Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition (New South Wales) Bill
|About this Item||Speakers||Amery Mr Richard
||Business||Bill, First Reading, Second Reading
TRANS-TASMAN MUTUAL RECOGNITION (NEW SOUTH WALES) BILL
Bill introduced and read a first time.
Mr AMERY (Mount Druitt - Minister for Agriculture) [10.33], on behalf of Mr Carr: I move:
The trans-Tasman mutual recognition arrangement was signed by the Commonwealth and all States and Territories on 14 June 1996. New Zealand signed it on 9 July 1996. The trans-Tasman mutual recognition bills implement the arrangement. The arrangement builds on the Australian mutual recognition agreement, which commenced operation in March 1993. The Mutual Recognition (New South Wales) Act was passed in 1992 by the New South Wales Parliament, with the support of all parties. The Australian scheme has successfully overcome many of the regulatory differences that exist between the States and Territories to create a more effective national market. The arrangement is designed to extend the Australian scheme to New Zealand.
The legislative scheme involves the States, the Territories, the Commonwealth and New Zealand. Each of these jurisdictions will enact legislation. The legislative scheme has two components: an Australian component and a New Zealand component. This bill is concerned with the Australian component of this larger legislative scheme. The Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition Bill 1996 of New Zealand is concerned with the New Zealand component. That bill was introduced into the Parliament of New Zealand on 18 July 1996. However, passage has been delayed by the New Zealand election. The Australian component is made up of two bills: the Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition (New South Wales) Bill - the State Bill - which refers power to the Commonwealth over the matters set out in the Commonwealth bill, and the Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition Bill - the Commonwealth Bill - which is attached as a schedule to the State bill, and is the bill the Commonwealth will enact to implement the arrangement.
The State bill makes a limited referral of matters to the Commonwealth to legislate under section 51 of the Constitution for the passage of the trans-Tasman mutual recognition legislation. The New South Wales bill will enable the Commonwealth to pass an Act in the terms, or substantially in the terms, of the Act set out in the schedule to the New South Wales bill. The mutual recognition scheme is to last initially for five years, after which time the Governor has the power to terminate the reference by proclamation. The Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition (New South Wales) Bill has been drafted to mirror the provisions of the existing Australian Mutual Recognition Act 1992 as closely as possible.
Similarly, in drafting the New Zealand bill every effort was made to reflect closely the Australian legislation, whilst also recognising New Zealand's different legislative conventions. This approach is intended to minimise the potential for disputes to arise from differences in the interpretation of the legislation. The bill is drafted to make sure that any amendments to the Commonwealth legislation will also be required to pass through the New South Wales Parliament. The Commonwealth must wait for one State to refer power to it before it can pass its own legislation. New South Wales, which drafted both the State and the Commonwealth bills, is the lead jurisdiction. So today is the first step in the process to give effect to the arrangement in Australia.
The idea behind mutual recognition is to overcome problems caused by regulations that deal with the same things in different jurisdictions, yet often differ only in the most pedantic of fashions. The concept of mutual recognition is a regulatory model based on the idea that regulations that govern goods and occupations in one participating jurisdiction and meet that community's expectations should be equally acceptable in any other participating jurisdiction. Mutual recognition takes into account that there will continue to be differences in the substance of the regulations and regulatory regime used by each jurisdiction. It is a very elegant mechanism for overcoming artificial barriers to a more integrated trans-Tasman economy.
However, it should be acknowledged that while mutual recognition may also draw the Government's attention to outdated and unnecessarily prescriptive regulations, it does not actually bring about the removal of those regulations. In terms of its economic benefits, mutual recognition should rightly be seen as a significant reform. It reduces compliance costs for manufacturers, and facilitates the movement of people who work in registered occupations from one State to another. From the consumer's point of view, it promotes competition and encourages greater diversity in the marketplace. These changes enhance not just the national, but the international, competitiveness of the New South Wales and Australian economy.
There is already a high level of integration between the Australian and New Zealand economies. This is both through our historical ties and, more recently, as a result of the closer economic relations trade agreement - CER. The trans-Tasman mutual recognition proposal can be seen as a natural extension of that already close economic relationship. It will effectively increase the coverage of the existing Australian agreement by about 20 per cent in population terms, and will provide a market of about 21 million people. With our already strong bilateral trade relationship, and the constant movement of people between our countries, trans-Tasman mutual recognition represents a logical further step in integrating the regulatory standards and the conditions of occupational registration. Beyond that, it is also likely to enhance global market prospects for Australian and New Zealand producers.
At the meeting of the Council of Australian Governments - COAG - in April 1995, heads of government gave in-principle approval to a trans-Tasman mutual recognition agreement. They also agreed to the release of a public discussion paper entitled "A Proposal for the Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition of Standards for Goods and Occupations". The discussion paper was sent to peak industry and professional groups throughout Australia and New Zealand. Approximately 60 submissions were received, the majority of which were supportive. Officials from the Commonwealth, New South Wales and Queensland governments also met with representatives of peak industry groups at consultations organised by the New South Wales Chamber of Commerce and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The comments made during the consultation process have been taken into account in deciding upon the lists of exemptions, exclusions, and cooperation programs.
