Senate debates

Tuesday, 31 August 2021


Charter of the United Nations Amendment Bill 2021, Dental Benefits Amendment Bill 2021, Export Finance and Insurance Corporation Amendment (Equity Investments and Other Measures) Bill 2021, Treasury Laws Amendment (2021 Measures No. 6) Bill 2021; Second Reading

5:21 pm

Photo of Amanda StokerAmanda Stoker (Queensland, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister to the Attorney-General) 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—


Australia has an obligation under the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1373 of 2001 to freeze the assets of individual terrorists and terrorist entities and prevent the provision of assets to those persons and entities.

To give effect to this obligation, the Charter of the United Nations Act 1945 provides for the listing of persons and entities associated with the commission of terrorist acts for the purpose of applying financial sanctions in respect of those listed.

The Charter of the United Nations Amendment Bill 2021 clarifies that counter-terrorism financial sanction listings are to be made as legislative instruments. The Bill puts beyond doubt any question of the enforceability of validly made listings to ensure that Australia's counter-terrorism legislative framework is able to operate as intended by Parliament to prevent and respond to the financing of terrorism. The proposed amendments do not alter the existing regulatory framework under the Charter of the United Nations Act 1945 which gives effect to our international obligations as a United Nations Member State.

The proposed amendments mean that counter-terrorism listings, once made, will be registered on the Federal Register of Legislation as legislative instruments in accordance with requirements under the Legislation Act 2003. Historically, counter-terrorism listings have been treated as being administrative in character and not registered on the Federal Register of Legislation. Instead, they have been published in the Commonwealth Gazette in accordance with the requirements of the Act as it currently exists. Counter-terrorism listings will continue to be set out in a Consolidated List which sets out all persons and entities who are subject to targeted financial sanctions under Australian sanctions law. This list is maintained by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and published on the Department's website. The Bill contains provisions to preserve the enforceability of listings validly made under the Charter of the United Nations Act 1945 prior to their registration on the Federal Register of Legislation.

The Australian Government is committed to preventing and suppressing terrorist acts to support international peace and security. One of the most effective ways to combat terrorism is to deny terrorists and terrorist entities the ability to access funds necessary for the commission of terrorist acts. The amendments in this Bill further promote public awareness of counter-terrorism sanctions listings while ensuring Australia continues to fully implement its international counter-terrorism sanctions obligations.


The Dental Benefits Amendment Bill 2021 removes the lower age eligibility restriction from the Dental Benefits Act 2008 to allow eligible children under 18 years of age, and newly including eligible children under two years of age, to access the Child Dental Benefits Schedule (CDBS).

Removing the lower age eligibility restriction of 2 years is based on the recommendations of the Report on Fourth Review of the Dental Benefits Act 2008 (the Review) and follows consultation with stakeholders. The Review found that it was important to establish a positive initial dental experience and instil important oral hygiene practices at an early age to curb the negative stigma around dental practitioners and oral hygiene, which is reinforced if the initial dental experience requires serious treatment. If parents promote and practice good oral health hygiene with their children from a young age this will help prevent more serious dental decay as they grow up. This change will increase access to prevention and treatment services for younger children.

This amendment will expand the number of children who are eligible for the CDBS by around 300,000 per year and cost $5.4 million over four years. The CDBS has been in operation since 2014 and over that time has provided over $2.3 billion in benefits and delivered more than 38 million services to over 3 million Australian children.

The CDBS plays an important role in promoting the oral health of Australian children by providing access to basic dental services up to a cap of $1,013 in benefits over two calendar years. The CDBS helps children build good oral health and habits through to adulthood.

The CDBS is available in both the private and public sectors to allow the broadest range of service provision, choice and access to services in a range of settings and locations. The Government will continue to work with private and public providers to improve the delivery of dental services to Australia's children.


The Export Finance and Insurance Corporation Amendment (Equity Investment and Other Measures) Bill will give Australia's export credit agency, Export Finance Australia, a new equity investment power and the ability to provide stand-alone overseas infrastructure guarantees. These initiatives will support infrastructure development in the Indo-Pacific and export-linked projects in Australia, as well as provide enhanced support for the financing activities of the Australian Infrastructure Financing Facility for the Pacific.

The amendments will bolster Export Finance Australia's ability to support Australia's national interests and priorities.They will enhance Export Finance Australia's capabilities, and will complement its existing suite of financing powers comprised of loans, guarantees, bonds and insurance.

This Bill enables Export Finance Australia to support the development of export-linked sectors of economic significance in Australia when other financing tools, both public and private, are either unavailable or inadequate.

This could include the development of critical minerals projects with an export focus. The ability to consider equity investments in critical minerals projects would better position Export Finance Australia to offer financially appropriate support. This will help position the Government to better support the development of this crucial sector.

This Bill gives Export Finance Australia more flexibility to support important infrastructure investments in the Indo-Pacific.

As outlined in the Government's 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper, Australia is committed to working with regional partners to build an Indo-Pacific that is safe, secure, and prosperous.

This bill enhances Export Finance Australia's ability to finance regional infrastructure. In 2019, the Government provided Export Finance Australia with the power to support overseas infrastructure projects in our region that benefit Australia and Australians. In broadening its financing powers to include equity, Export Finance Australia will be able to make investments in a greater range of infrastructure projects, and at an earlier stage of development.

Importantly, the equity power will also be made available to the Australian Infrastructure Financing Facility for the Pacific, further supporting Australia's Pacific Step-up.

Export Finance Australia will only make equity investments in certain circumstances.

When projects have strong commercial prospects, they should be funded commercially. Equity investments will be reserved for exceptional circumstances.

