Mr FLETCHER (Bradfield—Minister for Major
Projects,Territories and Local Government) (09:02): I move:
That this bill be now read a second time. Today I introduce into parliament two bills
that will continue the Australian government’s commitment to reforms for Norfolk Island.
Despite being an Australian territory, Norfolk Island has been excluded from many of the
national reforms and developments that this parliament has enacted since Norfolk Island’s
self-government in 1979. This situation has contributed to the Norfolk
Island community being left behind in the standard of government services being delivered,
and excluded from the frameworks around which our economic prosperity has been based.
Last year, the government announced a broad reform agenda to rectify this situation, and
the parliament passed reforms that would extend federal taxation, social security and Medicare
to Norfolk Island from 1 July 2016. Both sides of parliament recognised the urgency and importance
of these measures and they were passed with bipartisan support.
I was pleased to have the opportunity to visit Norfolk Island in January this year and meet
with a wide range of island residents. This visit reinforced my views about the importance
of the reform process. The bills I am introducing today continue
this reform agenda by extending a broad range of Commonwealth laws to Norfolk Island.
The Territories Legislation Amendment Bill amends the definition of Australia to include
Norfolk Island, as it currently includes the external territories of Christmas Island and
the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. This amendment will have the effect of making the default
position for all Commonwealth legislation be that it applies to Norfolk Island as it
does to other parts of Australia. The bill extends legislation that is vital
to growing the Norfolk Island economy, including the Fair Work Act and other employment laws. It amends the Commonwealth Electoral Act to
ensure the Norfolk Island community is properly represented in this parliament.
It also makes a range of other changes to ensure certain Commonwealth laws apply to
Australia’s external territories as they do on the mainland.
Extension of Commonwealth laws The bill continues the reform process for
Norfolk Island by ensuring most Commonwealth laws extend to Norfolk Island.
It amends section 18 of the Norfolk Island Act, as well as including Norfolk Island in
the definitions of ‘Australia’ and ‘the Commonwealth’ in the Acts Interpretation Act.
For the first time, the default position will be that laws passed by this parliament apply
to Norfolk Island unless expressly stated not to apply.
In considering this change the Australian government has examined each piece of Commonwealth
legislation. Where it was determined that a piece of Commonwealth
legislation required further consideration or consultation with the community before
being extended to Norfolk Island, it has been excluded.
For example, the telecommunications legislation and the corporations legislation have not
been extended to Norfolk Island in this bill, as they will require complex transitional
arrangements. They will be considered in a future reform bill.
Planned extension of the Fair Work Act The bill extends the Fair Work Act and other
federal employment legislation to Norfolk Island.
Currently, workplace relations on Norfolk Island are regulated under Norfolk Island
employment laws. These laws differ considerably from those that apply in the rest of Australia.
For example, the minimum wage on Norfolk Island is $10.70 per hour, compared with the current
national minimum wage of $17.29 per hour. There are protections under the Fair Work
Act, including national minimum employment standards and modern award wages and conditions,
which do not currently cover employees on Norfolk Island.
I understand many in the community acknowledged the need to improve conditions and protections
for workers. I also know many businesses wanted to see
a phased approach to these changes, to give business a reasonable chance to adjust and
to avoid a negative impact on employment. The Department of Employment and the Fair
Work Ombudsman visited Norfolk Island and consulted with businesses and stakeholders
in August 2015. To address the concerns of the business community,
the bill will insert rule-making powers in the Fair Work Act and other legislation which
will allow the Minister for Employment to make transitional arrangements.
The Minister for Employment has advised me that she will use this power to facilitate
a phased extension of specific provisions of the Fair Work Act. This will ensure employment
protections are in place for workers and employers are given appropriate time to adjust to the
changes. We will continue to consult with the Norfolk
Island community to ensure the extension of these laws is as smooth as possible.
Electoral arrangements Federal electoral arrangements applying to
Australian citizens on Norfolk Island are unique.
Australian citizens residing on Norfolk Island are able, but not compelled, to enrol to vote
in federal elections. Residents who do choose to enrol may self-identify
as a ‘person of a state’ where they have an existing connection to determine which electorate
they will vote in. If they do not choose an electorate, they are enrolled in the default
electorates of either Canberra in the ACT or Solomon in the Northern Territory.
The effect of these unique arrangements is that many Norfolk Islanders do not participate
in electing federal representatives. In a community of 1,800, the Australian Electoral
Commission advises that only 232 people were enrolled to vote federally in the last election.
Those that are enrolled have their representation scattered between members and senators in
all states and mainland territories except for South Australia.
There is no single member of parliament who is formally tasked with representing and advocating
for the community of Norfolk Island. The single electorate with the largest number
of Norfolk Islanders enrolled is Canberra and I acknowledge the work of successive members
for Canberra and ACT senators who have informally represented the Norfolk Island community.
This bill provides dedicated representation for the Norfolk Islander community in the
parliament by including voters in a single federal electorate—the division of Canberra.
Voting will be compulsory as it is on the mainland and Norfolk Islanders will have Senate
representation through the senators for the ACT. Other changes
Finally, the bill makes a range of other changes to Commonwealth legislation to ensure it applies
equally to Australia’s external territories. The bill repeals a provision in the Norfolk
Island Legislation Amendment Act 2015 which inadvertently restricted access to social
security payments for New Zealand citizens living on Norfolk Island.
This anomaly was discovered by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights and I thank
the committee for drawing this matter to the government’s attention.
The amendment in the bill will make sure New Zealanders on Norfolk Island receive the same
level of access to social security payments as New Zealanders living on the mainland.
This is a positive outcome and demonstrates the commitment of the Australian government
to ensure New Zealand residents who are an integral part of the Norfolk Island community
are able to access government services and payments where they are eligible.
The bill will extend child support arrangements to the Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling)
Islands, correcting another anomaly. This will align those territories with the arrangements
that apply on the mainland and which will commence on Norfolk Island on 1 July 2016.
The bill makes a minor change to the definition of ‘Norfolk Island Regional Council’ to remove
the requirement that the council be a ‘body corporate’.
This change will provide flexibility in the reform of Norfolk Island’s governance arrangements,
and ensure that the regional council can be properly constituted under the New South Wales
local government framework. Conclusion
In combination, these reforms will continue the government’s commitment to improve services
on Norfolk Island and provide a strong foundation for economic growth.
I would like to thank the people of Norfolk Island for their active engagement with the
reform process and their spirited commitment to placing Norfolk Island on a more sustainable
and robust footing. I will continue to work with my ministerial
colleagues to ensure that Norfolk Island does not continue to be disadvantaged through its
exclusion from Commonwealth laws, and that Australian citizens on Norfolk Island have
the same rights and responsibilities as those on the mainland.
Debate adjourned. Mr FLETCHER (Bradfield—Minister for Major
Projects,Territories and Local Government) (09:12): I move:
That this bill be now read a second time. This bill forms part of the package of measures
that the government is bringing forward, as I explained in the speech I gave a few moments
ago. The Passenger Movement Charge Amendment (Norfolk Island) Bill 2016 relates to the
broader Norfolk Island reform legislative package, which is being implemented through
the Territories Legislation Amendment Bill 2016.
The Passenger Movement Charge Act, together with the Passenger Movement Charge Collection
Act, applies a financial charge upon the departure of a passenger from mainland Australia to
another country. The charge also applies to departures from
the Indian Ocean Territories to another country. This bill, together with the Territories Legislation
Amendment Bill, will extend these arrangements to Norfolk Island so that people departing
Norfolk Island for another country will also be liable to pay the charge.