Referral of inquiry
On 18 June 2015, the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety
Amendment Bill 2015 (the bill) was introduced into the House of Representatives
by the Minister for Health, the Hon Sussan Ley MP.
On 25 June 2015, on the recommendation of the Selection of Bills Committee, the
Senate referred the provisions of the bill to the Senate Community Affairs
Legislation Committee (the committee) for inquiry and report by 17 August 2015.
The reason for the referral of the bill cited by the Selection of Bills
Committee was 'to ensure that the wider community of involved stakeholders has
the ability to put forward its views to fully inform Senators on the details of
The bill makes amendments to the Australian Radiation Protection and
Nuclear Safety Act 1998 (ARPNS Act) which provides a regime 'to protect the
health and safety of people, and the environment, from the harmful effects of
radiation'. The ARPNS Act establishes the Australian Radiation Protection and
Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) and the office of Chief Executive Officer (CEO).
One of ARPANSA's key roles includes regulating the use of radiation and the
safety of nuclear installations by, and for, Australian Government entities.
The introduction of the bill follows a review by the Australian National
Audit Office (ANAO) into the regulation of Commonwealth Radiation and Nuclear
The review concluded that 'ARPANSA has been generally effective in managing key
aspects of the regulatory framework applying to the possession and use of
radiation and nuclear sources and facilities by Australian Government entities'.
However, the ANAO also made several recommendations 'aimed at strengthening ARPANSA's
management of potential conflicts of interest and expanding the risk‐based approach to
On 19 March 2015, the South Australian Government established a Royal
Commission to undertake an investigation into South Australia's potential future
participation in the areas of activity that form part of the nuclear fuel cycle.
Former Governor of South Australia, Rear Admiral the Hon Kevin Scarce AC CSC
RAN (Rtd), was appointed to head the Royal Commission. The Nuclear Fuel Cycle
Royal Commission will report no later than 6 May 2016.
Overview of the bill
In her second reading speech, Minister Ley stated that since the
introduction of the ARPNS Act in 1998, there have been 'changes to
international approaches to radiation and nuclear safety, as well as a number
of reviews that have identified the desirability of minor changes to the regulatory
scheme'. She stated:
Drawing on the recommendations of the various reviews and the
experience of ARPANSA, this bill makes changes to the legislation to provide
greater clarity regarding the reach of the legislation, improve risk management
of radiation activities undertaken by Commonwealth entities and provide greater
capacity for ARPANSA to act in the event of an emergency or noncompliance with
Minister Ley described the amendments of the bill as reflecting 'sound
administrative practice' and highlighted proposed changes in four areas:
Firstly, the amendments provide ARPANSA with greater powers
to monitor compliance with the legislation and to take action in the event of
noncompliance. For example, the amendments enable the CEO of ARPANSA to require
a licence holder to produce information or documents, or to appear before the
CEO to answer questions. Inspectors are also being empowered to issue
improvement notices to require licence holders to address contraventions of the
legislation, or likely contraventions, within certain time frames....
Secondly, the amendments clarify the application of the
legislation to contractors and those in arrangements with the Commonwealth or
operating from facilities owned or controlled by Commonwealth entities. This
provides greater regulatory certainty and ensures there is no gap in regulatory
coverage between entities regulated by ARPANSA and those regulated by state and
Thirdly, the proposed amendments improve the licensing regime
and make it more efficient by:
- enabling ARPANSA to issue time limited licences in circumstances where
time limits may be more appropriate and ensures that unnecessary licences do
not exist into perpetuity—currently, no licences expire;
- providing for ARPANSA to regulate activities to maintain the integrity
and safety of contaminated legacy sites as under current arrangements, ARPANSA
does not have a clear legal basis to undertake this work; and
- clarifying that ARPANSA may issue single licences for multiple
activities to reduce regulatory burden and streamline arrangements.
Finally, the bill makes a number of minor technical and
administrative amendments, such as updates to definitions and removal of
outdated provisions to improve the operation of the legislation.
Similarly, the Explanatory Memorandum (EM) states that the proposed
amendments in the bill 'update and improve the operation of the ARPANS Act by':
- making some adjustments to the licensing regime to expressly enable
ARPANSA to regulate remediation activities involving contaminated legacy sites,
to clarify that ARPANSA may issue single licences for multiple facilities and/
or sources where this supports end-to end risk management and to enable ARPANSA
to issue time limited licences;
- clarifying the application of the legislation to contractors and others
working with Commonwealth entities;
- providing ARPANSA with greater capacity to respond to emergencies and to
adopt a graduated response to non-compliance by introducing a wider range of
monitoring and enforcement measures;
- updating the language used in technical definitions to better reflect
internationally accepted terms and concepts; and
- making minor, technical amendments to improve clarity, remove redundant
provisions and enhance administration of the regulatory regime.
Consideration of the bill by other committees
The bill was considered by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human
Rights (Human Rights committee) on 18 June 2015. The Human Rights committee
stated the bill did not 'require additional comment as it promotes human rights
or contains justifiable limitations on human rights (and may contain both
justifiable limitations on rights and promotion of human rights)'.
The bill was also considered by the Senate Standing Committee for the
Scrutiny of Bills (Scrutiny Committee) on 12 August 2015. The Scrutiny
Committee made no comment on the bill.
Conduct of inquiry
Details of the inquiry, including a links to the text of the bill and
associated documents, were placed on the committee's website. The committee
advertised the inquiry on its website and in The Australian newspaper. The
committee also wrote to a range of individuals and organisations likely to have
an interest in the bill, drawing their attention to the inquiry and inviting
them to make written submissions.
The committee received 5 submissions to the inquiry. These submissions
are listed at Appendix 1. The committee held a public hearing on 5 August 2015
at Parliament House in Canberra. Witnesses who gave evidence to the committee
are listed at Appendix 2. Public submissions, the public hearing
transcript and additional documents are available on the committee's website: www.aph.gov.au/senate_ca.
Structure of report
Chapter 2 summarises key provisions of the bill. Chapter 3 outlines key
issues raised during the inquiry and contains the committee's view and
The committee acknowledges the short period of time available for those
who made submissions and gave evidence at the public hearing. The committee
thanks all those who assisted with the inquiry.
Notes on references
References to the committee Hansard are to the Proof Hansard.
Page numbers may vary between the proof and official Hansard transcript.
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