THE thing politics has over policy is that it is a sport. When The Age tried to call this out in its editorial asking for the head of Julia Gillard, it was roundly condemned for not setting the agenda of policy themselves instead of focussing on palace politics. But would The Age have sold as many copies if it focussed too much on the what when the who is infinitely more interesting?
We all profess to be tired of the Gillard-Rudd business but you can be sure the hashtag spill would go ballistic if and when the long drawn-out battle actually ever takes place. Everyone would want to know the result. The Age know the personal drama is infinitely more interesting than the 55 or so pieces of legislation yet to pass in the final week of the 43rd parliament of Australia.
But here where I don’t have to pander to profit or personal drama, I can take the time to look at all 55 remaining bills, in alphabetical order. They cover a full gamut of legislative issues such as environment, the world economy, employment, education, tax reform and agriculture.
You may or may not find these interesting reading and they are mostly ignored by the media.
But this is what parliament is for: to change and enact law. Each of the 55 bills is important to someone or something; a truth the independent members of parliament (who raised most of them) know all too well. I’m hoping you’ll feel a little more informed if you read them; I did for writing them down.
1. African development bank Bill 2013
Enables Australia to become a member of the African Development Bank Group by authorising the payments required to subscribe to membership shares in the African Development Bank and meet membership and ongoing subscriptions to the African Development Fund.
According to Bernie Ripoll (Lab) the bank promotes sustainable economic growth to reduce poverty in Africa. The bank currently has 78 member countries, comprising 54 African and 24 non-African countries. In 2011, the Independent Review of Aid Effectiveness recommended that Australia join the group as it would represent value for money, and be a high-level indication of Australia’s commitment to development in Africa.
2. Australian Jobs Bill 2013
The far-reaching bill would require private and public projects of half a billion dollars or more to develop an Australian Industry Participation plan. A new quango, the Australian Industry Participation Authority would be set up to administer and monitor compliance of the plan reporting back to parliament. In the first debate, Liberal backbencher Craig Kelly saw an obvious problem: The measure would see government officers embedded in business, “just like it used to be in the Soviet Union”.
The planning regime itself will cost $1 billion dollars to implement, so I wonder if it will be subject to an Australian Industry Participation plan if it passes.
3 Australian Ownership Bill 2013
This Katterbill wants to limit foreign investment in Australian agribusiness and agricultural land. It would do this requiring the Foreign Investment Review Board to take “the national interest” (a contested concept if ever there was one) into account in foreign investment and also prevent non-Australians from owing half or more of an agribusiness or land more than four hectares.
4 Aviation Laws Amendment (Australian Ownership and Operation) Bill 2013
Another Katterbill to amend air acts to ensure Australian international and domestic air services are at least 51% Australian owned and operated, do at least 80% maintenance in Australia and use only Aussie crews.
5. Broadcasting Services Amendment (Advertising for Sports Betting) Bill 2013 [No. 2]
Greens bill to amend the 1992 broadcasting act to prohibit ads on odds, restrict betting ads to after 9pm, and prohibit “non-ad ads” and freeze betting ads before sports broadcasts. Given the 1992 act is ludicrously pre-Internet, this seems papering over some enormous cracks.
6. Competition and Consumer Amendment (Australian Food Labelling) Bill 2012
This one from the Greens wants to amend the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 to: specify country of origin on food with labelling based on the weight of the ingredients.
7. Competition and Consumer Amendment (Strengthening Rules About Misuse of Market Power) Bill 2013 is an adjunct of 6 to strengthen the act to protect people in complicated supply chains eg where a $1 litre of milk to the customer is a net cost to the producer.
8. Customs Amendment (Prohibition of Certain Coal Exports) Bill 2013
Amends the Customs Act 1901 to prohibit the export of coal mined in the water catchment valleys and district of Wyong (NSW) and enable the minister to prohibit the export of coal mined “in other areas”. This is Craig Thomson’s attempt to shut down a possible Wallarah Two underground mine despite no politician ruling it in at the moment. “People in electorates trust the laws, they don’t necessarily trust the politicians,” Thomson said. “And that’s why I tabled a bill today that looks to restrict the export licences of miners in the Wyong Shire in particular, but more broadly any other area that the minister by legislative means, deems to be appropriate.”
