Bills Digest no. 59 2013–14
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WARNING: This Digest was prepared for debate. It reflects the legislation as introduced and does not canvass subsequent amendments. This Digest does not have any official legal status. Other sources should be consulted to determine the subsequent official status of the Bill.
Law and Bills Digest Section
8 April 2014
Purpose of the Bill
Policy position of non-government parties/independents
Statement of Compatibility with Human Rights
Key issues and provisions
Date introduced: 19 March 2014
House: House of Representatives
Commencement: Sections 1 to 3 commence on Royal Assent. Schedule 1 commences on the 28th day after Royal Assent.
Links: The links to the Bill, its Explanatory Memorandum and second reading speech can be found on the Bill’s home page, or through http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Bills_Legislation
When Bills have been passed and have received Royal Assent, they become Acts, which can be found at the ComLaw website at http://www.comlaw.gov.au/.
The purpose of the Amending Acts 1901 to 1969 Repeal Bill 2014 (the Bill) is to repeal over 1,000 amending and repeal Acts identified by the Government as being redundant.
In July 2013, the Government released an election policy titled ‘The Coalition’s Policy to Boost Productivity and Reduce Regulation’ (the Policy). The policy included a stated aim of setting aside:
…at least two parliamentary sitting days each year (one in the autumn session and one in the spring session -excluding time needed to repeal the carbon tax and associated regulations) for the express purpose of repealing counterproductive, unnecessary or redundant legislation and consequently removing associated regulations.
The Bill reflects that policy commitment. The Bill’s stated purpose is to ‘…to clean-up the statute books by removing over 1,000 amending and repeal acts’ which are ‘no longer required as the amendments and repeals that they provide for have already happened’. As such, whilst it is tilted as an ‘amending Acts’ repeal Bill, it can be viewed as a form of Statute Law Revision or Statute Stocktake Bill. Traditionally, such Bills are mechanisms by which: ‘any outstanding errors are corrected and obsolete material is removed from the Statute book’. As the Bill focuses on removing from the statute books material identified by the Government as being obsolete and redundant, it would appear to fall within that definition and hence should be treated as a form of Statute Law Revision or Statute Stocktake Bill.
Traditionally, such Bills are viewed as non-controversial and receive the support of the Parliament as they are regarded as an essential tool in the process of keeping orderly, accurate and up-to-date Commonwealth statute books. In addition, traditionally these ‘omnibus’ style Bills are never used or meant to be used to make substantive change to the law, a point noted by the Explanatory Memorandum issued by the Attorney‑General. In the case of this Bill, as all the Acts to be repealed are purportedly obsolete, the Bill will have no effect on current substantive law.
Senate Select Committee for Selection of Bills
The Senate Select Committee for the Selection of Bills resolved not to refer the Bill to a committee.
Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills
The Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills had no comment on the Bill.
Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights
The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights expressed the view that the Bill is unlikely to raise human rights concerns.
Whilst the Australian Labor Party has not indicated any opposition to the Bill, it has expressed a view that:
…it is hard to see how this contributes to the $750 million in savings that has been claimed by the government. Yes, it is true that there are a large number of acts and regulations that will disappear. It is not a bad thing to do; it just makes very little real difference to people's lives and certainly not the difference that is being claimed.
The Australian Greens have expressed concern at the limited amount of time available to consider the Bill. The Bill passed the House of Representatives on 26 March 2014.
According to the Explanatory Memorandum, there are no financial implications.
The Statement of Compatibility with Human Rights can be found at page 3 of the Explanatory Memorandum to the Bill. As required under Part 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011 (Cth), the Government has assessed the Bill’s compatibility with the human rights and freedoms recognised or declared in the international instruments listed in section 3 of that Act. The Government considers that the Bill is compatible.
Subclause 3(2) provides that if an Act listed in Schedule 1 includes any application, saving or transitional provision, any ongoing operation of the provision is preserved.
Schedule 1 repeals 1,120 obsolete or redundant amending or repeal Acts. The repealed Acts will continue to be able to be accessed on Comlaw and other electronic legal sites. Importantly, section 7 of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901 (Cth) provides that repealing an Act that repealed another Act (the original Act) does not revive anything that was in force in the original Act prior to the commencement of the repealing Act.
Due to time and resources constraints, it was not possible to analyse each of the 1,120 Acts listed in Schedule 1 to determine if its repeal would make a substantive change to the law. However, a number of Acts were randomly selected and examined. In all cases the amendments made by the Acts examined had themselves been subsequently amended, and the Acts did not contain any other substantive provisions that were not already spent or redundant. As such, whilst it is not possible to make a definitive conclusion, it would appear (based on the Acts that were examined) that the repeal of the Acts listed in Schedule 1 will not make substantive changes to the law.
The Bill is consistent with the Policy issued by the Government prior to the 2013 Election. The Bill appears to operate in the same manner as Statute Law Revision or Statute Stocktake Bill (that is, it does not to make substantive change to the law). As a result, based on tradition, it is expected that it will be viewed as non‑controversial and receive the support of the Parliament.
. Liberal Party of Australia and the Nationals, The Coalition’s policy to boost productivity and reduce regulation, Coalition policy document, Election 2013, accessed 26 March 2014. See also: Liberal Party of Australia and the Nationals, Our plan: real solutions for all Australians - the direction, values and policy priorities of the next Coalition Government, Coalition policy document, Election 2013, p. 23, accessed 26 March 2014.
. Senate Standing Committee for Selection of Bills, Report No. 4 for 2014, The Senate, Canberra, 2014, accessed 27 March 2014.
. Beyond the three examples provided in the second reading speech, the Government has (as at the time of writing) not released an analysis of the legal impact of each individual Act listed in Schedule 1.
. These Acts were the: Navigation Act 1942, Superannuation Act 1943, Science and Industry Research Act (No. 2) 1968, Designs Act 1968, Law Officers Act 1968, Rules Publication Act 1939, Representation Act 1949, States Grants (Coal Mining Industry Long Service Leave) Act 1950, Spirits Act 1952, and the Overseas Telecommunications Act 1952.
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