Territories Legislation Amendment Bill 2020 – Second Reading

Mr CLARE (Blaxland) (19:09): Labor will be supporting the Territories Legislation Amendment Bill 2020. I note the presence of the minister in the chamber, and I’d like to thank her and her office for their engagement and consultation on this legislation, as well as for all the important work that the government and this parliament do in relation to external territories.

This legislation we’re dealing with here comes in two parts, two bills that we’re dealing with and debating cognately. The first is the Territories Legislation Amendment Bill, which amends acts relating to bankruptcy, company registration, copyright, broadcasting and protections for overseas students. The second, a separate bill, is the Bankruptcy (Estate Charges) Amendment (Norfolk Island) Bill, which extends the application of the Bankruptcy (Estate Charges) Act 1997 to Norfolk Island. This bill will ensure that insolvencies administered on Norfolk Island are treated consistently with, and attract the same estate charges as, all other insolvencies administered under the Commonwealth Bankruptcy Act. Together the two bills will aim to ensure that the communities of the external territories have access to the same Commonwealth support as the rest of Australia and are treated consistently when it comes to the implementation of Australian law.

The amendments to the Norfolk Island Act, the Christmas Island Act and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands Act address the risk of delegation instruments becoming outdated when applied laws in force in the territories are amended or new laws are made by the relevant state or territory government. The Assistant Minister for Regional Development and Territories is vested with all of the powers, functions and duties applied under state laws. This includes the powers and functions of a local government under the state-based local government acts. The minister has in turn delegated a number of these local government powers and functions to each local government area and its officials through delegation instruments. These amendments will enhance the effectiveness of these delegation arrangements with respect to the functions of local government bodies and others who exercise powers under applied laws in the external territories.

The residents of Norfolk Island, Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands have shown their resilience during the pandemic. The challenges that come from living in remote and isolated external territories are extraordinary. This parliament has a duty to ensure that we do what we can to improve access to Commonwealth support and ensure that there’s a consistency in the implementation of Australian law to these islands, and these bills are an important step towards ensuring that this happens. I’ve consulted with the Law Council of Australia and they’ve indicated their support for this legislation. However, they have noted that it’s very important—in fact, essential—that proper consultation occur with the courts, and with the legal profession more broadly, in the implementation of this legislation. Likewise, Labor wants to ensure that these changes are implemented properly and that proper consultation occurs. For that reason, I move the following second reading amendment:

That all words after “That” be omitted with a view to substituting the following words:

“whilst not declining to give the bill a second reading, the House urges the Government to conduct proper consultation on the implementation of the bill with community stakeholders and members of the legal profession, including the Law Association of Norfolk Island and the Law Council of Australia”.

I think this is a fairly straightforward second reading amendment. It doesn’t criticise the government; it simply says that the government should do what it should do with all legislation, and that is make sure that it’s properly implemented. As I emphasised in my introductory comments, we support the legislation and hope the second reading amendment has the support of the government.