9 Dairy Industry (Drinking Milk) Bill 2013
Katter’s call to register dairy regional representative bodies and Fair Work Australia to determine a modern award for dairy farmers with dairy farmers and processors to establish enterprise agreements and collective negotiations.
10 Early Years Quality Fund Special Account Bill 2013
This one from Peter Garrett. Establishes the Early Years Quality Fund Special Account to provide $300m over two years to long day care services to pay employees wages, costs and expenses and is an early pay off for Gonski in an attempt to make kindy-teaching a better paying job.
11 Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Making Marine Parks Accountable) Bill 2012 [No. 2]
Townsville LNP’s George Christiansen’s “Making Marine Parks Accountable” bill amends the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 to allow Government to set an area of sea, or land and sea, as a Commonwealth reserve with the help of an independent scientific reference panel and a stakeholder advisory group. Christiansen wants to protect his fishing constituents access to marine parks.
12 Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Moratorium on Aquifer Drilling Connected with Coal Seam Gas Extraction) Bill 2013
Amends the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 to place a two year moratorium on aquifer drilling connected with coal seam gas extraction; and impose penalties for any contravention. Katter wants to ban CSG mining for 24 months.
13 Fair Indexation of Military Superannuation Entitlements Bill 2012
Katterbill to index military retirement benefits the same way as Australian age and service pensions, currently based on a higher-end consumer price index.
14 Fair Work (Job Security and Fairer Bargaining) Amendment Bill 2012
This Greens bill amends the Fair Work Act 2009 to expand enterprise agreements, settle disputes, and make provisions on industrial action. The object is to consider items of job security, full employment and work/life balance when the full bench makes a workplace determination.
15 Fair Work Amendment (Arbitration) Bill 2013
Katterbill to remove the restriction of Fair Work Australia dealing with disputes by arbitration, mediation or conciliation, or by making a recommendation or expressing an opinion.
16 Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Amendment (Cubbie Station) Bill 2012
Katterbill to stop the foreign takeover of Cubbie cotton station near Dirranbandi, Qld.
17 Grape and Wine Legislation Amendment (Australian Grape and Wine Authority) Bill 2013
Ag Minister Joe Ludwig’s bill to create a new Grape and Wine Authority by merging Grape and Wine Research and Development Corporation (GWRDC) and the Wine Australia Corporation. The merger would align strategy and achieve efficiency gains.
18 Homelessness (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2013
Social inclusion minister Mark Butler’s bill introduced with the Homelessness Bill 2013, to repeal the Supported Accommodation Assistance Act 1994 and makes an amendment to the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918. The bill ensures homeless people can still vote in elections.
19 Homelessness Bill 2013
Butler’s main bill which provides for the recognition of homeless people and those at risk of homelessness. There is a recognition of homelessness and an aspiration everyone should have a home. The aim is to remove barriers in social inclusion and improve service delivery.
20 Imported Food Warning Labels Bill 2013
This Katterbill imposes penalties on those who don’t label imported food properly.
21 Income Tax Rates Amendment (Unlawful Payments from Regulated Superannuation Funds) Bill 2012
Bill Shorten’s bill – Combined with the Superannuation Legislation Amendment, the bill amends the Income Tax Rates Act 1986 to impose a 45 per cent tax on superannuation benefits that are illegally released early. See also 50.
22 Infrastructure (Priority Funding) Amendment Bill 2013
Greens bill to amend the Infrastructure Australia Act 2008 to prioritise Commonwealth rail funding over roads, with the exception of road projects designed to fix an urgent road safety issue or on which construction has already begun.
23 Intellectual Property Laws Amendment Bill 2013
Greg Combet’s bill to tighten IP laws on crown use, implement a TRIPS protocol to supply developing countries with generic versions of patented medicines, protect plant breeder IP and bring in joint patent regime for Australia and New Zealand. Despite its international importance, this huge bill affecting several acts of parliament has got zero attention in local media as far as I can tell. It features in International Business Times which said the law would enable Australian companies to respond to future health crises in less developed nations.
