Bill to audit sister city deals receives Royal Assent

A Bill allowing the Commonwealth to override arrangements entered by states, local governments and universities with foreign governments was signed into law this week.

Under the Foreign Relations (State and Territory Arrangements) Act 2020, the Minister for Foreign Affairs will have the power to prevent prospective foreign arrangements from proceeding, or cancel existing arrangements, where that arrangement is not consistent with foreign policy or adversely affects Australia’s foreign relations.

As well as providing a mechanism for states and territories to consult with the Commonwealth on international engagement, the legislation also establishes a public register of foreign arrangements entered into by governments.

In a submission to a Senate committee inquiring into the Bill in September, ALGA said there are almost 600 “sister city” affiliations between local councils in Australia and overseas cities.

“Preliminary discussions with the office of the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade indicates that all sister-city relationships will fall under the Act,” the submission said.

ALGA says at least 37 agreements entered into by local governments will be scrutinised by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Parliament also passed the Recycling and Waste Reduction Act 2020 this week.

The legislation implements the export ban on waste plastic, paper, glass and tyres agreed by Commonwealth, state and territory governments in March this year.

It also incorporates the existing Product Stewardship Act 2011 with improvements to encourage companies to take greater responsibility for the waste they generate, including through better product design and increased recovery and reuse of waste materials.