Recent legislative developments in Australia

National program announced to tackle biosecurity risk in Australia
April 18, 2016
Legislative update
May 4, 2016

Recent legislative developments in Australia


Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility Bill 2016

This Bill was introduced to create the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility and a Board of the Facility to make the investment decisions for the up to $5 billion in concessional finance over five years. The Joint Select Committee on Northern Australia reported on 14 April and the Bill as amended is currently before the Senate having passed the House of Representatives.

Water Amendment (Review Implementation and Other Measures) Bill 2015

This Bill was introduced to amend the Water Act 2007 in a number of key ways. These were:
-the review and reporting requirements for the Basin Plan
-accreditation of first generation state water resource plans
-incorporation of Indigenous expertise and knowledge in the governance of the basin’s water resources
-trading by the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder.
However, this bill lapsed at prorogation but may recommence in the next session of parliament upon a resolution to recommence.

Corporations Amendment (Crowd-sourced Funding) Bill 2015

This Bill caused some excitement released as it created a framework for crowd-sourced funding by small unlisted public companies and concessions for small unlisted public companies from the usual corporate governance and reporting requirements of public companies. However, a main criticism of the Bill was that it excluded other corporate structures (like co-operatives) from the mechanism, this may be reviewed in the future. This bill lapsed prorogation but may recommence in the next session of parliament upon a resolution to recommence.


Environmental Protection (Chain of Responsibility) Amendment Bill 2016

On 21 April, the first in a suite of environmental amendment laws was passed by the Queensland Parliament. This Bill extends environmental responsibilities to companies, entities and individuals (part of the ‘related persons’ that the Bill refers to) behind the businesses that have caused environmental harm. The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection can then issue an Environmental Protection Order to the related persons requiring that they take action to stop the environmental harm or pay for the rehabilitation of the effected land. Previously an Environmental Protection Order could only be given to the holder of the environmental authority. Environmental reform in Queensland will be an interesting space to watch this year as the Palaszczuk Government appears to be undoing some of the Newman Government environment legislation and also seeking to pass more vigorous environmental protection legislation.


Aboriginal Heritage Amendment Bill 2015

Recently, the Aboriginal Heritage Amendment Bill 2015 received Royal Assent that will amend the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006. The product of a four year review, there are five key changes to be made focussing around cultural heritage. These are:
-registered Aboriginal parties have the power to evaluate cultural heritage permit applications
-Aboriginal Victorians, through the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council, will be able to determine how the remains of their ancestors are to be treated
-clarifying when a cultural heritage management plan is required for industry when undertaking a project
-the establishment of an Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Fund to assist registered Aboriginal parties and related areas
-creating a strict liability standard for ‘harm’ offences (relating to the damaging of Aboriginal cultural heritage). There are also new offences for commencing an activity for which a cultural heritage management plan is required without having had a plan approved and failing to comply with conditions of a cultural heritage management plan.
Perhaps most interestingly is the creation of ‘Aboriginal intangible heritage’ which are similar to intellectual property concepts. This provides protection for songs, dances, language and other things that are part of Victorian traditional owners’ cultural heritage. This allows registered Aboriginal parties and other eligible traditional owner organisations to nominate intangible heritage for registration.

Western Australia

Co-operatives Amendment Bill 2015

Last week, the Co-operatives Amendment Bill 2015 passed the Western Australia Parliament. Substantively the same as the Co-operatives National Law (which most jurisdiction in Australia have now passed) it will bring Western Australia alongside the CNL states.


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