Bills Digest no. 62 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
17 April 2014
Purpose and Structure of the Bill
Policy position of non-government parties/independents
Statement of Compatibility with Human Rights
Key issues and provisions
Schedule 1—Amendments of principal Acts
Schedule 2—Amendments of amending Acts
Schedule 3—Amendments relating to Ministers
Schedule 4—Terminology changes
Schedule 5—Legislative Assemblies
Schedule 6—Acting appointments
Schedule 7—Removal of redundant Chairman and Deputy Chairman provisions
Schedule 8—Removal of redundant definitions
Schedule 9—Spent and obsolete provisions
Schedule 10—Spent Acts
Date introduced: 19 March 2014
House: House of Representatives
Commencement: Commencement dates are contained in the table in Clause 2 of the Bill.
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 Statute Law Revision Bill (No. 1) 2014 is to correct technical errors, to repeal spent and obsolete provisions and to repeal certain obsolete Acts.
The Bill amends technical and other errors in 42 Acts (Schedule 1), amends misdescribed provisions in six amending Acts (Schedule 2), updates references to particular terms and spelling in 43 Acts to reflect current drafting practice (Schedules 3 to 5), removes redundant provisions and definitions in 55 Acts (Schedules 6 to 8), removes spent and obsolete provisions in eight Acts (Schedule 9) and repeals 17 spent Acts (Schedule 10).
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister notes in his second reading speech that the Bill:
… cleans up the statute books by repairing minor errors in Commonwealth consolidated acts, and repeals spent or redundant provisions and acts.
While the bill does not make substantive changes to the law, it serves two important functions. First, it clarifies the status of laws by repealing obsolete legislation and, secondly, it removes confusion by amending incorrect or out of date provisions.
The bill reduces the regulatory burden by improving the accuracy and useability of Commonwealth legislation. As a result, the bill will help to save individuals, businesses and community organisations time and money.
First Statute Law Revision Bill for the Commonwealth
The Statute Law Revision Act 1934 was the first ‘statute law revision’ or ‘statute stocktake’ Bill. The second reading speech for that Bill provides a succinct outline of the purpose of such Bills. John Latham, Member for Kooyong and Attorney-General at the time and later to become Chief Justice of the High Court, had this to say about the introduction of the first Statute Law Revision Bill in 1934:
There is an obligation resting upon the Government of the Commonwealth, and upon this Parliament, to present the statute law of the Commonwealth in a convenient, accessible and readily intelligible form. We try to do that as the legislation is drafted, and as it is passed through Parliament from time to time; but as the years go by it becomes evident that there is a great deal of obsolete matter on the statute-book. The object of this bill is merely to cut away the dead wood on the statute-book. It is not a consolidation of the statutes, but a Statute Law Revision Bill. There are various circumstances which make acts no longer useful, and which justify their removal from the statute-book. This bill is designed to remove obsolete and useless matter, and will correct a few mistakes that have been discovered in the legislation, passed by the Commonwealth Parliament during the last 34 years.
The process of cutting away the ‘dead wood’ has been carried on regularly since the original Bill, as can be seen by the Statute Law Revision Acts and Statute Stocktake Acts passed by the Parliament since 1934 (in Appendix A). The process is an ongoing housekeeping task and such Acts ‘are regarded as an essential tool in the process of keeping orderly, accurate and up-to-date Commonwealth statute books’.
Senate Selection of Bills Committee
The Senate Selection of Bills Committee resolved that the Bill not be referred to a Committee.
Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills
The Scrutiny Committee had no comment to make on this Bill.
Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights
The Committee notes in its report that the Bill does not appear to give rise to human rights concerns.
While supporting the passage of the Bill, Mark Dreyfus, Deputy Manager of Opposition Business and Shadow Attorney-General, questioned the savings to be made by the current Bill and asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister:
… to identify a single cent of savings to any Australian business or any individual in our country derived from the Statute Law Revision Bill or the Amending Acts 1901-1969 Repeal Bill … I ask whether he can identify, with precision, what are the savings for an Australian business from the Statute Law Revision Bill — concerned with removing hyphens and commas and correcting the spelling of ‘committing’ in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act.
The Explanatory Memorandum notes that this Bill will have no financial impact.
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.
The proposed amendments to principal or consolidated Acts listed in Schedule 1 items 1 to 71 involve minor amendments to correct spelling mistakes, incorrect cross references, grammatical errors, punctuation, incorrect citations and references to incorrect concepts. Forty two principal Acts are amended.
The amendments in Schedule 2 propose to correct mistakes occurring in several amending Acts. The changes primarily correct misdescribed amendments and typographical errors. Six amending Acts are amended by Schedule 2 of the current Bill.
Amendments are proposed to three principal Acts in Schedule 3. The Explanatory Memorandum notes that the amendments update references to Ministers to reflect current drafting practice. For example, one amendment omits the occurrence of a reference to the ‘Minister for Aboriginal Affairs’ and substitutes that reference with ‘Minister administering the Aboriginal Land Grant (Jervis Bay Territory) Act 1986’. The Explanatory Memorandum further notes:
There are currently a number of references to specific Ministers in Commonwealth Acts (for example, the Minister for Finance). Whenever there is no longer a particular Minister or Department, or the title of a Minister or Department is changed under the Administrative Arrangements Order, the Governor-General needs to make an order under section 19B or 19BA of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901 so that any now incorrect references to Ministers and Departments in Acts can be read correctly. This means that users of Acts have to read the Acts in conjunction with these orders.
