Senate debates

Thursday, 5 December 2019


Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Legislation Amendment (Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority Board and Other Improvements) Bill 2019, Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority Amendment (Enhancing Australia's Anti-Doping Capability) Bill 2019, Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority Amendment (Sport Integrity Australia) Bill 2019, Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment (Ensuring Integrity No. 2) Bill 2019; Second Reading

5:16 pm

Photo of Anne RustonAnne Ruston (SA, Liberal Party, Minister for Families and Social Services) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That these bills be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speeches read as follows—

Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Legislation Amendment (Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority Board and Other Improvements) Bill 2019

Australians need access to safe and effective agricultural chemicals and veterinary medicines. They protect our crops, livestock and domestic pets; safeguard our environment from invasive weeds and pests; and meet consumer needs for things such as household insecticides.

Agvet chemicals, as these products are commonly known, have brought long term benefits to Australian agriculture, by supporting increased productivity, better quality produce and more competitive industries.

It is important that the regulation of agvet chemicals continues to be streamlined, to maximise the benefits for Australia. It is also imperative to ensure that the strong safeguards built into the regulation of agvet chemicals are not compromised.

Through a cooperative scheme with the states and territories, the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority—the APVMA—is the national regulator of agvet chemicals up to, and including, the point of supply. The APVMA has an important role in ensuring that agvet chemicals supplied in Australia are safe for people, animals, plants and the environment, and don't adversely impact our trade market access.

The APVMA needs to be both efficient and effective in its regulation of agvet chemicals. The Bill supports these objectives by streamlining regulatory processes, while strengthening the vital protections for the health and safety of humans, animals and the environment. Given its vital role, the APVMA also requires robust governance arrangements that reflect modem practices for ensuring the accountability and performance of the regulator. The Bill supports this critical outcome by establishing the APVMA Board and ceasing the Advisory Board.

Legislation underpinning the APVMA and agvet chemical regulation was developed in the early 1990s. We have announced a comprehensive review of the whole legislative framework from first-principles. In the meantime, however, the chemical industry has made it clear that there are simple, non-controversial changes that could be done now that improve the efficiency of the agvet chemical regulatory framework, reduce some costs and increase the speed to which farmers can get access to safe and effective chemicals.

The Bill therefore includes measures to improve the administrative efficiency of the APVMA and promote quicker access to chemical products. The measures in the Bill reduce the regulatory burden for applications by increasing the APVMA's flexibility when dealing with minor errors in applications and for information that can be taken into account during an application. The Bill will also enable the APVMA to choose, where appropriate, to use computerised decision-making as part of its processes, thereby increasing efficiency while maintaining appropriate checks and balances. Computerised decision-making might be used, for example, for decisions involving an administrative check of an application.

The Bill also makes changes to enable the use of new, simpler processes for assessments based on risk. Specifically, the Bill provides for new prescribed approval and registration processes that will be quicker and less costly than those currently available, while ensuring the chemicals assessed are safe and effective. These new processes will apply for those active constituents, chemical products and labels that require minimal or no assessment of technical information and retain the requirement that the active or product meets the relevant statutory criteria, including in relation to the safety of humans, plants, animals and the environment. This measure has the potential to free up the time of the APVMA's assessors so they can focus on more complex assessments.

The Bill also removes the need for industry to undertake two unrelated reporting activities—one for levies, based on chemical product sales, and a more complex reporting activity on active constituent quantities. It simplifies and aligns these reporting processes based on the quantity and value of product sales. This significantly reduces reporting costs for industry without compromising the availability of information for our international reporting obligations and policy development needs. The chemical industry has been seeking changes to the burdensome reporting requirements and the Bill delivers these changes.

The Bill also provides for incentives for registration holders to include on product labels certain uses of chemical products that they would not ordinarily register. Similar to the approaches applied internationally, the incentives in the Bill operate by extending data protection periods on information for up to five years, if certain priority uses are included on labels. These extensions would be prescribed in the regulations. Based on the experience of these incentives overseas, this will encourage more priority uses on labels, including minor uses, where the costs of adding the use are not justified by the additional commercial returns to chemical manufacturers. This will significantly benefit Australian farmers.

