Thursday, 10 February 2011
Reports: Government Responses
I present two government responses to committee reports. In accordance with the usual practice, I seek leave to have the documents incorporated in Hansard.
The documents read as follows—
Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Reference Committee
Inquiry Report: Management of the removal of the rebate for AQIS export certification functions
Inquiry into the management of the removal of the rebate for AQIS export certification functions
Report of the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Reference Committee
In line with the recommendations of the independent review of quarantine and biosecurity arrangements, One biosecurity: a working partnership (the Beale Review), the 40 percent government contribution towards AQIS (Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service) export certification functions lapsed as scheduled on 30 June 2009.
New export fees and charges commenced on 1 July 2009 to support a return to full cost recovery as recommended by the Beale Review and supported by Government. On 15 September 2009 the Senate passed a motion to disallow the new fees and charges.
The consequence of the Senate disallowance of the new fees and charges’ Orders was that these fees and charges were immediately substituted by the export fees and charges that were in effect as at 30 June 2009, which only recovered around 60 percent of the full cost of AQIS export certification services. The disallowance of the export fees and charges did not reinstate the 40 percent Government budget appropriation that was in place prior to 1 July 2009. The impact of this decision left the export certification programs underfunded by $46 million to the 30 June 2010, with a further forecast shortfall to occur of $60 million in 2010-11.
On 24 November 2009, the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, the Hon. Tony Burke MP, announced that, consistent with recommendation 2 of the Committee’s report, the Government had reached agreement with the Federal Opposition and Greens’ senators to an Export Certification Reform Package (ECRP) at a cost to budget of $127.4 million over a nineteen month period to 30 June 2011. The Package also included the implementation of a new set of export fees and charges that returned industry to full cost recovery in December 2009.
Specifically the ECRP provided:
- $85.3 million for fee rebates to assist exporters to transition to the new fees and charges. This funding provides a 40 percent offset of the full cost impact on export industries from 1 December 2009 to 30 June 2011. It also addressed the revenue shortfall that accrued to 30 November 2009 as a consequence of the Senate’s disallowance of AQIS export fees and charges on 15 September 2009.
- $16.1 million for reform of the regulatory and export supply chain.
- $26 million for meat inspection reform.
On 25 November 2009 the Senate agreed to rescind its resolution of 15 September 2009 disallowing the export fees and charges, which has allowed the reform program for export certification to proceed. New export fees and charges returning industry to full cost recovery commenced 1 December 2009. New export fees Orders commenced 1 December 2009 with the revised export charges Regulations commencing on 18 December 2009.
Recommendation 1 - The committee recommends that the Senate move to disallow the Export Control (Fees) Amendment Orders 2009 (No. 1).
The Government did not agree with this recommendation. The Senate on 15 September 2009 passed a motion to disallow the new export fees and charges. The consequence of this decision was a 40 percent underfunded AQIS export certification program with no opportunity to reform export certification services.
Recommendation 2 - The committee recommends that the government continues the current regulatory reform process, and commits sufficient public funds to it, until such time as all reform initiatives identified by each of the ministerial task forces have been successfully implemented.
The Government agrees in principle with this recommendation. The government has always supported the need for reform of export regulatory and certification services provided by the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service. It therefore committed to funding a substantial reform agenda as outlined in the ECRP, worth $127.4 million to 30 June 2011. The ECRP will provide regulatory and supply chain reform as well as transition funding for the meat, live animal, horticulture, grain, fish and dairy export industries. It also includes a new set of export fees and charges to return industry to full cost recovery.
The rescission in November 2009 by the Senate of its earlier disallowance of export fees and charges has enabled the ECRP to proceed. Joint Industry – AQIS Ministerial Taskforces (MTF) established for each export sector (dairy, fish, grain, horticulture, live animals and meat) are currently at varying stages of implementing specific measures in support of the ECRP. Export industries are highly committed and enthusiastic participants in this regulatory and industry partnership through the Ministerial Task Forces to deliver a once in a generational reform to export certification services in Australia.
Government Response to Recommendations in Chapter 2 of Report 99 by the Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Treaties.
In Report 99 the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT) made two recommendations relating to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (Optional Protocol).
- Committee recommends that the Australian Government makes available via the Attorney-General’s Department website and/or other fora as to:
- when all domestic avenues of complaint under Australia’s anti-discrimination regime would be considered to be exhausted; and
- the process a complainant would need to undertake in order to lodge a complaint with the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
- The Committee supports the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and recommends that binding treaty action be taken.
The Government notes the concern raised before the Committee suggesting that there is a lack of clarity about when all domestic remedies are exhausted, and therefore when a communication can appropriately be made to the United Nations (UN) Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities under the Optional Protocol1 Generally, to exhaust domestic remedies an applicant must make use of all judicial and administrative avenues that offer a reasonable prospect of redress for their complaint. Under article 2(d) of the Optional Protocol, an applicant is not required to exhaust all domestic remedies where the remaining remedies are unreasonably prolonged or unlikely to provide effective relief.
A cardinal principle governing the admissibility of a complaint is that you must, in general, have exhausted all remedies in your own State before bringing a claim to a committee. This usually includes pursuing your claim through the local court system, and you should be aware that mere doubts about the effectiveness of such action do not, in the committees' view, dispense with this requirement. There are, however, limited exceptions to this rule. If the exhaustion of remedies would be unreasonably prolonged, or if they would plainly be ineffective (if, for example, the law in your State is quite clear on the point at issue) or if the remedies are otherwise unavailable to you (owing, for example, to denial of legal aid in a criminal case), you may not be required to exhaust domestic remedies. You should, however, give detailed reasons why the general rule should not apply. On the issue of exhaustion of domestic remedies, you should describe in your original complaint the efforts you have made to exhaust local remedies, specifying the claims advanced before the national authorities and the dates and outcome of the proceedings, or alternatively stating why any exception should apply.2
In relation to communications under the Optional Protocol, the United Nations (UN) Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities will decide whether it considers that domestic remedies have been exhausted in each case by taking into account the particular national legal system and the circumstances of the case before it. In consequence, it is not possible for the Government to provide specific advice about when all domestic avenues of complaint would be considered to be exhausted, as compliance with this requirement will differ - based on the circumstances of each case and the rights the individual is claiming have been breached.
As noted, the OHCHR website provides some guidance to individuals about the procedure for complaints under the human rights treaties. The Government has now made a link on the human rights communications page of the Attorney-General’s Department website3 to the relevant page of the OHCHR website3 to assist individuals in understanding the complaints process. The OHCHR website has not yet been updated to include specific information on the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. However, the information provided on the website on admissibility requirements and contact details for lodging a complaint is generally applicable to all the human rights individual complaints mechanisms that Australia has accepted. This includes the complaints mechanism established by the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
In addition, details of admissibility requirements are provided in each treaty that establishes an individual complaints mechanism and the Rules of Procedure of each Committee established to monitor each treaty. A link to the website of each treaty body has also been added on the Attorney-General’s Department website.
Complaints under the Optional Protocol are initiated, as with other individual complaints under other human rights treaties, by contacting the OHCHR using one of the following means:
Mail: Petitions Team Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights United Nations Office at Geneva 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
Fax: + 41 22 9179022 (particularly for urgent matters)
The OHCHR website provides some guidance on what information and documentation an applicant should include when initiating a communication.
The above contact information has also been included on the human rights communications page of the Attorney-General’s Department website along with a link to the guidance page5 on the OHCHR website.
Australia acceded to the Optional Protocol on 21 August 2009. It came into force for Australia on 20 September 2009.
1Joint Standing Committee on Treaties, Report 99 at 2.35.