A significant area of concern for the committee is an increase in the
number of 'framework bills' being introduced into the Parliament. Framework
bills primarily contain only the broad principles of a legislative scheme and
rely heavily on delegated legislation to determine the scope and operation of
the scheme: usually, the detail of the delegated legislation is not publicly
available when Parliament is considering the bill. As noted by the Law Council
of Australia: 'increasingly the power to make regulations is featuring as a key
component of new legislative schemes.'
This is inherently problematic from the point of view of effective
and avoids detailed parliamentary debate of the content of important
On occasion the Senate has sought to delay the consideration of
legislation until draft regulations are available, or has sought to amend
legislation to insert provisions constraining the scope of such legislation.
For example, the Senate amended the Health Insurance Amendment (Extended
Medicare Safety Net) Bill 2009 to require that determinations made under the
bill could not commence until they are approved by each House of the
Leaving the detail to regulations
Peak groups, such as the Law Council of Australia, have expressed
concern in relation to bills which leave the main legislative detail to
...the Law Council has concerns when the power to make
regulations extends beyond areas of detail or ancillary matters and concerns
the substantive aspects of the legislative scheme. The Law Council has raised
concerns, for example, when ‘framework’ legislation is introduced which
provides only a broad outline or platform for the intended legislative scheme
and then invests significant power in the Executive to make regulations to give
effect to the scheme.
The Law Council cited the AusCheck scheme as one example where the
executive should not have been given broad delegation power. The AusCheck
scheme established the administrative machinery for gathering personal
information to conduct 'background checking'. In 2009 a bill to amend the
scheme was introduced which:
...allowed for AusCheck regulations to be promulgated which,
in themselves, would create new screening regimes independent of any other
legislation. There was no explicit limit to the purposes for which these
regimes could be developed, outside of the legislative and executive powers of
The Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee agreed with the
Law Council that the bill should be amended so that no new background checking
scheme could be established without the passage of other primary legislation.
The Government subsequently moved amendments to this effect which were passed
by the Senate and agreed to by the House of Representatives.
The Law Council suggested that:
The experience with this legislation underlines the
importance of robust scrutiny of Bills, including whether the legislation seeks
to inappropriately delegate matters which should be subject to full
parliamentary debate. It also underlines the importance of robust scrutiny of
delegated legislation, particularly where the delegation may be...inappropriate.
Similarly, the Administrative Review Council (ARC) noted the importance
of the committee's role in identifying legislative clauses which
inappropriately delegate legislative power. The ARC therefore supported the
development of guidelines to assist agencies in understanding the committee's
concerns about framework bills.
The topic of guidelines generally is discussed in more detail in Chapter 7,
The Clerk of the Senate has also expressed significant concerns about
managing delegated legislation, including relating to framework bills:
Questions about appropriate mechanisms for the control of
delegated legislation continue to arise. Increasing volumes of delegated
legislation, and increasingly broad provisions authorising such legislation,
provide challenges to both [the Regulations and Ordinances Committee and the
Scrutiny of Bills Committee] and to the Senate as a whole.
The committee's position is that it prefers that important information
is included in the primary legislation unless there is a principled reason for
including it in delegated legislation. To this end, the committee has
regularly highlighted instances in which primary legislation may excessively
rely on delegated legislation for its operation.
The committee has done so under the general principle 1(a)(iv) – 'inappropriately
delegated legislative powers'. The committee also notes that it considers
whether the parliamentary scrutiny afforded to proposed legislation is
appropriate under principle 1(a)(v) – 'insufficiently subject the exercise of
legislative power to parliamentary scrutiny'.
The committee notes that the Procedure Committee has stated that it:
...sees merit in encouraging legislation committees in their
examination of bills to be alert for cases in which the absence of draft
regulations hinders adequate scrutiny of a bill, and to frame recommendations
This accords with the suggestion of the Clerk of the Senate that:
...one new area in which the committee may be able to assist
the Senate is in identifying bills which appear to rely significantly for their
operation on the making of regulations, the detail of which is not available
for the Senate's consideration while the bill is before it.
The committee endorses this proposal. It can readily include this
information, as necessary, in a separate section of its Alert Digest. Of
course, this would be in addition to any more detailed comments made in the
usual course in an Alert Digest or Report. In addition to
general awareness of the issue, this process could assist legislation
committees in considering whether to recommend deferral of consideration of a
bill in the absence of draft regulations.