Other measures in the Bill enable the holder of an approval or registration to vary the approval or registration while it is suspended. This will ensure that the issue identified that led to the suspension of the approval or registration can be appropriately rectified at the holder's request.

The Bill also makes changes to strengthen the integrity of the regulatory framework.

To perform its role as a regulator the APVMA has to rely on information provided to it by applicants. The Bill provides the APVMA with a broader suite of sanctions that will allow it to proportionately respond to any false or misleading information it receives. This includes both administrative sanctions and civil pecuniary penalties. Industry understands the importance of increasing the range of compliance options available to the APVMA.

The Bill further bolsters the integrity of the system by harmonising the need to inform the APVMA of new information—including information that shows the substance may no longer meet the safety criteria—across all holders and applicants.

The Bill also includes measures to improve risk communication about chemical products. This increases the integrity and transparency of voluntary recalls of agvet chemicals, and modernises the legislation so the reporting obligations are clear for persons recalling these chemicals.

Importantly, the Bill also introduces a five person, skills-based governance Board for the APVMA. This Board will provide the APVMA with additional skills and experience to deliver an increasingly accountable, efficient and effective organisation.

Currently all responsibility for the APVMA's strategic leadership, governance and day-to-day operations rests with the Chief Executive Officer (CEO). The CEO is therefore responsible for setting, implementing and monitoring the APVMA's policies without any other direct support. This is an unreasonable and unsustainable management burden on the CEO that is not effective or efficient for the APVMA's successful long-term operation and ongoing improvement.

The Board will be the accountable authority under the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013. It will ensure the proper, efficient and effective performance of the APVMA's functions; and determine the policies, objectives and strategies that the APVMA follows.

In addition, the Board will play an important role in implementing the outcomes of the government's comprehensive review of the whole agvet legislative framework from first-principles.

The Board, appointed by the Minister for Agriculture, will consist of a Chair, the APVMA's CEO and three other members selected on the basis of their skills. Board members will be appointed on a part-time basis. The CEO is included as an ex officio Board member to support informed and collective decision making and ensure the Board's policies are effectively integrated into day-to-day operations.

The APVMA will continue to deliver independent and evidence-based decisions. The Board will oversee how the APVMA does its job by establishing and monitoring the framework under which it operates. Day-to-day administration and decision-making, such as registering individual chemical products and undertaking compliance and enforcement activities will remain the responsibility of the APVMA CEO.

The APVMA is one of the few corporate Commonwealth entities that does not have a governance Board to ensure corporate compliance and management accountability. All other Commonwealth regulatory entities with direct responsibility for protecting human life and/or health (such as Food Standards Australia New Zealand, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority and the Civil Aviation Safety Authority) have governance boards.

The Board model chosen by the government is comparable with other corporate Commonwealth entities and with private sector companies. Its proposed size, composition, role, functions, duties and powers conform to Commonwealth policy as well as modern best practice guidance on corporate governance. Board members will be required to have appropriate qualifications, skills or experience in financial management, law, risk management, public sector governance, science and/or public health.

The Board will be able to establish committees to assist it to perform its functions and exercise its powers. These committees will provide a mechanism to seek input from and engage directly with industry stakeholders and other experts as needed.

The Bill provides transparency around ministerial directions to the Board. Any written directions made to the Board by the minister will be notifiable instruments, with the particulars and effects of these directions reported in the APVMA's annual report.

The Bill additionally requires a review of the operation of the Board, after four years, to ensure it is effective and efficient.

The Bill also ceases the existing APVMA Advisory Board. The Advisory Board had no legislative powers to direct any particular course of action and has not been operational since 2015.

Further measures in the Bill clarify meanings, or address deficiencies or inconsistencies in relation to the regulation of agvet chemicals. These are largely minor issues. However, when considered together, they improve the operational efficiency of the APVMA.

The measures in the Bill represent a considered approach to improving agvet legislation and have been developed through a program of engagement with stakeholders. The Board measures have been developed through a process of detailed, targeted consultation with stakeholders directly affected by the APVMA's governance. Other measures in the Bill have also been consulted on publicly and this has confirmed that these measures will deliver benefits to industry, the regulator and our community.

