOODS) BILL 2017

                                This Bill being introduced today is an important part of the Government's commitment to creating a fairer tax system, supporting our small businesses and creating a level playing field for all Australian businesses.

                                The Bill fulfils the Government's commitment to extend the application of GST to low value goods imported by Australian consumers from 1 July 2017. It also gives effect to the agreement of the Council of Australian Governments in 2015 to extend GST to low value imported goods.

                                These changes are about ensuring that Australian businesses, particularly small retailers, do not continue to be unfairly disadvantaged by the current GST exemption that applies to imports of low value goods.

                                Importantly, this Bill also tackles the growing risk that the current arrangements pose to the integrity of the GST base. With the continued growth and normalisation of cross-border shopping, we cannot afford to simply ignore the impact of these outdated arrangements on the tax system.

                                As a result of the reforms being introduced today, low value goods imported by consumers will face the same tax regime as goods that are sourced domestically. This is how a fair and modern tax system should work and I am proud that Australia is taking the lead in this respect.

                                Under the current GST law, GST will generally apply to supplies of goods within Australia regardless of the value of the goods. However, supplies of goods located outside of Australia will generally not be subject to GST. Further, while the importation of goods is generally subject to GST, a $1,000 low value threshold exemption applies.

                                The GST low value threshold exemption disadvantages Australian businesses and jobs, and poses a growing risk to the integrity of the GST base, with the continued growth in online shopping.

                                The Government, with the support of the States and Territories, is absolutely committed to applying the GST to low value goods imported for consumption into Australia by 1 July 2017. It will stop the unfair and distortionary benefit enjoyed by foreign sellers since the introduction of the GST in 2000.

                                Under these new arrangements, imported goods with a customs value of $1,000 or under will have GST collected at the point of sale, using a vendor registration model. Under this model, overseas vendors that have an Australian turnover of $75,000 or more will be required to register for, collect and remit GST on low value goods supplied to consumers in Australia as well as any other taxable supplies they make.

                                This measure will also apply to online marketplaces – also called 'electronic distribution platforms' or EDPs in the Bill. Online marketplaces that assist in the importation of goods into Australia, will essentially be treated as a 'supplier' under this measure, and be required to register for, collect and remit GST.

                                Including online marketplaces ensures that only a limited number of entities need to collect the GST, rather than the multitude of small, individual vendors making supplies through these online marketplaces. This represents the most efficient system for collecting GST and limits the costs of compliance.

                                This measure also extends to 'redeliverers'. Redeliverers are often used by Australian consumers in cases where the overseas retailers do not deliver to Australia. The redeliverers provide offshore mailbox or shopping services in relation to the goods and then assist with their delivery into Australia. Redeliverers will be affected by this measure where the actual supplier would not be liable for GST because of a lack of knowledge about the ultimate destination of the supply, due to involvement of a redeliverer. In such cases, the redeliverer is the entity that is best placed to know the status of the goods and the location to which they are delivered.

                                A simplified online GST registration system will also be available for non-resident suppliers of goods. This simplified registration system will help non-residents comply with these new rules.

                                In August 2015, the Council on Federal Financial Relations agreed to the vendor registration model, commencing 1 July 2017. The Government has also consulted extensively on the design of the registration model. Public consultation on the draft legislation was also undertaken last year.

                                These changes build on the Government's 2015-16 Budget measure – which is now law – to apply the GST to digital products and other services imported by consumers from 1 July 2017, also using a vendor registration model.

                                We now live in a world where online cross-border shopping is a normal and often daily activity for many Australians. This reform to Australia's GST is a significant world first but it is consistent with the direction of international tax policy in this area.

                                It is only a matter of time until others jurisdictions follow suit. In 2015, the OECD examined and reported on options to move away from cost-intensive border collection processes including for low value goods. Australia's reforms align with the most effective elements of that report to deliver a new reality for taxation of trade in Australia.

                                The European Union also announced late last year that it too will reform its treatment of imported low value goods. They too recognise that there can be no substantive reform without a key focus on the taxation of goods by the supplier at the point of sale.

                                With this Bill, Australia is leading the way in delivering a GST collection model that is fit for our modern world. Importantly, this measure will finally stop the unfair and distortionary GST low value exemption enjoyed by foreign sellers since the introduction of the GST in 2000 – establishing a level playing field for our domestic retailers and protecting the integrity of our GST base.

                                Full details of the measure are contained in the explanatory memorandum.

                                Debate adjourned.

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