Bills Digest 148 1996-97 Primary Industries and Energy Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1997


Numerical Index | Alphabetical Index

WARNING:
This Digest was prepared for debate. It reflects the legislation as introduced and does not canvass subsequent amendments. This Digest does not have any official legal status. Other sources should be consulted to determine the subsequent official status of the Bill.

CONTENTS

Passage History

Primary Industries and Energy Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1997

Date Introduced: 26 March 1997
House: House of Representatives
Portfolio: Primary Industries and Energy
Commencement: As specified in the 'Main Provisions' section of this Digest

Purpose

This is an omnibus Bill which amends legislation within the Primary Industries and Energy portfolio. The major amendments proposed by the Bill:

  • provide a mechanism by which drought relief payment paid to a person who was not entitled to receive it, or where a person has received an overpayment, is recoverable;
  • provides an additional exception from the provisions of the Imported Food Control Act 1992, that is, food imported from New Zealand which is specified by the regulations as food to which the Act does not apply; and
  • extend the proclamation making power of the Governor-General under the Quarantine Act 1908.

Background

As there is no central theme to the Bill a brief background to each major amendment proposed by the Bill is outlined in the 'Main Provisions' section of this Digest.

Main Provisions

Amendments to the Australian Horticultural Corporation Act 1987

Section 13 of the Australian Horticultural Corporation Act 1987 provides that membership of the Australian Horticultural Corporation (the AHC) consists of the Chairperson, government member, Managing Director, and six other members. Item 1 of Schedule 1 of the Bill reduces the number of 'other members' on the AHC from six to four. The rationale given by the Government in the Second Reading Speech to the Bill for this reduction is that:

The AHC has requested that the number of "other members" be reduced to four and the horticultural industries participating in the AHC by way of statutory levy have supported the AHC's request.

Item 2 of Schedule 1, which is consequential to the amendment proposed by item 1, reduces the number of members required to constitute a quorum at AHC meetings from five to four.

The amendments to the Australian Horticultural Corporation Act 1987 commence on 1 August 1997 (clause 2).

Amendments to the Farm Household Support Act 1992 and Social Security Act 1991

Under section 56 of the Farm Household Support Act 1992 amounts of farm household support or drought relief payment paid to a person who was not entitled to receive such a benefit, or where there has been an overpayment of a benefit, are recoverable as a debt due to the Commonwealth. The Act however does not specify how such amounts may be recovered.

The amendments proposed by Schedules 3 and 9 of the Bill provide a mechanism by which drought relief payment paid to a person who was not entitled to receive it, or where a person has received an overpayment, is recoverable. Item 1 of Schedule 9 of the Bill inserts a new section 1227A in the Social Security Act 1991. The proposed section provides that a section 56 Farm Household Support Act 1992 debt is a debt recoverable under the Social Security Act 1991. The debt may be recovered by means of:

  • deductions from the debtor's drought relief payment;
  • deductions from the debtor's social security payment;
  • deductions from another person's social security payment, where they consent;
  • legal proceedings; or
  • garnishee notice.

A new section 1231A is inserted in the Social Security Act 1991 by item 6 of Schedule 9 of the Bill which specifies the method by which a section 56 Farm Household Support Act 1992 debt is to be deducted from a person's drought relief payment. Basically the method provides for repayment by instalments. The Secretary of the Department of Social Security determines the amount of each instalment. A claim for recovery of a debt must be started by the Department of Primary Industries and Energy within six years of the debt arising.

The amendments to the Farm Household Support Act 1992 and the Social Security Act 1991 commence on 1 October 1997 (clause 2).

Amendment to the Imported Food Control Act 1992

The Commonwealth has the direct capacity to control exports and imports of food, and the Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act 1905, the Imported Food Control Act 1992, and the Export Control Act 1982 all contain provisions for prohibiting the import or export of food which fail to meet applicable standards, contain possibly misleading or false trade descriptions, or fail to show the country of origin of the goods. The legislation applies to a wide variety of goods, in some cases applying to classes of specific goods by virtue of regulations made under these acts.

Section 7 of the Imported Food Control Act 1992 provides that the Act applies to all food imported into Australia other than:

  • prohibited food;
  • food imported for private consumption; or
  • food in ship's or aircraft's stores.

Item 1 of Schedule 4 of the Bill provides an additional exception from the provisions of the Imported Food Control Act 1992, that is, food imported from New Zealand which is specified by the regulations as food to which the Act does not apply. The rationale given by the government in the Second Reading Speech for the amendment is that it:

[W]ill enable Australia to legally meet obligations under the Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition Agreement (TTMRA) where food safety and food standards are considered equivalent.