Following the passage of this bill, the Government will instruct Export Finance Australia to ensure equity investments are only considered for significant transactions that support Australia's national interests. This will ensure Export Finance Australia is not crowding out private market finance, but instead filling a gap in the market.

Debt solutions like loans, guarantees, and bonds will continue to be the mainstay of Export Finance Australia's support to Australian exporters and for infrastructure development in the region.

This Bill aligns Export Finance Australia with its international and domestic peers.

The ability to make equity investments will bring Export Finance Australia's capabilities in line with those of export credit agencies in other major economies, including the United States, China, Japan, Canada, and South Korea. These countries are already making equity investments in our region to support their development and commercial objectives.

In addition, other Australian Government financing agencies, like the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility and Clean Energy Finance Corporation, are already able to make equity investments.

This Bill enables Export Finance Australia to provide stand-alone guarantees.

The ability to provide a guaranteeto an overseas infrastructure projectwithout also needing to provide a loan to that project will better support the lending activities of both Export Finance Australia and the Australian Infrastructure Financing Facility for the Pacific. It will allow greater efficiency and flexibility to support overseas infrastructure development, particularly in the Pacific, where transactions in local currencies delivered by local lenders - and guaranteed by Export Finance Australia - may be most appropriate.

The bill maintains Export Finance Australia's risk controls and commercially appropriate risk appetite.

Export Finance Australia will continue to conduct rigorous due diligence for equity investments in the same manner as other transactions. This includes robust environmental and social risk assessments.

Export Finance Australia has strong governance arrangements and financial management capabilities, as well as a proven track record of successfully implementing new mandates and functions. Export Finance Australia will establish new mechanisms and internal guidelines to ensure its new equity investment power is effectively implemented.

Export Finance Australia has an excellent track record of providing finance and sound commercial judgement, as evidenced by its historical write-off rate on its Commercial Account of less than one per cent. In 2019-20 Export Finance Australia supported 136 Australian businesses with $1.1 billion in support, enabling $2.45 billion of export contracts which supported 9,669 jobs in Australia.

I welcome the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee's examination of the Bill, and its support for providing Export Finance Australia with a new overseas equity investment power and a stand-alone guarantee power, and its recommendation that the Bill be passed.

On behalf of the Government, I would like to acknowledge and thank all those who made submissions. These are important matters for Australia and our regional neighbours.


This Bill will boost Export Finance Australia's important role in supporting Australia's economic growth and facilitating stronger links between Australian businesses and the Indo-Pacific region.


This Bill implements a number of streamlining and integrity measures and improves the visibility of superannuation assets during family law proceedings.

Schedule 1 to the Bill will amend the income tax law to ensure that no tax is payable on refunds of large-scale generation certificate shortfall charges.

This measure will apply to refunds paid since 1 January 2019.

Under the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act 2000, energy retailers and other liable entities must surrender large-scale generation certificates or pay a shortfall charge. This shortfall charge can be refunded where the outstanding certificates are surrendered within the allowable refund period.

This measure will clarify the operation of the income tax law for energy providers and will ensure that the market for large-scale generation certificates works as intended, meeting targets for clean energy while minimising costs for consumers.

Schedule 2 to the Bill will enable the Government to establish a more effective enforcement regime to encourage greater compliance with the industry codes of conduct by increasing the maximum civil pecuniary penalty amount from 300 to 600 penalty units ($133,200). For a breach of the Franchising Code by a corporation, the maximum civil penalty available will be the greater of $10 million, three times the benefit obtained from the contravention of the code, or 10 percent of annual turnover. For non-corporations, the maximum civil penalty available will be $500,000.

Appropriate penalties in the Franchising Code are necessary to provide a strong deterrent against breaches of the Code across the franchising sector, particularly by large multinational franchisors.

Schedule 3 to the Bill will reduce red tape and costs for self-managed superannuation funds and small Australian Prudential Regulation Authority funds by removing a redundant requirement for superannuation trustees to obtain an actuarial certificate when calculating exempt current pension income, where all members of the fund are fully in the retirement phase for the entire income year.

This measure delivers on a 2019-20 Budget commitment to reduce costs and simplify reporting for superannuation funds by streamlining some administrative requirements for the calculation of exempt current pension income. This is achieved by permitting affected funds to use the segregated method to calculate exempt current pension income.

Schedule 4 to the Bill will amend to the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (CCA) to strengthen the industry codes framework and provide legal certainty that industry codes of conduct can confer powers and functions on third parties to the commercial relationship between industry participants.

Currently, the regulation making power does not explicitly extend to regulating third parties that assist in administrating or regulating functions those codes.

These amendments will remove unintended ambiguity by clarifying that these third-party roles are recognised and valid under industry codes. This will legal certainty for industry participants across the various codes and avoid risks of legal dispute in the future.

Schedule 5 to the Bill improves the visibility of superannuation assets during family law property proceedings.

Where one party is not forthcoming with their superannuation assets during these proceedings, it can be complex, costly and time consuming for the other party to access this information.

This Schedule amends the Family Law Act 1975 and the Taxation Administration Act 1953 to allow parties to family law proceedings in the Federal Circuit and Family Court, and the Family Court of Western Australia, to apply to the family court registries to request information from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) that will assist them to identify their former partner's superannuation interests.

The amendments also allow for the development of a secure information sharing mechanism between the Courts and the ATO, as well as setting out the specific rules regarding the disclosure of this information. These amendments ensure this protected information cannot be accessed by unauthorised parties or shared outside of the specific context of permitted family law proceedings.

By supporting more just and equitable division of property, the amendments will help alleviate the financial hardship and negative impact on retirement incomes from separation.

Full details of the measures are contained in the Explanatory Memorandum.

Ordered that further consideration of the second reading of these bills be adjourned to the first sitting day of the next period of sittings, in accordance with standing order 111.

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