The Government’s Legislation Program for the Spring 2013 sittings

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I am pleased to present the Government’s Legislation Program for the Spring 2013 sittings.

In doing so I outline a far-reaching set of bills which go to the heart of the platform on which we were re-elected last October – a true Labor platform of fairness, equality, opportunity and transformation.

Nine months into this term the government has made excellent progress on advancing our vision for the ACT:

  • 70 per cent of our election commitments are funded in the budget
  • we are delivering on the Parliamentary Agreement, and
  • we are bringing forward important legislative reforms in areas of human rights and marriage equality, justice and safety in the workplace, and economic reform and red tape reduction.

Human rights and marriage equality

We are proud to be the jurisdiction that others look to as a leader in legislative reforms, particularly in the area of human rights and equality for all.

And we will proudly, once again, be the first government to bring forward legislation that delivers equality for same sex couples – legislation that promises them the right to marry.

This is a reform that a growing proportion of Australians want made. It is a matter of time. We would prefer to see the federal parliament legislate for a nationally consistent scheme but in the absence of this, we will act for the people of the ACT.

The Marriage Equality Bill 2013 will enable couples who are not able to marry under the Commonwealth Marriage Act 1961 to enter into marriage in the ACT. It will provide for solemnisation, eligibility, dissolution and annulment, regulatory requirements and notice of intention in relation to same sex marriages.

The government is determined to remove discrimination against same sex couples and their families. With this legislation we will state loud and clear that all people have equal rights in our society and are treated equally by our laws.

During the Spring sittings the government will also introduce the Births Deaths and Marriages (Transgender) Amendment Bill 2013, which will give effect to the government’s response to the Law Reform Advisory Council’s ‘Beyond the Binary’ report.

The bill will create full recognition and equality before the law for transgender Canberrans, and provide the right to privacy and reputation.

The government is equally determined to make sure the cultural rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are covered by our laws and respected in our community.

Canberra is a city that celebrates diversity of cultures, faiths and ethnic backgrounds.

The Human Rights Amendment Bill 2013 will amend the Human Rights Act 2004 to make it clear that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have the right to enjoy and maintain their culture, including their language, kinship ties and special relationship with land and waters.

The bill will also show the clear support of the ACT Government for proper recognition of Indigenous Australians in the Constitution.

Canberra is also a city that believes in fairness for those with disabilities or medical conditions, which is why the government will amend important legislation to improve equality and opportunity for these people.

The Payroll Tax Act Amendment Bill 2013 will honour a commitment we made during the election last October. It will provide a $4,000 payroll tax concession to medium and large businesses which employ a recent school leaver with a disability.

What the national conversation around DisabilityCare has shown is that one of the greatest opportunities we can provide for people with disabilities and their families, is the opportunity to be a full part of the community and to enjoy independent lives.

This policy will increase opportunities for young Canberrans with a disability to achieve those things, and it will deliver some very high quality employees to local businesses.

One other key piece of legislation to target equal rights in these sittings of the Assembly is the Mental Health (Treatment and Care) Act Amendment Bill 2013. The bill will align mental health legislation with national and international reforms and with the ACT Human Rights Act.

Justice and safety at work

During the Spring sittings, the government will also continue with a concerted set of legislative reforms that improve safety and justice in the workplace.

Safety at work should not be a gamble. The government can’t supervise every worksite but we can put in place the strongest possible regulatory framework and the legal system that responds when industrial cases need attention.

That is why the government will introduce the Construction and Energy Efficiency Legislation Amendment Bill 2013 (No 2). The proposed bill will amend a number of existing Acts to reform the regulatory framework of the construction industry.

This bill has been developed in response past investigations into building quality in the ACT and to the full review of the Building Act which is underway, and will result in more reforms during this term of government.

The Magistrates Court (Industrial Proceedings) Amendment Bill 2013, introduced today by Mr Corbell, is also a central part of this agenda.

For the first time the ACT will have a specialised Industrial Court to hear and determine work safety matters and workers’ compensation claims up to the current Magistrates Court jurisdictional limit of $250,000.

With a dedicated Magistrate, the Industrial Court will become a highly central point of knowledge and specialisation in industrial accidents and compensation.

Economic reform and red tape reduction

During the Spring sittings the government will continue with the economic reform agenda which is continuing the process of growth and diversification, improving business conditions and creating a fairer and more efficient tax system.

The Red Tape Reduction Omnibus Bill 2013 will bring forward recommendations from the Red Tape Reduction Panel, and will honour the commitment we made last July to progress this agenda through progressive changes that the business community has identified.

The Red Tape Reduction Panel continues to consult with businesses and not-for-profits on the changes government can make to support a diverse and prosperous private sector in Canberra. Measures to reduce red tape will be a regular feature of our legislative program during this term of office.

All these bills are designed to improve equality, fairness, safety, opportunity and optimism in our community, and all reflect the core values of this government.