24 International Organisations (Privileges and Immunities) Amendment Bill 2013
Bob Carr’s bill to amend the International Organisations (Privileges and Immunities) Act 1963 to give privileges and immunities to the International Committee for the Red Cross and the International Criminal Court. The first part is required because Australia has signed an MOU with the Red Cross making it a legal entity while the second provides support for victims in ICC trials and removed a roadblock to Australia’s accession to the ICC Agreement on Privileges and Immunities.
25 Live Animal Export Restriction and Prohibition Bill 2013
Andrew Wilkie’s bill calls for the end to live animal export by 2017 and in the interim ensure “satisfactory treatment” before slaughter.
26 Malabar Headland Protection Bill 2012
Minister for State Gary Gray’s bill provides for the protection of Malabar Headland following divestment to New South Wales. Malabar Headland is in south-east Sydney and was declared a 70 hectare national park in 2010. It was transferred to NSW in 2012 after remediation of the site. The bill ensures Commonwealth oversight of the site.
27 Marine Engineers Qualifications Bill 2013
Andrew Wilkie’s bill to amend marine regulations to ensure Australian standards are followed despite the rundown of Australia’s merchant fleet.
28 Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2012
Greens bill to allow gay marriage. Likely to fail due to Liberal block of conscience vote. We may have to wait a few years yet for parliament to catch up with public opinion on this.
29 Migration Amendment (Reinstatement of Temporary Protection Visas) Bill 2013
The Coalition’s Scott Morrisons’ bill to restore two new temporary protection visa classes lasting three years. One is the offshore entry TPV for refugees entering at an “excised offshore place” (eg Christmas Island) but who meet Australian protection obligations, the other a “secondary movement” offshore visa which is the same as above except the person is a non-citizen who transited in a country other than Australia where the person could have sought protection.
30 Migration Amendment (Temporary Sponsored Visas) Bill 2013
Immigration Minister Brendan O’Connor’s variation on the TPV bill and one of the few bills gathering media attention due to the furore over 457 visas which are a subclass of TPVs. It require sponsors in the TPV program to do Australian labour marketing testing with Fair Work inspectors oversight before employing someone on these visas.
31 Military Court of Australia (Transitional Provisions and Consequential Amendments) Bill 2012
and 32 Military Court of Australia Bill 2012
Nicola Roxon’s bill (from her time as A-G) to establish the Military Court of Australia as part of the Federal Court to overcome the High Court challenge to the 2007 Military Court to deal with widespread military abuse. Interestingly, the court case Lane v Morrison that sank the previous court came out of a recruitment drive here in Roma in 2005. After a round of golf and drinks, Lane supposedly ”tea-bagged” an army sergeant but denied the charge before the military court. Lane successfully argued the court was unconstitutional.
33 Minerals Resource Rent Tax Amendment (Protecting Revenue) Bill 2013
Greens amendment to the ill-fated Minerals Resource Rent Tax Act 2012 to disregard increases in state royalties after 1 July 2011 when calculating royalty credits for the tax. Adam Bandt’s objective is to protect tax revenue from being eroded by increased State Government royalties.
34 National Electricity Bill 2012
Rob Oakeshott’s bill to make the national electricity law a Commonwealth law rather than state law. Oakeshott said the states electricity networks have seen the biggest increases in electricity prices and still have the biggest say in how the pricing rules are set.
“There’s a clear conflict of interest in states owning monopolies and regulating monopolies at the same time,” he said.
35 National Health Reform Amendment (Definitions) Bill 2013
Amend definitions in the 2011 National Health Reform Act to allow the new National Health Performance Authority report on the performance of hospitals and primary health care organisations.
36 Native Title Amendment Bill 2012
Nicola Roxon’s A-G bill to amend the Native Title Act 1993 to disregard some historical extinguishment of native title and broaden the scope for voluntary indigenous land use agreements.
37 Paid Parental Leave and Other Legislation Amendment (Consolidation) Bill 2011
Families Minister Jenny Macklin’s bill to clarify provisions related to ‘keeping in touch’ days. This means that they can come to work for up to 10 days during their parental leave, without it affecting their unpaid parental leave entitlements.
38 Pay As You Go Withholding Non-compliance Tax Bill 2011
Wayne Swan’s bill imposes a pay as you go (PAYG) withholding non-compliance tax on directors and some associates where their company has a PAYG withholding liability for an income year and the director or associate is entitled to a credit for amounts withheld by the company during the income year. These amendments reduce the scope for companies to engage in fraudulent phoenix activity or escape liabilities and payments of employee entitlements.
