House debates

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Bills

Legislation Amendment (Sunsetting Review and Other Measures) Bill 2018; Second Reading

9:50 am

Photo of Mark DreyfusMark Dreyfus (Isaacs, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Attorney General) Share this | Hansard source

The Legislation Amendment (Sunsetting Review and Other Measures) Bill 2018 makes a range of technical amendments to two key pieces of federal legislation—the Legislation Act 2003 and the Acts Interpretation Act 1901. It also makes some other consequential amendments to other federal acts. The main purpose of the bill is to harmonise and streamline the operation of sunsetting provisions.

The sunsetting framework is designed to ensure that legislative instruments only remain in force for as long as they are needed by stipulating that they are automatically repealed 10 years after commencement. The changes to be made by this bill implement the recommendations of a committee that last year conducted a review of sunsetting provisions in the Legislation Act. The committee was made up of three senior Commonwealth officials—Mr Iain Anderson, who also chaired the committee; Mr Peter Quiggin PSM; and Ms Alison Larkins.

The committee made 45 recommendations in its sunsetting review report that was tabled in this House on 23 October 2017. In its report the committee noted:

Sunsetting is an important mechanism for the Australian Government to implement policies to reduce red tape, deliver clearer laws and align existing legislation with current government policy. The sunsetting framework commenced in 2003. Since then 2,024 legislative instruments have appeared on sunsetting lists tabled by the Attorney-General under section 52 of the Legislation Act. Approximately 60% (1,215) of those listed instruments were either allowed to sunset (413 instruments), were actively repealed (340 instruments), or have been replaced (462 instruments). The sunsetting framework has played a key role in keeping the statute book up to date.

I'd take this opportunity to note that the kind of consultation process undertaken for this bill is the kind of consultation that ensures that legislation is fit for purpose when it is introduced to this House. I note with concern that the Abbott and Turnbull governments have been willing to consult on technical legislation with almost no impact on the lives of Australians, such as this bill, but have often refused to consult on far more complex bills with potentially very significant impacts on the rights and freedoms of every Australian. The consequence of the Abbott and Turnbull governments' refusal to consult with the Australian people on many important pieces of legislation that they have introduced is that those bills are introduced in a shocking state, riddled with deeply troubling and often unintended consequences for the Australian people. Such flawed bills must then be substantially amended before they can be passed. In the case of the Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme (Charges Imposition) Bill 2017, introduced by the Prime Minister on 7 December last year, the bill was so massively flawed that the final version that this House passed in June this year had little resemblance to the bill that the government had introduced.

I do acknowledge that that particularly flawed bill was the handiwork of the former Attorney-General, former Senator Brandis, perhaps with the assistance of the Prime Minister. Fortunately, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, along with the current Attorney-General, were able to work together with Labor to hammer that bill into a form that was fit for purpose.

To return to this bill, this bill complements guidelines issued by the Attorney-General's Department to improve the management of sunsetting for legislative instruments. Key measures in the bill include that it broadens the scope of the Attorney-General's power to defer sunsetting; it removes the restriction on the parliament's power to roll over the sunsetting dates of a legislative instrument; it provides a carve-out to ensure that the rules made by federal courts are not subject to the sunsetting framework; it clarifies the definition of 'sitting day' for the purposes of disallowance under the Legislation Act, consistent with current practice; and it clarifies that a provision in the Legislation Act allowing a legislative or notifiable instrument to commence before the instrument is registered operates despite any rule or principle of common law to the contrary, subject to a prohibition on any retrospective effect that adversely affects the rights or liabilities of a person other than the Commonwealth.

Labor supports this bill, because the sunsetting framework helps to keep the statute books free from redundant instruments. I note that the sunsetting framework put in place by this bill does not apply to acts of parliament but only to regulations. However, this bill is primarily about improving housekeeping of statute books, rather than reducing regulation as the government has suggested. I commend this bill to the House.

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