Resumed from 8 September.
Comments and speeches by various members
HON ALISON XAMON (North Metropolitan) [5.53 pm]: I rise as the lead speaker for the Greens to indicate that we will support the passage of the Mutual Recognition (Western Australia) Bill 2020. Western Australia has passed laws adopting the commonwealth Mutual Recognition Act 1992 three times—back in 1995, 2001 and 2010. The current 2010 adoption act will expire on 28 February next year, which is why we are needing to urgently debate this bill now. Effectively, it will continue the mutual recognition scheme for another decade.
The bill will provide for two things to continue. It will provide for goods produced in one jurisdiction to be lawfully sold in another without having to meet further regulatory requirements, and for people registered to practise an occupation in one jurisdiction to practise an equivalent occupation in another jurisdiction. As a result, mutual recognition removes barriers to interstate trade in goods and it allows for job mobility, at least in normal times, in the absence of the hard borders that have been imposed to protect communities from COVID-19.
There are some important exemptions from mutual recognition. The permanent exemptions are contained in the two schedules to the act. Schedule 1 is a list of permanently exempted goods and schedule 2 is a list of permanently exempted laws relating to goods. Section 15 of the commonwealth act also contains a temporary exemption process.
Clause 5 of the bill confirms that Western Australia can use this temporary exemption process if it wants to. The effect of exemptions, whether they are permanent or temporary, is that when those particular goods are imported from interstate, they still have to comply with the laws of that jurisdiction. Since WA last adopted the commonwealth law a decade ago, further exemptions have been made relating to container deposit schemes in the Northern Territory, New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory and now also WA. They mean that containers imported into those particular jurisdictions, including ours, have to comply with their container deposit scheme. I ask the minister to please confirm that there have been no other changes to the law since 2010. To the best of my knowledge, currently none will be contemplated before this receives royal assent.
The 2015 Productivity Commission report into both the mutual recognition scheme and the trans-Tasman mutual recognition scheme, which mutually recognises goods and occupations between Australia and New Zealand, found that both schemes were generally working well. The Productivity Commission did have some criticism that there was a risk of the benefits being slowly eroded due to regulators not always implementing mutual recognition as required. It also raised concerns about weak oversight and an increase in the number of goods and related laws permanently kept out of scope. The Productivity Commission report has various findings and recommendations on those issues. Only two of the Productivity Commission’s recommendations relate to the text of the legislation. Recommendation 5.5 was that the legislation be amended to clearly allow background checks to occur in the local jurisdiction if people were required to practise a particular occupation in that locality—for example, working with children checks. I ask the minister to please confirm how that issue is being addressed. Recommendation 7.3 repeated an unimplemented recommendation from the Productivity Commission’s previous 2009 review report that in order to simplify the amendment process all Australian jurisdictions should refer power to amend the legislation to the commonwealth subject to a requirement that they would have to approve any future changes. I note that the bill before us does not implement that recommendation. To do so would of course raise sovereignty issues for this Parliament, which holds responsibility for lawmaking in this state.
With those few comments and subject to those questions, which I am sure the minister will be able to answer fairly quickly, the Greens support this bill and its swift passage.
HON SUE ELLERY (South Metropolitan — Leader of the House) [5.57 pm] — in reply: I thank members for their fulsome support and extensive contribution to the debate on the Mutual Recognition (Western Australia) Bill 2020. In respect to questions asked by Hon Alison Xamon, I am advised that there have been no other changes since 2010. In respect to the example the member gave around working with children checks, I am advised that it would have to change at the commonwealth level and that there is no advice available to me that we have information that any change is proposed at the commonwealth level. That is the most information I am able to give the honourable member about that. If the member wants further information on that matter or there is something in particular she is looking for, I am sure the advisers could assist later.
With those comments, I commend the bill to the house. Question put and passed.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted to proceed forthwith to third reading.
Bill read a third time, on motion by Hon Sue Ellery (Leader of the House), and passed.