House of Representatives

Statute Law Revision Bill (No. 2) 2010

Second Reading Speech

Mr McClelland (Attorney-General)

I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

Statute law revision bills have been used for the last 30 years to improve the quality of Commonwealth legislation. The bills do not make substantive changes to law but still perform the important function of repairing minor errors in the Commonwealth statute books and improving the accuracy and usability of consolidated versions of Commonwealth acts.

This continual process of statutory review complements the government's commitment to creating clearer Commonwealth laws. This connection was aptly put in a media article which referred to the previous Statute Law Revision Bill as 'hoovering up statutory detritus'. There is no doubt that the review process undertaken in the preparation of this bill serves to ensure the statute book contains less clutter, in the form of outdated cross-references, by repealing obsolete acts.

Schedules 1 to 4 of this bill achieve three main ends:

correcting minor and technical errors in acts, such as grammatical errors and errors in numbering;
modernising the language of a number of acts, and
repealing obsolete acts.

By removing or amending such outdated or unclear legislative provisions this bill helps make the law clearer, more consistent and easier to access.

Schedules 5 to 8 of the bill amend a number of acts to ensure that Commonwealth ministers and departments are referred to consistently, rather than by using specific names.

Currently, when the names of ministers or departments change, or when responsibility for particular legislation is transferred between ministers or departments, the Governor-General makes substituted reference orders under sections 19B and 19BA of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901. The orders allow references to specific ministers or departments in legislation to be read as though they are references to the correct minister or department. This means that, in turn, users of Commonwealth legislation have to read the legislation in conjunction with these orders.

The amendments contained in schedules 5 to 8 will greatly reduce reliance on section 19B and 19BA orders and the need for such orders to be made in the future. This is because the amendments insert more generic references to ministers and departments in Commonwealth acts. For example, instead of referring to the 'Minister for Finance and Deregulation,' after these amendments have been passed by the parliament, they will refer to the 'minister for finance.' This will be defined as 'the minister administering the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997.' The particular minister with that responsibility may change over time. This will improve the clarity and usability of Commonwealth acts over time.

The Ministerial Council for Corporations has been consulted on the amendments in the bill to the national corporate regulation scheme laws and has approved them as required under the Corporations Agreement 2002.

I conclude by thanking the Office of Parliamentary Counsel for the significant time and effort that went into preparing this bill. This is just one more demonstration of the office's drafting expertise and commitment to ensuring that Commonwealth legislation is clear, accurate and effective. I commend the bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Ms Gambaro) adjourned.