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Historic Biosecurity Bill for the coming decades

The numbers of people, animals, goods and vessels which travel across Australia’s borders are higher than ever.

With that in mind, Members of the House have debated the historic Biosecurity Bill 2014, which is set to modernise the now 107-year-old Quarantine Act 1908.

The Bill plans to simplify and streamline Australia’s biosecurity laws, whilst still ensuring the high standard of protection of Australia’s human, environmental and animal health.

The Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce MP (New England, NSW), said that in the past decade, the volume of air passengers that enter Australia has grown by 80 per cent, sea containers by 82 per cent and bulk cargo by 16 per cent.

“So we need legislation that not only safeguards our primary industries, our environment and our people from the increased threat of pest and disease, but also allows us to manage these movements in the most efficient way.

“This legislation is designed to support the biosecurity system in any age. During the development of the bill, we have worked with industry, stakeholders and state and territory governments to seek feedback and to ensure the legislation we put in place is robust and effective.

“Australia is free of many pests and diseases that are common around the world. This allows our famers to produce higher quality products and increases the demand for those products,” the Minister said.

Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Joel Fitzgibbon MP (Hunter, NSW) also supported the Bill and said that there is no doubt in his mind that over the course of the next 20 years our economy will transform substantially.

“We will be thinking more about what I like to describe as the dining boom. But the dining boom will not just come to us; we will need to go to it….For us it will not be about volume; it will be about quality and profits.

“With our limited natural resources, we cannot possibly triple or increase our food output fourfold or even greater. But what we can do is ensure that our limited natural resources are dedicated to the areas where we will secure the highest return and the highest quality jobs for Australians. Our advantage will only continue to exist if we maintain our clean, green, safe image,” the Shadow Minister said.

The Biosecurity Bill 2014 has passed the House of Representatives.

Children adopted from overseas will no longer wait for Australian citizenship

Australians that plan to adopt children from overseas will now have an easier time bringing their babies home from non-Hague Convention countries with the new Australian Citizenship Amendment (Intercountry Adoption) Act 2015.

The Hague Convention sets uniform standards in relation to intercountry adoption. It establishes safeguards to ensure adoption is in the best interest of the child and prevents abduction and trafficking.

Australia has intercountry adoption programs with 12 Hague Convention countries. Australia also has bilateral arrangements with Taiwan and South Korea, countries that are not party to the Convention.

Previously, children adopted from countries that are not party to the Hague Convention were required to have a passport from their home country and an adoption visa to travel to Australia.

Teresa Gambaro MP (Brisbane, Qld) said this requirement added a further level of complexity to the already complicated adoption process and has prevented Australians from adopting children from South Korea and Taiwan.

Speaking to the House of Representatives about the amendments Ms Gambaro said “children will be able to be granted citizenship as soon as the adoption is finalised. They will then be able to travel to Australia on Australian passports with their new families as Australian citizens.”

The Australian Citizenship Amendment (Intercountry Adoption) Act 2015 will place children adopted under bilateral arrangements in the same position as children adopted under Hague Convention arrangements.

Although Taiwan and South Korea are not party to the Hague Convention, the intercountry adoption programs of both countries are still required to be ethical and meet the standards and principles set out by the Convention.

“Where a non-convention country meets these standards, there is no reason why adoptions should not be recognised in the same way as adoptions in convention countries.

“The [new law] enhances the wellbeing of adopted children by creating a more streamlined and cost-effective process which allows them to commence their lives in Australia more quickly,” Ms Gambaro said.

The Australian Citizenship Amendment (Intercountry Adoption) Act 2015 came into effect on 25 February 2015.

New beginnings for pacific parliament

Fiji’s parliamentarians are learning on the job

It’s not often a new parliament is born. But for the nation of Fiji the establishment of a new unicameral parliamentary system marks a new chapter for the pacific island.

The one chamber parliament comprises of 50 members and more than 90 per cent of them are new to the job. Recently appointed Speaker of the Parliament, Dr Jiko F Luveni is also new to her job.

Speaker Luveni led a delegation to Canberra in March, the first visit by Fijian parliamentarians in over a decade.

Welcoming the opportunity to speak with more seasoned parliamentarians, Speaker Luveni said the visit was a valuable one.

“We’ve come with an open mind. We needed this exposure to talk with other parliamentarians on how they play their role as parliamentarians, and how they deal with the procedures of the House,

“The good thing with Fiji is I’m new, the parliamentarians are new as well so we are all learning at the same time.

“The visit has really given us the opportunity to talk with experienced parliamentarians and how they handle some of these issues that are unclear to us,” she said.

Delegates observed Question Time and met with several Australian MPs and Senators. Speaker Luveni also had the opportunity to talk about her new role with Speaker of the Australian House of Representatives Bronwyn Bishop MP.

“She [Speaker Bishop] is such an experienced parliamentarian having served for 27 years…she’s got the standing orders, rules and procedures at her fingertips and is very confident in how she would control the parliamentarians. I would like to have that kind of control in the near future,” Speaker Luveni said.

Interview with the Hon Jiko Luveni, Speaker of the Parliament of Fiji

There go the bells

Have you ever wondered how Members know when they need to be the chamber?

All over Parliament House there are special clocks. On each clock green lights flash to indicate a call for Members of the House of Representatives and red lights are used to call Senators. The lights flash when the bells are ringing – it’s pretty noisy when they both ring at once!

It’s the job of the Clerk of the House (who sits just below the Speaker) to ring the bells using a special button built into the desk. At the same time one of the sandglasses on the Clerk’s desk is flipped over to count down to when the bells stop.

The bells ring five minutes prior to the time fixed for the meeting of the House. Bells are also used before any division or ballot is taken. For most divisions a four minute sandglass is used. This timeframe was introduced in 1988 when Parliament moved up the hill to ‘new’ – and much larger- Parliament House. It was recognised Members needed a bit longer to make it to the Chamber on time since they now had to navigate a 240 000 square metre Parliament House spread over four levels!