The amendment to the Imported Food Control Act 1992 commences on a day to be fixed by Proclamation. However, if it has not been proclaimed to commence within six months after the date of Royal Assent, it commences on the first day after that period (clause 2).

Amendments to the Quarantine Act 1908

The term "goods" is defined by the Quarantine Act 1908 to include animals and plants and any other kind of movable property. The effect of the amendment proposed by item 2 of Schedule 7 is to extend the definition, and hence the scope of the Act, to include mail of any kind.

Section 13 of the Quarantine Act 1908 provides the Governor-General with power (in practice, the Minister) to make certain proclamation. Such proclamations are not subject to disallowance by the Parliament. Paragraph 13(1)(e) currently provides that the Governor-General may by proclamation prohibit the importation into Australia, or the Cocos Islands, of any articles likely, in his/her opinion, to introduce any infectious or contagious disease, or disease or pest affecting persons, animals or plants. The effect of the amendment proposed by item 3 of Schedule 7 is to extend the Governor-General's proclamation making power under paragraph 13(1)(e) to prohibiting the importation of any articles likely to introduce, "establish or spread" any infectious or contagious disease, or disease or pest affecting persons, animals or plants.

A new subsection 13(2A) is substituted in the Quarantine Act 1908 by item 4 of Schedule 7 of the Bill. Currently subsection 13(2A) provides that a proclamation of the Governor-General under subsection 13(1) prohibiting the introduction of anything may provide that importation is prohibited without a permit. The effect of the amendment is to include 'removal of the thing' in the matters that may be prohibited without a permit.

Permits issued pursuant to a proclamation may be subject to conditions either before or after importation of the thing under subsection 13(2A). The effect of the amendment proposed by item 6 of Schedule 7 is to provide that permits issued pursuant to a proclamation may be subject to conditions either before or after 'removal' of the thing under proposed subsection 13(2A).

Where a permit has been issued under a section 13 proclamation item 7 of Schedule 7 of the Bill provides the Director of Quarantine with power to revoke the permit where he/she is satisfied:

  • the risk of the introduction, establishment or spread of diseases or pests attaching to the importation or removal of the thing or class of things has changed; or
  • the person to whom the permit was granted has breached a condition of the permit.

A new section 63A, dealing with the maintenance of animals in quarantine, is inserted in the Quarantine Act 1908 by item 11 of Schedule 7 of the Bill. Proposed section 63A provides that the owner of an animal held, or to be held, in quarantine may enter into an agreement with the Commonwealth to provide food for the animal.

The amendments proposed by items 9 and 12 of Schedule 7 of the Bill deal with the topical subject of the control of ship-born diseases. Basically, the amendments consolidate existing provisions, increase penalties and provide quarantine officers with more flexible order making powers. Under proposed section 78A, where a quarantine officer believes a vessel or installation is likely to be in an insanitary condition, or is likely to be carrying diseases or pests, he/she may require a specified process to be carried out on the vessel or installation. The process that may be specified include cleansing, disinfection, fumigation, or production of a sample of, or exchange or other treatment of, ballast water. It is an offence, punishable by a maximum fine of 500 penalty units ($50 000) for an individual ($250 000 for a corporation) to fail to comply with a quarantine officers order under this proposed section.

Note: The Government has recently announced a number of initiatives relating to ballast water management. As part of the Government's 'Oceans Policy', the Minister for Resources and Energy, Senator Parer, announced that the Government would provide $1 million for research in 1997-98 through the Strategic Ballast Water Research Program and that the shipping industry has agreed to the introduction of a levy on shipping over two years to raise a further $2 million to continue research to the year 2000 (Minister for Resources and Energy, Media Release, 3 March 1997).

A new section 86F is inserted in the Quarantine Act 1908 by item 14 of Schedule 7 of the Bill which provides for the Commonwealth to pay compensation where the operation of the Act results in an acquisition of property.

The amendments to the Quarantine Act 1908 commence on a day to be fixed by Proclamation. However, if they have not been proclaimed to commence within six months after the date of Royal Assent, it commences on the first day after that period (clause 2).

Contact Officer and Copyright Details

Ian Ireland
12 June 1997
Bills Digest Service
Information and Research Services

This Digest does not have any official legal status. Other sources should be consulted to determine whether the Bill has been enacted and, if so, whether the subsequent Act reflects further amendments.

IRS staff are available to discuss the paper's contents with Senators and Members and their staff but not with members of the public.

ISSN 1328-8091
© Commonwealth of Australia 1997

Except to the extent of the uses permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without the prior written consent of the Parliamentary Library, other than by Members of the Australian Parliament in the course of their official duties.

Published by the Department of the Parliamentary Library, 1997.

This page was prepared by the Parliamentary Library, Commonwealth of Australia
Last updated: 12 June 1997


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