The Bill will improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the national system for regulating agvet chemicals, while strengthening its integrity and positioning the APVMA to become a modern and sustainable regulator. It will ensure that safe and effective agvet chemicals continue to be available to our community now and into the future. A more efficient regulator will deliver flow-on benefits to the APVMA's clients, including improved client services and reduced regulatory burden, which will reduce the cost of doing business.

Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority Amendment (Enhancing Australia's Anti-Doping Capability) Bill 2019

The Australian Government supports a fair, safe and healthy environment for all athletes and is committed to clean sport. Sport delivers for Australians: it provides extensive benefits from improved health through physical endeavour to the pursuit of athletic excellence and the values it teaches and encourages in every member of our Australian community.

However, sport and all it offers our community when it is clean fair and safe is under threat. The threat of modern doping is significant, with successive national and international doping scandals over recent years undermining public confidence in the legitimacy of the sporting contest. Not only is doping a serious risk to an athlete's health and wellbeing, at its foundation, it debases all that is good about sport.

International cooperation and coordination of efforts in the fight against doping continue to improve. But even as the anti-doping effort becomes more sophisticated, making it harder for intentional dopers 'to get away with it', doping continues.

As part of the 2018 Review of Australia's Sports Integrity Arrangements the expert panel, chaired by the Hon. James Wood AO QC, found that increasingly sophisticated doping is harder to detect by urine and blood sample analysis alone, with intelligence and investigations now indispensable in the detection of doping incidents and programs.

Accordingly, the Wood Review determined a detection program involving both sample analysis and intelligence-led investigations is required for the enforcement of anti-doping rules, as a foundation for preventive measures and for the pursuit of non-analytical doping cases.

In the absence of significant reform and an additional funding base, including Government intervention to resolve long-standing issues regarding the costs and sustainability of the sample analysis system, the Wood Review found that Australia's anti-doping program will be unable to address current and foreseeable future doping challenges effectively.

The Wood Review also found the current Australian anti-doping legislative framework requires reform to enable national anti-doping capability to effectively address modern doping threats.

This Government heard these warnings, and is delivering.

This is why we introduced legislation into the previous parliament to amend the ASADA Act, which lapsed due to the recent federal election. Since then we have taken the opportunity to undertake further consultation on, and refinement of, the Bill being introduced today.

This Bill is the first step in ensuring that Australia's anti-doping legislative framework is robust, efficient and responsive to the contemporary threat environment.

The amendments to the ASADA Act will:

          To the extent these reforms are currently directed to the functions of ASADA, under the Government's Safeguarding the Integrity of Sport policy, such functions will be performed by the new single national sports integrity body being established by the Government, Sport Integrity Australia, from 1 July 2020.

          Australia is a proud sporting nation. We value, and we are proud of sport that is clean fair and safe. This Government will ensure that this will remain the case.

          Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority Amendment (Sport Integrity Australia) Bill 2019

          Sport is an important part of Australian culture. It has shaped the Australian national identity through events such as the Ashes, the State of Origin, the Sydney to Hobart, and the Australian Open. Australians have come to expect the sports they watch and participate in are fair and honest. And while Australia has always taken a strong stance against cheating and misconduct in sport, there is more that should be done to prepare for future sports integrity threats and challenges.

          It is essential the millions Australians who participate in sport at every level ­from grassroots to the elite — have full confidence their sports are better protected from external threats such as doping, drug use, match-fixing and criminal exploitation of athletes and events. Australians should be confident they can enjoy sports environments free of abuse, discrimination and harassment.

          The nature of sports corruption is evolving at an unprecedented rate due to the immense commercialisation of sport and sporting organisations, and accelerating technological advancement.

          Sports integrity matters are now beyond the control of any single stakeholder. They are complex, globalised and connected, forming a complicated threat matrix exposing vulnerabilities that require a robust and nationally-coordinated response across sports, governments, regulators, the wagering industry, law enforcement and other stakeholders.

          In August 2017, the Government commissioned the Review of Australia's Sports Integrity Arrangements, as part of the Government's ongoing development of the National Sports Plan — Sport 2030. The Review Panel, chaired by the Hon. James Wood AO QC, delivered The Report of the Review of Australia's Sports Integrity Arrangements (Wood Review) in early 2018.

