Bills Digest no. 48 2014–15
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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
5 November 2014
Purpose of the Bill
Policy position of non-government parties/independents
Statement of Compatibility with Human Rights
Key issues and provisions
Date introduced: 22 October 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 the Australian Parliament website.
When Bills have been passed and have received Royal Assent, they become Acts, which can be found at the ComLaw website.
The purpose of the Statute Law Revision Bill (No. 2) 2014 (the Bill) is to correct technical errors, repeal spent and obsolete provisions and certain obsolete Acts, and modernise the language used in other Acts.
The Bill achieves this by amending technical and other errors in 30 Acts (Schedule 1) and five amending Acts (Schedule 2), modernising the language in 51 Acts (Schedule 3), making technical corrections and introducing a system of signposted definitions to the Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986 (Schedule 4), repealing spent and obsolete provisions in four Acts (Schedule 5) and repealing three spent Acts (Schedule 6).
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister notes in his second reading speech that the Bill:
… continues the work of the Statute Law Revision Bill (No. 1) 2014, which was part of the 2014 autumn repeal day, correcting minor errors in the statute book and repealing spent or redundant legislation… By improving the useability and the accuracy of legislation, the bill will save individuals, businesses and community organisations time and money, and has a compliance cost saving of $420,000.
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, Statute Stocktake Acts (and more recently Omnibus and Amending Acts repeal Bills) 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’.
The Senate Selection of Bills Committee resolved that the Bill not be referred to a Committee.
The Scrutiny Committee had not considered the Bill at the time of writing. However, the Scrutiny Committee had no comment in relation to the First 2014 Revision Bill.
The Committee had not considered the Bill at the time of writing. However, the Committee noted that the First 2014 Revision Bill did not appear to give rise to human rights concerns.
At the time of writing, the position of non-government parties/independents had not been publically articulated. However, in relation to the Statute Law Revision Bill (No. 1) 2014, whilst the Opposition supported passage of the Bill, Mark Dreyfus, Deputy Manager of Opposition Business and Shadow Attorney-General, questioned the savings that would be made, 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.
Whilst the Explanatory Memorandum notes that this Bill will have no financial impact on the Commonwealth, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister indicated the Bill will save individuals, businesses and community organisations $0.42 million in compliance costs.
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.
Schedule 1 – amendments of principal Acts
The proposed amendments to principal or consolidated Acts listed in Schedule 1, items 1 to 44 involve minor amendments to correct spelling mistakes, incorrect cross references, grammatical errors, punctuation, incorrect citations, references to incorrect concepts and to correct alphabetical positions of definitions in lists. Thirty Acts are amended.
Schedule 2 – amendments of amending Acts
The amendments in Schedule 2, items 1 to 8 correct misdescribed amendments. Five amending Acts are amended by Schedule 2 of the Bill.
Schedule 3 – terminology changes
Schedule 3 contains amendments that modernise terminology used in 51 Acts amended, bringing them into line with modern drafting practices.
Part 1 of Schedule 3 (items 1 to 211) either:
- replace references to ‘servant’ with employee
- repeal definitions of employee that include references to ‘servant’ or
- change references to ‘servant’ to an officer or employee of the Commonwealth or Crown.
Part 2 of Schedule 3 (items 212 to 295) removes gender-specific language in two Acts (the Acts Interpretation Act 1901 and the Defence Act 1903). As recognised in the Explanatory Memorandum, these amendments are not strictly legally required, as section 23 of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901 provides that in any Act ‘words importing a gender include every other gender’. However, the Explanatory Memorandum states that ‘the use of gender-neutral language in Acts is intended to make them more inclusive’.
Schedule 4 – Veterans Entitlements Act improvements
Schedule 4 makes a number of amendments to the Veterans Entitlements Act 1986. The amendments contained in Part 1 of Schedule 4 aim to improve the accessibility of that Act. For example, proposed subsection 5Q(1), at item 3, creates a dictionary-like list of each term or expression that is defined for the purposes of the Veterans Entitlements Act as a whole. (Definitions that are used in only some parts of the Act are not included in the dictionary at proposed section 5Q. See, for example, the definitions at sections 45TA and 52ZAAA, which are not affected by the Bill.) The list at subsection 5Q(1) either defines the term or identifies the provision where the term or expression is defined. The inclusion of the list of defined terms will assist readers of the Veterans Entitlements Act to quickly locate operative definitions.
The amendments contained in Part 2 of Schedule 4 make technical changes in the form of:
- inserting notes to provide navigational assistance
- inserting and improving signpost definitions
- fixing typographical errors (for example, incorrect capitalisation, formatting errors, incorrect number of notes) and
- fixing incorrect, missing and redundant cross-references.
Schedule 5 – spent and obsolete provisions
Schedule 5 contains seven items which repeal spent or obsolete provisions in four Acts.
Schedule 6 – spent Acts
Whilst Schedule 6 repeals a number of spent and obsolete Acts and associated provisions, the legal necessity for doing so is not always apparent. For example, item 1 of Schedule 6 repeals the Conciliation and Arbitration (Electricity Industry) Act 1985, which was declared invalid by the High Court.
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. Bills such as this will always be part of the process of keeping the Statute book in ‘proper order’, even if they do occasionally appear to be undertaking actions that are not, strictly speaking, legally necessary.
Statute Law Revision Acts, Statute Stocktake Bills, Omnibus Repeal and amending Act repeal 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
- Statute Stocktake (Appropriations) Act 2013
- Amending Acts 1901 to 1969 Repeal Act 2014
- Omnibus Repeal Day (Autumn 2014) Act 2014 and
- Statute Law Revision Act (No. 1) 2014.
Members, Senators and Parliamentary staff can obtain further information from the Parliamentary Library on (02) 6277 2500.
. See for example: J Murphy, Amending Acts 1901 to 1969 Repeal Bill 2014, Bills digest, 59, 2013–14, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 2014; and D Spooner and J Chowns, Omnibus Repeal Day (Autumn 2014) Bill 2014, Bills digest, 67, 2013–14, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 2014, accessed 28 October 2014.
. Selection of Bills Committee, Report No. 14 of 2014, The Senate, Canberra, 30 October 2014, accessed 31 October 2014.
. Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills, Alert Digest No. 4 of 2014, The Senate, Canberra, 26 March 2014, p. 26, accessed 24 October 2014.
. The Statement of Compatibility with Human Rights can be found at page 3 of the Explanatory Memorandum to the Bill.
. See for example: Schedule 3, items 1 to 60.
. See for example: Schedule 3, item 61.
. See for example: Schedule 3, items 11 and 163.
. See for example: Schedule 4, items 4 and 16.
. See for example: Schedule 4, items 24 and 26.
. See for example: Schedule 4, items 104-111.
. See for example: Schedule 4, items 25, 45 and 126.
. Details of each item can be found of page 16 of the Explanatory Memorandum.
For copyright reasons some linked items are only available to members of Parliament.
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