There will be some important pieces of legislation being debated in the Parliament this week, although the focus on the Labor Party’s reshuffling means you probably won’t hear much about it unless you really go looking for details. Some of the main ones include:
Medibank Private Sale Bill: It’s self-evident what this one is about. You can read this old post of mine for more details.
Major amendments to our federal environment laws: The 400+ pages of amendments to the Environment Protection & Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act will be dealt with this week. The EPBC Act is the strongest environment law Australia has ever had, and it is disappointing that it will be weakened by some of these amendments – although it does contain some positive measures too. The main problem – apart from the almost obligatory extreme haste – is not so much that it will weaken the Minister’s powers, but that it will weaken the ability of others to require the Minister to use them properly.
Commonwealth Radioactive Waste Management Legislation Amendment Bill: This Bill will make it easier for the federal government to establish a waste facility on Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory. There are differences of opinion amongst the two largest Aboriginal Land Councils in the Territory about the desirability of a waste facility, but one of them is clearly willing to consider the possibility. Those of us who oppose the establishment of such a site on principle are free to continue to do so, but I also think the principle of self-determination means we have to accept that Indigenous groups will sometimes decide to do things we might not personally support.
Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Bill: again the name is fairly self-explanatory. The purported aim of the Bill isn’t something anyone would oppose, but the workability of some of the provisions has certainly come into question. The Senate Committee report into the Bill recommended 13 changes.
Tax Laws Amendment (2006 Measures No. 4) Bill: A range of different tax changes in this one. You can read the Senate Committee report here. The most controversial aspect is favourable changes to the capital gains tax treatment for foreign residents – something I wouldn’t automatically rule out, but which it would be nice to see some clear justification for. This Bill also contains a provision which has the affect of further extending financial discrimination against people in same sex relationships – see the Democrats’ minority report for more details.
Royal Commissions Amendment (Records) Bill: Legislation flowing out of the Cole Royal Commission to enable follow through on some of the legal investigations.
Defence Legislation Amendment Bill: More changes relating to the military justice system, which flowed out of a major Senate Committee report last year. The legislation as originally presented was seriously flawed, as the Senate Committee Inquiry into it showed. However, the government has since tabled a lot of amendments. I’ve yet to look at them properly, but I expect they will make substantial improvements.
Cloning and embryonic stem cell research legislation: debate started on this in the House of Representatives last Thursday and will come to a vote some time this week. People seem to be assuming it will get majority support, although they assumed that in the Senate and were nearly proven wrong. There is also the possibility that the House of Reps may amend it in some way, which would mean it returning to the Senate to consider the amendments. I got so sick of people suggesting that no amendments should be considered because I might reverse my position if it did come back to the Senate that I wrote to all the House of Reps members urging them to deal with any amendments on their merits rather than having their judgement affected by second guessing what the Senate might do on the basis of disinformation campaigns.
Some significant Committee reports will be tabled this week too, including one examining the proposed Treaties to allow Australian uranium to be exported to China, and the report of the Inquiry into the Indigenous Stolen Wages issue. The Stolen Wages inquiry had a brief final hearing last week, which uncovered a bit more detail about possible grounds for further inquiry into past practices in Victoria.