Thursday, 12 November 2020
Selection of Bills Committee; Report
I present the tenth report of 2020 for the Selection of Bills Committee and I seek leave to have the report incorporated into Hansard.
The report read as follows—
Selection of Bills Committee
1. The committee met in private session on Wednesday, 11 November 2020 at 7.13pm.
2. The committee recommends that—
(a) the provisions of the Aged Care Amendment (Aged Care Recipient Classification) Bill 2020 be referred immediately to the Community Affairs Legislation Committee for inquiry and report by 2 December 2020 (see appendix 1 for a statement of reasons for referral);
(b) the Aged Care Legislation Amendment (Improved Home Care Payment Administration No. 1) Bill 2020 be referred immediately to the Community Affairs Legislation Committee for inquiry and report by 27 November 2020 (see appendix 2 for a statement of reasons for referral);
(c) the provisions of the Aged Care Legislation Amendment (Improved Home Care Payment Administration No. 2) Bill 2020 be referred immediately to the Community Affairs Legislation Committee for inquiry and report by 27 November 2020 (see appendix 3 for a statement of reasons for referral);
(d) the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Streamlining Environmental Approvals) Bill 2020 be referred immediately to the Environment and Communications Legislation Committee but was unable to reach agreement on a reporting date (see appendix 4 for a statement of reasons for referral);
(e) the provisions of the Health Insurance Amendment (Compliance Administration) Bill 2020 be referred immediately to the Community Affairs Legislation Committee for inquiry and report by 2 December 2020 (see appendix 5 for a statement of reasons for referral);
(f) the provisions of the Immigration (Education) Amendment (Expanding Access to English Tuition) Bill 2020 be referred immediately to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee for inquiry and report by 27 November 2020see appendix 6 for a statement of reasons for referral); and
(g) contingent upon introduction in the House of Representatives, the provisions of the Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (Extension of Coronavirus Support) Bill 2020 be referred immediately to the Community Affairs Legislation Committee for inquiry and report by 27 November 2020 (see appendix 7 for a statement of reasons for referral).
3. The committee recommends that the following bills not be referred to committees:
Bankruptcy (Estate Charges) Amendment (Norfolk Island) Bill 2020.
4. The committee deferred consideration of the following bills to its next meeting:
Corporations (Fees) Amendment (Hayne Royal Commission Response) Bill 2020
12 November 2020
That the report be adopted.
"but, in respect of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Streamlining Environmental Approvals) Bill 2020, the Environment and Communications Legislation Committee report by 3 February 2021."
This amendment would allow a short inquiry—considering the time frame from the end of the year and the Christmas break—into an important piece of legislation. It will also allow for consideration of any issues raised by the Samuel report, which has not been publicly released yet, and for that to be reported back to the Senate. We hope that the government is able to agree to this. It's not a long inquiry. It will allow for consideration of the Samuel report plus fresh consideration of any issues raised through that process prior to the debate on this bill. I understood that the government was considering moving an amendment to allow a short referral, and I understand that's not the case anymore. So, if senators do want a referral of this bill, they will need to support this amendment. Hopefully, we will get support from the Senate for this important amendment to this important piece of legislation.
The Senate has debated this issue a number of times now. It's clear that there is a strong will within this place for a proper review into this piece of legislation. As Senator Gallagher has eloquently described, we are still waiting for the final report into the Samuel review, and I think these things need to be considered together. Of course, there needs to be a legitimate time frame for this. We are now quickly heading towards the end of the year. We only have two sitting weeks left in this place. We need to make sure, if we're going to inquire into this piece of legislation, that the committee can report at the earliest possible opportunity, that being February. Suggesting that an inquiry into such important legislation could be done within a shorter time frame than that would make it simply all looks and no substance. This shouldn't be just a tick-and-flick exercise. This is an important issue into drastic changes to Australia's environment laws. So the Greens will support this amendment put forward by the opposition, and we urge the government and the crossbench to be realistic about the time frame here. Anything shorter than this will be a joke.
Just in making a decision as to whether or not to support the amendment, it would be helpful if the government were to advise the chamber as to when the Samuels report will be tabled. I note that it is supposed to be tabled within 15 sitting days of the minister having received the report, and I don't think the statutes prevent earlier tabling. We know from estimates that the minister now has the report. Can you give some advice in respect of that, Minister? That would certainly help me to make a decision on the way in which I would vote on this amendment.
The government won't be supporting the referral of this bill to the date next year. However, we will, subject to the will of this chamber, be moving an alternative amendment for an earlier reporting date.
In relation to the matter that Senator Patrick has raised: I do not have that advice before me. It's not a matter that one would normally debate with the Selection of Bills Committee. I would suggest that you raise the matter with the minister.
I will keep this short. When people look at the report they'll see there are a number of bills that have been referred that have extremely short reporting dates. I know that this year has been difficult and the government wants to get things through, but two weeks? A number of them have to report on bills on either 27 November or 2 December. Some of the bills are quite complex and need further review than the limit of the two non-sitting weeks between now and our last two sitting weeks. I want to put on the record that that gives the committees insufficient time, particularly when there is a large number of bills that the committees have to consider. It really is too short a time to give these bills the proper consideration that a normal legislative review committee process would take.
I just want to raise a more general question. These short reporting requirements are quite difficult for the committees that actually have to do the work. The one that I'm particularly concerned about is the provision of the Immigration (Education) Amendment (Expanding Access to English Tuition) Bill 2020, with a reporting date of 27 November. There has been no consultation, as far as I'm aware, with the committee. It makes the work of the committee almost impossible. It makes a mockery of the Senate committee system: you can't possibly call for submissions and do this work properly. It actually denigrates the Senate for this to happen. But above all else, those on the Selection of Bills Committee are happy to allocate other people's time without consideration of the consequences or of what they're doing. In consequence, we are asked to make serious judgements about important matters of public policy. This is simply not satisfactory.
Question agreed to.