Given the increasing prevalence of framework bills and the importance of
ensuring they are subject to effective scrutiny it is recommended that the
committee's terms of reference be amended to include specific reference to this
task. The committee also intends to formulate guidelines to assist those
involved in this type of approach to avoid potential scrutiny issues of
The committee notes that its intention to implement a process for
bringing forward its comments during non-sitting periods will complement this
recommendation (see Chapter 3, Committee approach to its work). In
addition, the committee's recommendation to formalise an existing arrangement
for informing legislative and general purpose standing committees of its views
on bills that have been referred to another committee will also assist to
ensure that communication is appropriate and timely (see Chapter 7,
That Senate standing order 24 be amended to specifically include the
scrutiny of bills which excessively rely on delegated legislation for their
That the Scrutiny of Bills Committee develops guidelines in relation to
the appropriate level of detail required in primary legislation.
Cooperation with Regulations and Ordinances Committee
On occasion, the relationship between provisions in primary and
delegated legislation has also concerned the Regulations and Ordinances
Committee. In particular, the Regulations and Ordinances Committee has noted
that it has difficulty in objecting to provisions which are 'authorised' by
primary legislation which has been passed by the Parliament. The Regulations
and Ordinances Committee suggested that if this committee has doubts or
concerns about a provision which involves delegated legislation, the committee
could seek advice from the Regulations and Ordinances Committee – either formally
or informally. As noted by the Regulations and Ordinances Committee, 'where
the work of the committees overlaps, each committee would benefit from the
perspective of the other'.
The Scrutiny of Bills Committee agrees that it is useful for the
scrutiny committees to communicate and thanks the Regulations and Ordinances
Committee for the offer to provide formal or informal advice if this is useful.
The Scrutiny of Bills Committee intends to utilise this option as needed.
Other issues relating to delegated legislation
A number of other issues were also raised in relation to delegated
legislation, particularly in submissions addressing a term of reference for the
2010 inquiry about whether parliamentary mechanisms for the scrutiny and
control of delegated legislation are optimal. Many of these issues seem to be
beyond the direct scope of the Scrutiny of Bills Committee, however, the
committee would like to mention the issues raised for the benefit of readers
who are interested in this aspect of the terms of reference from the 2010
Inadequate scrutiny of delegated
legislation from a policy perspective
The Clerk of the Senate noted that:
...there is no ordinary process by which the large volume of
delegated legislation produced each year is tested to see whether policy
considerations exist which might appropriately become the subject of committee
The Law Council also expressed concern about the absence of
consideration of policy aspects of delegated legislation.
The Regulations and Ordinances Committee suggested that the role of the
Selection of Bills Committee, which currently reports to the Senate on whether
bills should stand referred to committees, could be expanded to consider the
reference of delegated legislation in similar terms. The Regulations and
Ordinances Committee also highlighted the approach taken by the House of Lords
which established a Select Committee on the Merits of Statutory Instruments in
To ensure that every statutory instrument receives a degree of scrutiny, the
committee draws to the 'special attention of the House' any instrument laid in
the previous week which it considers may be 'interesting, flawed or
inadequately explained by the Government'.
In particular, the grounds on which an instrument, draft or proposal may be
drawn to the special attention of the House are—
that it is politically or legally important or gives rise to
issues of public policy likely to be of interest to the House;
that it may be inappropriate in view of changed circumstances
since the enactment of the parent Act;
that it may inappropriately implement European Union legislation;
that it may imperfectly achieve its policy objectives.
No process for the consideration of
draft delegated legislation
The Clerk of the Senate also highlighted the fact that there is
currently no process for the consideration of draft regulations by either this
committee or the Regulations and Ordinances Committee.
As noted by the Clerk, this means that there is no guarantee that the concerns
of either committee will be raised in relation to draft regulations.
Inadequate consultation in the
making of delegated legislation
The Regulations and Ordinances Committee also raised the issue of
consultation in the making of delegated legislation. The Legislative
Instruments Act 2003 requires that a rule-maker 'must be satisfied that any
consultation that is considered by the rule-maker to be appropriate and that is
reasonably practicable to undertake, has been undertaken'.
In determining whether consultation has been appropriate, a rule-maker 'may
have regard to any relevant matter' including the extent to which the
consultation drew on the knowledge of those with expertise in the field, and
ensured that those affected has an adequate opportunity to comment.
The Regulations and Ordinances Committee has highlighted some
difficulties with these provisions and suggested that they may be able to be
strengthened. At the very least, the committee has suggested that the word
'may' could be replaced with the 'must'. The Regulations and Ordinances
Committee recognised that it is difficult for it (and the Senate as a whole) to
determine what action is appropriate where consultation is deficient.
The committee notes that there is no forum dedicated to discussing these
issues about delegated legislation, which are of relevance to both of the
Senate scrutiny committees. The committee suggests that it may be useful for further
consideration to be given to the matters outlined above in this section.
That the Senate Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills and the Regulations
and Ordinances Committee consider issues relating to the scrutiny of delegated
legislation discussed in this report, including the scrutiny of draft delegated
legislation, to develop a response to these matters.
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