39 Primary Industries (Customs) Charges Amendment (Australian Grape and Wine Authority) Bill 2013
Joe Ludwig’s bill amends three acts to form the new Australian Grape and Wine Authority (see 17).
40 Primary Industries (Customs) Charges Amendment Bill 2013
Ludwig’s bill removes product specific maximum rates for R&D charges and marketing charges as changing them is difficult, slow and expensive. See also 42 and 48.
41 Primary Industries (Excise) Levies Amendment (Australian Grape and Wine Authority) Bill 2013
Another Ludwig bill changing three acts to form the new Australian Grape and Wine Authority (see 17 and 39).
42 Primary Industries (Excise) Levies Amendment Bill 2013
Another Ludwig bill to implement the government’s rural R&D policy, to remove product specific maximum levy rates for R&D levies and marketing levies. See 40 and 48.
43 Public Interest Disclosure (Whistleblower Protection) (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2012
Wilkie bill and companion to number 44 with consequential amendments to four acts.
44 Public Interest Disclosure (Whistleblower Protection) Bill 2012
Wilkie’s bill provides a comprehensive definition of public interest disclosure and provides protections to public officials to make such disclosures.
45 Reducing Supermarket Dominance Bill 2013
Katterbill to reduce market share to 20% by enforced divestiture over six years and establish a Commissioner for Food Retailing.
46 Renewable Fuel Bill 2013
Katterbill to regulate renewable fuel and mandate 5% ethanol by 2017 and 10% by 2020.
47 Reserve Bank Amendment (Australian Reconstruction and Development Board) Bill 2013
Katterbill to establish an Australian Reconstruction and Development Board to fix financial arrangements of stressed Australian agriculture businesses and associated industries.
48 Rural Research and Development Legislation Amendment Bill 2013
Ludwig’s third R&D bill affecting 8 acts. See 40 and 42.
49 Student Identifiers Bill 2013
Tertiary Education Minister Chris Bowen’s bill to introduce a national student id from 2014. Needed because there is no single repository of records for vocational education and training.
50 Superannuation Legislation Amendment (Reducing Illegal Early Release and Other Measures) Bill 2012
In conjunction with 21, Bill Shorten’s complex bill to ensure civil and criminal penalties for promoters illegal early release of superannuation benefits, part of his “stronger super” reforms.
51 Tax Laws Amendment (Disclosure of MRRT Information) Bill 2013
Joe Hockey’s bill to provide an exception to the prohibition imposed on taxation officers about the disclosure of information regarding the tax affairs of a taxpayer. Hockey wants to remove doubt tax officers can provide information about the MRRT when the Minister wants to make it publicly available. The intention is to reveal how much the mining tax has raised, without breaching tax privacy laws.
52 Tax Laws Amendment (Special Conditions for Not-for-profit Concessions) Bill 2012
Treasurer Swan’s bill to amend taxation legislation to restate the ‘in Australia’ special conditions for income tax exempt entities. The bill is raised after the High Court found charities are considered to be pursuing their objectives principally ‘in Australia’ if they merely operate to pass funds within Australia to another charity that conducts its activities overseas.
53 Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Consumer Protection) Bill 2013
Communications Minister Stephen Conroy’s bill amends the Do Not Call Register Act to clarify who is responsible for making telemarketing calls and faxes where third parties are involved, vary industry codes and tighten the ombudsman standards.
54 Veterans’ Entitlements Amendment (Claims for Travel Expenses) Bill 2010
Julia Gillard’s own bill to amend the Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986 to extend the time period for lodging a claim for non-treatment related travel expenses from 3 to 12 months and enable further extensions of time in exceptional circumstances.
55 Voice for Animals (Independent Office of Animal Welfare) Bill 2013
Greens bill to establish the Office of Animal Welfare as an independent statutory authority which was originally planned by Labor. Bandt said the Office would be a centre of excellence for animal welfare science and law and work to harmonise and improve animal welfare laws across the country. He also said it would give animals a voice in parliament, independent of the Agriculture Department and Ministry, to reduce animal cruelty.