Senate debates

Tuesday, 12 May 2020



3:36 pm

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

I give notice that on the next sitting day I shall move:

That the provisions of paragraphs (5) to (8) of standing order 111 not apply to the following bills, allowing them to be considered during this period of sittings:

Aged Care Legislation (Emergency Leave) Bill 2020

Export Control Legislation Amendment (Certification of Narcotic Exports) Bill 2020

National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Amendment (Governance and Other Matters) Bill 2020

Privacy Amendment (Public Health Contact Information) Bill 2020

Superannuation Amendment (PSSAP Membership) Bill 2020

I also table statements of reasons justifying the need for these bills to be considered during these sittings and seek leave to have the statement incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The statement s read as follows—


Purpose of the Bill

The purpose of this Bill to introduce a new emergency leave provision into the Aged Care Act 1997 (the Act), which will allow permanent residential aged care residents to take emergency leave above their current annual allocation of 52 days leave. The leave provision will be activated in situations such as pandemics, natural disasters or other extraordinary emergencies as determined by either the Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians or the Secretary of the Department of Health. It is proposed that the emergency leave provision will be will be applied retrospectively to 1 April 2020, to ensure coverage for residents already impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Reasons for Urgency

Aged care residents are entitled to take up to 52 days of non-hospital related leave (commonly known as social leave) within a financial year. At present, when an aged care resident exceeds their annual social leave entitlement, the aged care home no longer receives Australian Government residential care subsidy for that person, and the provider is able to pass those costs onto the resident.

As a result of the current COVID-19 pandemic a number of permanent residential aged care residents have temporarily relocated with family to reduce their risk of exposure to the virus. Residents are able to use their social leave entitlements for this purpose, however, if they take this option they would exhaust their leave entitlement before the end of the pandemic. The additional costs the resident would be expected to pay to remain on leave, and still retain their place at the aged care home, would result in a significant financial burden on them or their families.

To address this issue, the Government is seeking to amend the Act to introduce an emergency leave provision that can be utilized by permanent residential aged care residents. This will be through an emergency leave type (covering such things as natural disasters, pandemics or other emergencies impacting the safe provision of residential aged care.

Passage within this sitting will ensure that permanent residential aged care residents and their families are supported to make decisions about personal safety in emergency situations, and not suffer unnecessary financial burden during emergencies. It will also ensure that residential aged care providers are not financially disadvantaged.

These legislative amendments are a way to this address this issue, both with the current COVID-19 pandemic and future emergency situations, and it is therefore important to progress these changes urgently to ensure residents and their families are appropriately supported.

(Circulated by authority of the Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians and Minister for Youth and Sport, Senator the Hon Richard Colbeck)


Purpose of the Bill

The bill amends the Export Control Act 1982 and Export Control Act 2020 to ensure the legislative framework no longer excludes narcotic goods within the meaning of the Customs Act 1901. By doing so the bill:

      Reasons for Urgency

      Passage of the bill in the 2020 Winter sittings is required to ensure the lack of legislative authority to certify legitimate exports of narcotic goods, such as medicinal cannabis and hemp product exports, from Australia is resolved as soon as possible. Passage will enable the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (the Department), which houses Australia's National Plant Protection Organisation to the International Plant Protection Convention, to bust congestion and immediately issue government certificates, such as phytosanitary (plant health) certificates, for legitimate exports of narcotic goods from Australia. Certification like this is required to accompany export consignments to satisfy the import requirements of overseas countries. The Department already provides similar certification for a range of other agricultural goods already regulated under the Export Control Acts.

      In the absence of legislative authority to issue certification, the Department negotiates with overseas countries for acceptance of alternative ways to provide regulatory assurance on the nature, condition, or status of narcotic consignments. These negotiations and arrangements lead to lengthy delays or, where a request is rejected by an overseas country, a critical barrier to the legitimate export of narcotic goods from Australia. Recently, one such request relating to an export consignment of low-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) hemp seeds was refused by an overseas trading partner.

      The Commonwealth authorities for the regulation of exports of narcotic goods are the Department of Home Affairs and the Office of Drug Control, in the Department of Health. The bill ensures that Australia's reputation as a supplier of high quality, clean and green agriculture exports is supported, without undermining or duplicating the important regulatory function performed by the Office of Drug Control and the Department of Home Affairs. Both agencies have endorsed the solution to the existing regulatory barrier.

      (Circulated by authority of the Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management)


      Purpose of the Bill

      The National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Amendment (Governance and Other Matters) Bill amends the National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Act 2011 (NVETR Act) to reform the Australian Skills Quality Authority's (ASQA) governance structure to ensure it is fit for purpose and aligned with changes to its regulatory practice. Changes to ASQA's governance would clarify its roles and responsibilities, improve accountability, achieve efficiency of resources, and improve focus on strategic direction and performance. The bill also contains amendments to improve information sharing under the NVETR Act.

      Reasons for Urgency

      The bill is urgent and requires passage in the 2020 Winter sitting period. Recent reviews have recommended improvements to the regulation of Australia's vocational education and training system.

      (Circulated by authority of the Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business)


      Purpose of the Bill

      The Privacy Amendment (Public Health Contact Information) Bill (the Bill) formalises the interim privacy protections that apply to the handling of data from the Australian Government's COVIDSafe contact tracing application (app data). These interim protections are contained in the Biosecurity (Human Biosecurity Emergency) (Human Coronavirus with Pandemic Potential) (Emergency Requirements–Public Health Contact Information) Determination 2020 (Biosecurity Determination). Interim protections to be formalised by the Bill include:

              The Bill also includes provisions outlining the processes for:

                    The Bill will ensure that additional privacy protections and other safeguards apply until the COVIDSafe application is no longer available for use.

                    Reasons for Urgency

                    The Bill is required to be considered in the Winter sittings to prevent a gap in regulation between the operation of the Biosecurity Determination and this legislation. As the Biosecurity Determination was made under s 477 of the Biosecurity Act2015, it will cease to have effect upon the expiration of the Biosecurity (Human Biosecurity Emergency) (Human Coronavirus with Pandemic Potential) Declaration 2020 on 17 June 2020.

                    (Circulated by authority of the Attorney-General)


                    Purpose of the Bill

                    The Bill enables certain current and former Commonwealth employees and statutory office holders to continue to be, or to become, contributory members of the Public Sector Superannuation Accumulation Plan (PSSAP) that are currently not eligible to do so.

                    Reasons for Urgency

                    To allow eligible persons to avoid having to establish a second superannuation account in relation to their post-Commonwealth employment and thus avert incurring multiple fees that would eat into their retirement savings. This will assist members in managing their retirement savings during this current period of heightened instability in investment markets.

                    (Circulated by authority of the Minister for Finance)