          The Wood Review warns that 'without the presence of a comprehensive, effective and nationally coordinated response capability, the hard earned reputation of sport in this country risks being tarnished' and that beyond the immediate impact of corrupt conduct of the kind identified, a public loss of confidence in the sporting contest has direct consequences for the health, economic, social and cultural benefits that sport generates, and undermines significant investment in sport.

          The Wood Review also identifies a critical leadership role for the Commonwealth Government by supporting the integrity efforts of sporting organisations in the evolving threat environment, particularly those sports with fewer resources.

          To achieve this outcome, the centrepiece of the Wood Review recommendations is the formation of a new agency — a single coordinating body to address sports integrity matters at a national level and ensure Australia is positioned to effectively respond to escalating integrity risks.

          This is why we introduced legislation into the previous Parliament to establish a new body called Sport Integrity Australia. Although that Bill lapsed due to the recent Federal election, the Government remains committed to the

          establishment of Sport Integrity Australia and convinced in the benefits it will provide to Australian sport.

          Currently in Australia, sports integrity functions are shared between the National Integrity of Sport Unit within the Department of Health, the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority and Sport Australia. As a result, stakeholders are often required to interact with multiple agencies on matters across the sports integrity spectrum, creating undue regulatory burden.

          Initially, Sport Integrity Australia will be established to unite the nationally focussed sport integrity functions of the National Integrity of Sport Unit, ASADA, and Sport Australia; establishing a single point of coordination for all sport integrity matters and a single point of reference for all stakeholders, working in close cooperation with the Sports Betting Integrity Unit (a joint initiative of the National Integrity of Sport Unit and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission), states and territories and across the sports sector.

          Sport Integrity Australia will seek to prevent and address threats to sports integrity. The agency will coordinate a national approach to these matters with a view to achieving:

                  Sport Integrity Australia's focus will be on policy and program delivery, education and outreach, anti-doping regulation including monitoring and intelligence. The Agency will stand ready to assist sporting organisations to ensure that the skills and capabilities in the sporting sector exist to identify and prevent threats to the integrity of Sport. Through its role as a single point of contact for all sports integrity matters, Sport Integrity Australia will be ideally positioned to receive, handle and share information as appropriate to prevent and address threats to the integrity of sport.

                  The Government remains committed to developing and implementing additional and enhanced capabilities recommended by the Wood Review, including: enhanced anti-match-fixing intelligence capabilities; a new regulatory scheme referred to in the Wood Review as the Australian Sports Wagering Scheme and a protected disclosure (whistle-blower) framework for sport. This will be implemented in Stage-Two, as outlined in the Government Response to the Wood Review.

                  However, the early establishment of Sport Integrity Australia will improve the coordination of Australia's sports integrity response and reduce the regulatory burden on sport, athletes and others who are currently required to interact with multiple agencies across the spectrum of sports integrity issues.

                  This Government is intent on protecting the integrity of the sports that make up this great sporting nation, the sports Australians enjoy and have come to expect as being safe, fair and inclusive — sports that deserve to be enjoyed by all, for generations to come.

                  Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment (Ensuring Integrity No. 2) Bill 2019

                  The government remains absolutely committed to ensuring the integrity of all registered organisations—employer groups and unions alike—for the benefit of workers, for the benefit of our national economy and for the broader public interest.

                  The rule of law is not a concept to be taken lightly. It is not a fair weather principle to be applied in some circumstances and disregarded in others. Obeying the law is of the utmost importance to the proper functioning of a democratic society and it is incumbent upon all organisations, be they employer groups, unions, banks or other corporations, and all of their directors, executives and officers, to comply with the law or face appropriate consequences.

                  This bill concerns registered organisations which, despite the claims of some, are not above the law. Multiple Royal Commissions and innumerable judgements of the courts have exposed the misconduct, lawlessness and even corruption at the heart of some parts of registered organisations, including a stubborn but militant minority in the CFMMEU.

                  To quote one of many similar passages from many judges of the Federal Court, "the conduct of its officers and employees has consistently shown a total contempt ... for the constraints imposed by the law" and a "cavalier disregard for the prior penalties imposed by this Court".

