House of Representatives

Statute Law Revision Bill 1973

Statute Law Revision Act 1973

Second Reading Speech

Mr Enderby (Australian Capital Territory-Minister for Secondary Industry and Minister for Supply) (12.37)-I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

Honourable members are probably aware that on 9 October this year my colleague the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) made a statement in the Senate announcing that the Government had decided to publish in bound volumes a consolidation of the Acts passed by the Australian Parliament as in force at the end of this year. The Attorney-General pointed out that the reprint of the Acts is a massive task, and referred to the fact that when the last consolidation of Australian Acts took place, which was as long ago as 1950, the publication ran to 5 volumes of Acts and an additional volume of tables, indexes and materials of that kind. The Attorney-General said that the amount of legislation since that time has been such that it is estimated that, by the end of this year, the Acts of the Australian Parliament will run to some 11,000 pages, which is more than twice the size of the previous consolidation, and that the new consolidation will probably extend to some 11 volumes each of about 1,000 pages.

Honourable members are probably also aware that the Government Printer is using new Photon equipment for the printing of Hansard. This equipment will also be used in connection with the printing of the consolidation and should be of tremendous help. The Attorney-General is hopeful that, by using this equipment, the first volume of the consolidation will be published in June 1974 and each subsequent volume will be published at monthly intervals. The aim is to complete the project by June 1975. As the Attorney-General has said, this time-table is an immense improvement on the last consolidation, which took some 5 years to complete, notwithstanding that that publication was only half the size of the one now proposed. As already mentioned, the last consolidation took place a long time ago-in 1950. Notwithstanding the fact that the more important Australian Acts are regularly published in pamphlet form, this new consolidation is long overdue and will be of tremendous assistance to persons, both lawyers and others, in finding provisions in Australian Acts. It is well known to anyone who practises law that one of the greatest troubles that any lawyer faces is finding his law. If he has to spend a lot of unnecessary time finding it, it is expensive and it is reflected in the expense which inevitably, unfortunately, is passed on to the client or the consumer. This consolidation of Acts will help in large measure to overcome that problem and make the law easier to find. The year 1950 is indeed a long time ago.

An important preliminary step in the program of publishing the consolidation is the enactment of the Bill now before the House. To repeat the rather apt phrase that was used in 1934 by the then Attorney-General when introducing the Statute Law Revision Bill of that year, and used again in 1950 by the Attorney-General of that time, the main object of the Bill is 'merely to cut away the dead wood on the statute-book'. Although this is its main object, the Bill goes further than the repeal of obsolete Acts and provisions in Acts. It also corrects errors and up dates some matters of form. In short, the Bill will clear the way for the consolidation, and will substantially reduce its volume and improve its form. I would like to assure honourable members that the Bill will not effect any change in substance in the law. Having in mind the object of the Bill, particularly when that object is considered as clearing the way for the publication of the consolidation, I am sure that the Bill will be supported by both sides of the House and be given a speedy passage. I commend the Bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr Peacock) adjourned.