Paul Fletcher concludes debate on the Territories Legislation Amendment Bill 2016
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Paul Fletcher concludes debate on the Territories Legislation Amendment Bill 2016


Mr FLETCHER (Bradfield—Minister for Major
Projects, Territories and Local Government) (18:03): I am very pleased to rise to deliver
these summing-up remarks in the second reading debate in relation to the Territories Legislation
Amendment Bill 2016 and the Passenger Movement Charge Amendment (Norfolk Island) Bill 2016.
Let me thank members who have participated in this debate. I thank the member for Lingiari,
who has had a long involvement with Australia’s external territories, including himself serving
as Minister for Territories, and who has been a strong supporter of reform on Norfolk Island.
I also thank the member for Canberra, who has represented a number of constituents on
Norfolk Island in this parliament, as we have just heard, and has taken a broad view of
her responsibilities to be an advocate for the people of Norfolk Island. And she has
worked effectively as an advocate for members of the community. Norfolk Island will become
formally part of her electorate of Canberra on the commencement of the provisions of the
bill that is before the House this afternoon. I also want to acknowledge the work of all
members of the Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories,
particularly its chair, the member for Cowan, and I want to acknowledge the work of the
senator for the ACT, Zed Seselja. Prior to the introduction of these bills,
I had the opportunity, as minister, to visit Norfolk Island, on 28 and 29 January, and
that was a very worthwhile and informative visit. I had the chance to meet with members
of the advisory council, under the leadership of Melissa Ward, and I thank her and all members
of the council for their work. I met with the Administrator, the Honourable Gary Hardgrave;
with officials of the Commonwealth government and of the administration of Norfolk Island;
with the Council of Elders; and with representatives of the business community, particularly the
tourism sector. I also had the opportunity to meet quite a number of Norfolk Island residents. The package of bills before the House this
afternoon is another step towards the Turnbull government meeting its commitment to provide
reform in relation to Norfolk Island. Norfolk Island is the only community in Australia
that has been routinely excluded from national laws, frameworks and programs. Successive
governments of both political persuasions have taken this approach, under the belief
that self-government, established on Norfolk Island in 1979, would be able to provide the
community with appropriate federal, state and local functions. This is no longer a reasonable
approach to take. The standard of government expected by Australians in 2016 is much different
to that in 1979. Regulation has become more sophisticated to keep up with modern life.
Government services have become more complex and difficult to deliver. A community of some
1,500 people cannot be expected to meet these challenges on its own. Norfolk Island is falling
behind mainland standards, and the gap between the standard of services on Norfolk Island
and those in comparable communities on the Australian mainland has been growing. The reforms given effect to by the bills before
the House this afternoon, combined with reforms set out in the legislation already passed
by the parliament in 2015, will begin to address these problems. The central proposition in
these bills is that Commonwealth laws should apply to Norfolk Island as they would to any
other part of Australia. Where Commonwealth laws are excluded from applying to Norfolk
Island, that should occur only because the Commonwealth government has made a conscious
policy decision to exclude them. In some cases, this decision in respect of a particular law
will have important consequences for the Norfolk Island community. For example, the Fair Work
Act will be extended to provide employers and employees on Norfolk Island with the same
workplace relations framework that applies throughout the rest of Australia. The national
minimum wage will be phased in and the introduction of modern awards will be delayed for two years
on Norfolk Island so that businesses have time to adjust. Employees will have the same
protections as are currently enjoyed by their counterparts on the mainland. In other cases,
the changes will be minor. For example, the territories bill will extend the Gene Technology
Act 2000 and the jurisdiction of the Gene Technology Regulator to Norfolk Island. Though
this may seem to be a minor change, there is simply no good reason to exclude Norfolk
Island residents from the operation of that legislative framework. Importantly, in addition to applying Commonwealth
laws, the territories bill will ensure the Norfolk Island community is properly represented
in the Commonwealth parliament, giving Australians living on Norfolk Island a say in how the
laws which affect them are made. Enrolment and voting in federal elections will be compulsory,
as it is for other Australians. Norfolk Islanders will vote in the division of Canberra and
will be represented by ACT senators. The ultimate outcome of these changes is that Australian
citizens on Norfolk Island will have the same rights and responsibilities as those in other
parts of Australia. The standard of federal services delivered on Norfolk Island will
improve and Commonwealth laws will provide an environment which encourages private investment,
trade with the mainland and opportunities for economic growth. The Australian government’s goal continues
to be ensuring a strong future for Norfolk Island—a future that provides opportunities
for jobs and growth, supports vulnerable residents and fosters a strong and vibrant community.
The bills before the House this afternoon, if passed, will represent another step in
that direction. Question agreed to. Bill read a
second time. Message from the Governor-General recommending
appropriation announced.

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