After further negotiations, the arrangement was finalised for the June 1996 Council of Australian Governments. The legislation will apply to all participating jurisdictions. A participating Australian jurisdiction is one that refers power to enact the Commonwealth Act or requests enactment of it, or adopts the Commonwealth Act afterwards under paragraph 51 of the Commonwealth Constitution. Both the Australian and the trans-Tasman schemes operate in the same way - on the premise that goods acceptable for sale in one participating jurisdiction should be acceptable in any other. Similarly, services provided by a person registered to practise an occupation in one participating jurisdiction should be acceptable in any other. The way the mutual recognition principle works in relation to goods is set out in part 2 of the Commonwealth bill. Part 3 sets out the same in relation to occupations. As with the Australian scheme, the arrangement will not affect the operation of any laws which regulate the manner of sale of goods or the manner in which sellers are required to conduct their business, for example, registration of sellers, or persons to whom goods may be sold; the transportation, storage or handling of goods, if the laws are directed at protecting health, safety or preventing environmental pollution; or the inspection of goods, if the inspection is not a prerequisite to sale, and the laws are directed at protecting health, safety or preventing environmental pollution. Clause 12 of the Commonwealth bill deals with these points. Naturally, there are some areas where differences in regulatory standards have been identified and require special attention. The options for dealing with these areas of difference are harmonisation, temporary or permanent exemption.
One difference between the arrangement and the Australian mutual recognition scheme relates to the laws listed in the exclusions, permanent exemptions and special exemption schedules. A number of laws will be excluded from the operation of the arrangement that might otherwise unintentionally be affected by mutual recognition. These laws relate to customs controls and tariffs, intellectual property and trademarks, taxation and other specified international conventions. These laws are set out in schedule 1 to the Commonwealth bill. In addition, a number of laws will be permanently exempted from the arrangement where it has been agreed that it would not be desirable for mutual recognition to apply. These laws relate to quarantine and endangered species, firearms, fireworks, gaming machines, indecent or pornographic material, ozone protection, the registration of agricultural and veterinary chemicals, and high risk foods. With the exception of the last two items, this list is consistent with the exemptions under the Australian scheme.
These laws are set out in schedule 2 to the Commonwealth bill. The parties to the arrangement have also identified a number of areas of significant health, safety and environmental pollution regulations which will be subject to special exemption for a period of 12 months at a time, while closer consideration is given to dealing with significant regulatory differences. These areas are therapeutic goods, hazardous substances, industrial chemicals and dangerous goods, electromagnetic compatibility standards and radio communication standards, road vehicles, and gas appliances. Regulatory authorities in these areas will undertake cooperation programs to consider whether existing regulatory differences would be best addressed by either mutual recognition, harmonisation or permanent exemption. These laws are set out in schedule 3 to the Commonwealth bill. On the occupations side, it has been agreed that medical practitioners will be exempted from the arrangement.
Under an existing reciprocal agreement, New Zealand trained and registered doctors will still gain automatic registration in Australia and vice versa. However, no such advantage will be available to doctors trained in third countries but registered in New Zealand. These laws are set out in schedule 4 to the Commonwealth bill. A temporary exemption may be invoked by New South Wales to stop a good from entering New South Wales for a period of 12 months while the relevant ministerial council considers whether a harmonised standard should be developed. The procedure for temporary exemptions is set out in clause 46 of the Commonwealth bill.
There is also a procedure for extending a temporary exemption for up to 12 months. The purpose of any extension is to allow time to implement the decision of a ministerial council made during the initial 12-month period. I stress that it is intended that extensions will be granted only to allow time to implement a decision of a ministerial council, not to give the ministerial council more time beyond the initial 12 months to make the decision. This procedure is set out in clause 47 of the Commonwealth bill. Extending a temporary exemption requires the endorsement of at least two-thirds of participating jurisdictions. The Commonwealth bill will enable the Governor General to make regulations for the following purposes: to omit an Act or reduce the scope of an item listed in the schedule of exclusions or permanent exemptions at the request of a single jurisdiction - clauses 44 and 45; to grant a 12-month special exemption for the continuation of a cooperation program provided this has the support of two-thirds of the heads of government - clause 48; to add an item to the schedule of permanent exemptions provided this has the unanimous support of heads of government; and to add an item to the schedule of exemptions relating to occupations provided this has the unanimous support of heads of government - clause 49.
One further issue relates to the provisions dealing with the unauthorised disclosure of information. New Zealand was concerned about the handling of personal information about New Zealanders by Australian registration bodies. One of the issues is the lack of privacy legislation at the State level in Australia that complemented the New Zealand privacy legislation. To take account of New
Zealand's concerns, clause 39 refers to a set of privacy principles set out in schedule 5. Local registration authorities must have regard to these principles but they do not create separately enforceable rights or duties. The Government is confident that New South Wales will gain great benefits from participating in this legislative scheme. The unnecessary costs for producers in accommodating minor differences in regulatory requirements on either side of the Tasman will be removed. Australia's international competitiveness will rise as producers capitalise on economies of scale made possible by mutual recognition. This is a process that will occur over the medium to long term.
More efficient standards brought about by competition among jurisdictions should result in community standards being met at a lower overall cost. Wider consumer choice and a greater responsiveness to the needs and demands of consumers among producers and regulators should result. At the same time, as I said earlier, the mutual recognition scheme is designed to make sure that there is no compromise on standards in the important areas of health and safety and environmental protection. This legislative scheme is an historic initiative aimed at overcoming the regulatory impediments to creating a single trans-Tasman market in goods and services. I am pleased to acknowledge the substantial contribution made by New South Wales officials in developing the trans-Tasman mutual recognition scheme. The Government would also like to acknowledge the positive contribution made by all heads of government from different political parties in fostering and promoting this important development. It is a fine example of what can be achieved when all governments work together in the national interest. On behalf of the Premier, I commend the bill to the House.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr Kerr.
That this bill be now read a second time.