                  And this conduct is continuing. Over 30 contraventions of the law and close to $400,000 in court ordered penalties in the last few months alone. The Australian Building and Construction Commission filed a case just recently alleging CFMMEU officers threatened and intimidated workers of a crane company in New South Wales, including by spitting at them, calling them dogs and scabs and photographing them then uploading the images on social media where they were further subjected to abuse and intimidation.

                  Of course, it's not just repeated contraventions of workplace law. Just this week we have seen New South Wales CFMMEU officers convicted of drug offences and a CFMMEU officer in Queensland is in court right now facing criminal charges for intimidating a State Work Health and Safety inspector.

                  We have also seen examples of quite horrendous conduct against women by the officers of the CFMMEU, including intimidating female police officers, spitting at female building inspectors and making abhorrent threats about sexual violence to workplace inspectors. Is it any wonder that data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows the number of working women in construction has fallen from 13 per cent 30 years ago to 11.8 per cent today?

                  So what should the government do in the face of organisations such as these, that place themselves above the law, that happily spends members' money on paying court-imposed penalties while continuing to do it what they like? Make an exception? Admit defeat, and say employers and other unions must obey the law, but not organisations like the CFMMEU?

                  If existing sanctions are not working effectively to deter lawbreaking, you need stronger sanctions. If penalties are not working, the courts need other options. It's clear that's the case when it comes to registered organisations.

                  Courts need to be able to disqualify officers who keep breaking the law — removing them from office or alternatively suspending or taking from the organisation itself the rights and privileges of registration. In essence, that it what this Bill does.

                  How this approach can be portrayed as an attack on unions, much less their hard working members, is difficult to see — unless of course one views these organisations as above the law and therefore beyond reproach. Any such view is at best, horribly misguided and at worst, a genuine threat to the even-handed supremacy of the rule of law.

                  The bill introduced into parliament today incorporates the sensible and constructive amendments, safeguards and protections proposed to a previous iteration of the bill by the Centre Alliance Party and Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party. It also incorporates a provision requiring the operation of the bill to be reviewed in the near future, as suggested by the Greens and the Jacqui Lambie Network.

                  The grounds for disqualification and cancellation of registration in the bill are set at an appropriately high level, and will only be met where courts have imposed penalties for serious or repeated contraventions of the law. Of course even where any such ground is met, only the independent regulator will be able to decide whether disqualification or cancellation should be sought, and even then, only the independent Federal Court will be able to make these orders, and even then, the court can only do so where this would not be unjust in light of the gravity of the underlying conduct and all other relevant considerations.

                  To suggest safeguards such as these and the multitude of others in the bill will lead to a person being disqualified or an organisation deregistered for submitting paperwork a few days late, as those opposite have repeatedly and disingenuously claimed, is so far down the path of fanciful it evokes sobering questions about precisely what sort of serious and unlawful conduct these allegations are designed to excuse.

                  Under the bill, only amalgamations of organisations with a long track record of breaking the law will be required to satisfy a public interest test, administered by the independent Fair Work Commission. Members of organisations will continue to be able to vote on whether their organisation should merge with another organisation, but where there is ongoing contempt for the law, the question can be asked: is it in the public interest for this organisation to spread its culture of lawbreaking to other organisations?

                  It is vital to note that nothing in the bill prevents a registered organisation from exercising its rights under the law to represent workers, including investigating underpayment issues or acting on work health and safety concerns. The vast majority of unions and employer groups manage to perform these important functions and work hard for their members within the confines of the law, recognising that they cannot in good conscience insist employers pay workers their legal entitlements, bargain in good faith, and comply with other legislative provisions, if they themselves ignore the law.

                  The bill simply deals with those registered organisations who break the law or mistreat members. Organisations that contribute positively to the industrial relations framework, work in their members' interests and adhere to the rule of law—and thankfully that's the vast majority of them—will not be impacted by the bill.

                  Respect for the law not only goes to the integrity of registered organisations, but to the efficacy and integrity of the industrial relations system itself.

                  Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

                  In accordance with standing order 111, further consideration of these bills is now adjourned to 4 February 2020.

                  Photo of Anne RustonAnne Ruston (SA, Liberal Party, Minister for Families and Social Services) Share this | | Hansard source

                  I move:

                  That these bills be listed separately as separate orders of the day.

                  Question agreed to.