The amendments in Schedule 3 will remove the need for such orders in relation to the amended Acts.
Part 1—Chairman and Deputy Chairman
Two principal Acts are proposed to be amended by Schedule 4 Part 1 to repeal the occurrences of the terms ‘Chairman’ and ‘Deputy Chairman’ and replace them with the terms ‘Chair’ and ‘Deputy Chair’ to accord with current drafting practice.
Part 2—Electronic mail and e-mail
Part 2 proposes to amend 11 principal Acts to standardise the term ‘email’ and omit terms such as ‘e-mail’ and ‘electronic mail’.
Part 3 proposes to amend 16 principal Acts to standardise the use of the term ‘fax’. The amendments will omit terms such as facsimile, facsimile transmission, facsimile service and electronic facsimile in favour of the term ‘fax’ to accord with current drafting practice.
Part 4 proposes to amend six principal Acts to amend the term ‘trademarks’ and substitute it with the term ‘trade marks’. The Explanatory Memorandum notes that this form of the term reflects its use in paragraph 51(xviii) of the Constitution.
Items 1 to 10 of Schedule 5 propose to amend provisions of five principal Acts to amend the incorrect form of the term ‘Legislative Assembly for the Northern Territory’ and substitute the correct form ‘Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory’.
Part 1—Automatic acting
Items 1 to 20 repeal redundant provisions in seven principal Acts that relate to rules concerning automatic acting in a position. The rules that apply to persons in these situations are contained in section 33A of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901 thus making these provisions redundant.
Part 2—Other appointments
Part 2 items 21 and 22 add a note to subsection 256(1) of the National Health Reform Act 2011 and repeal the redundant subsection 256(4). The rules that apply to acting appointments can be found in section 33AB and 33A of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901.
Items 1 to 9 remove redundant provisions in seven principal Acts that provide how Chairpersons may be referred to. These provisions are redundant because section 18B of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901 provides for the titles of Chair and the Deputy Chair.
Items 1 to 22, items 25 to 29, items 32 and 44 to 46 repeal redundant definitions in 37 principal Acts. The definitions are:
- Acting SES employee
- SES employee
- APS employee
- calendar month
- calendar year
- financial year and
- penalty unit.
All these terms are defined in section 2B of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901. Items 23, 24, 30 and 31 refer to terms such as ‘faxed copy’, ‘fax’, ‘facsimile copy’ and ‘fax’ in three principal Acts. These definitions are repealed. The Explanatory Memorandum notes that the definitions do ‘not add to [the term’s] dictionary and ordinary meanings’.
Part 1—Spent repeals and amendments
Part 1 repeals obsolete provisions in five principal Acts. The provisions are obsolete because they amended other Acts and have already taken effect, or were transitional provisions that are no longer needed.
Part 2—Spent provisions
Part 2 repeals or omits references to spent provisions in three principal Acts.
Part 1—Rate correction Acts
Part 1 repeals two principal Acts. The two Acts operated within the period 1 July 2000 and 30 May 2003. The period having past results in the Acts being obsolete.
Part 2—Validation Acts
Part 2 repeals two principal Acts which validated the provisions of certain regulations that retrospectively fixed rates. Those regulations have since been repealed. Therefore both of the Acts are now spent.
Part 3—Other Acts
Part 3 repeals thirteen Acts which are now spent Acts.
As stated previously, this Bill is part of a process of on-going repair and change to allow the Statute book to be as orderly and accurate as possible. It should be remembered that since 1934, the Statute book has grown exponentially to accord with the increasing complexity of modern life. In order to keep the Statute book in proper order, the statute law revision Act will always be part of the process.
Statute Law Revision Acts and Statute Stocktake Bills since 1934 include:
- Statute Law Revision Act 1934
- Statute Law Revision Act 1950
- Statute Law Revision Act 1973
- Statute Law Revision Act 1974
- Statute Law Revision Act 1981
- Statute Law Revision Act 1996
- Statute Stocktake Act 1999
- Statute Law Revision Act 2002
- Statute Law Revision Act 2005
- Statute Law Revision Act 2006
- Statute Law Revision Act 2007
- Statute Law Revision Act 2008
- Statute Stocktake (Regulatory and Other Laws) Act 2009
- Statute Law Revision Act 2010
- Statute Law Revision Act 2011
- Statute Stocktake Act (No. 1) 2011
- Statute Law Revision Act 2012
- Statute Stocktake (Appropriations) Act (No. 1) 2012
- Statute Law Revision Act 2013 and
- Statute Stocktake (Appropriations) Act 2013.
Members, Senators and Parliamentary staff can obtain further information from the Parliamentary Library on (02) 6277 2500.
. Selection of Bills Committee, Report No. 3 of 2014, The Senate, Canberra, 20 March 2014, accessed 31 March 2014.
. Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills, Alert Digest No. 4 of 2014, The Senate, Canberra, 26 March 2014, p. 26, accessed 31 March 2014.
. The Statement of Compatibility with Human Rights can be found at page 3 of the Explanatory Memorandum to the Bill.
. Explanatory Memorandum, op. cit. p. 17.
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