House of Representatives

Statute Law Revision Bill 2009

Second Reading Speech

Mr McClelland (Attorney-General)

(9:12 AM) -I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

This parliament has a strong tradition of passing statute law revision bills with bipartisan support since they were introduced in their current form by the Fraser government in 1981. In the second reading speech to the Statute Law Revision Bill 1981 the then Attorney-General, Senator Durack, said:

The Government has decided to introduce Statute Law Revision Bills into the Parliament on a regular basis, at least once in each year and, if required, once in each sitting. This will enable the prompt correction of mistakes and errors and removal from the statute book of expired laws.

In support of that bill, the then shadow Attorney-General, Senator Evans, congratulated the government for this innovation and said it was:

... a rational legislative measure aiding in the avoidance of the unnecessary cluttering of the parliamentary process with what are on any view small issues most of the time.

This history of uniform support shows that statute law revision bills are regarded as non-controversial bills for the orderly, accurate and up-to-date maintenance of the Commonwealth statute books.

However, this housekeeping work is itself an important contribution to the legislative landscape and the broader justice system. Statute law revision bills improve the quality and accuracy of Commonwealth legislation and enhance the effectiveness and accessibility of the law for the Australian people. This continual process of statutory law revision complements the government's commitment to enhancing the operation and accessibility of the federal justice system for all Australians.

The retention of outdated or unclear legislative provisions makes the laws complex, inconsistent and difficult to access. It imposes needless costs on the community and makes the laws inaccessible for those who cannot afford legal advice. The Statute Law Revision Bill 2009 runs the ruler over Commonwealth legislation to ensure that it reflects the highest standards. Clearer, easy-to-read legislation protects the public's right to understand the law and, in that sense, is of fundamental importance to providing access to justice.

Scrutiny of the statute books extends beyond the correction of minor errors and the clearing away of obsolete acts. The bill also amends a number of statutes to ensure consistency of language and to remove gender-specific language. While the Statute Law Revision Bill 2009 might not rival the immortal words of Shakespeare, words have their meaning and the words in statutes reflect contemporary Australian society. It is appropriate that we ensure our statute books exhibit current social standards.

The Office of Parliamentary Counsel has demonstrated its high level of expertise in the initiation and preparation of this bill. This work will make sure that in future our statute book remains as accurate and effective as it can possibly be. I commend the office for the quality of its work in reviewing, correcting and updating the body of Commonwealth legislation by preparing this bill. I commend this bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr Forrest) adjourned.