Wednesday, 14 September 2016
Statute Law Revision Bill 2016; Second Reading
This bill is called the Statute Law Revision (Spring 2016) Bill 2016, but it did not appear in the parliament this spring. No, a bill that was almost identical to this was introduced into the last parliament, on 17 March this year—so, not actually spring 2016; rather, autumn 2016. The bill has reappeared as part of the Prime Minister's so-called 25-point battle plan, 25 reforms which we have been told would have to be rushed through this parliament as a matter of priority.
It is consistent with the dithering and general incompetence of this government that here we are now looking at a bill—an entirely routine bill that it would be impossible to describe as a matter or priority—first introduced into the last parliament, on 17 March this year.
Labor is happy to support this bill, which does no more than implement a range of drafting amendments across this Commonwealth statute book. Happily, on this occasion the government—other than calling it part of the Prime Minister's 25-point battle plan—has not seen it necessary to dress this bill up as part of some huge war on regulation or bonfire of regulation. I say this because, back in March 2014, the government was desperate to be seen as an anti-red-tape government, when it has been nothing of the kind; it is increasing the size of the Commonwealth regulation book and increasing the size of the Commonwealth statute book. But so keen was the former incarnation of this government, the Abbott government, to claim that it was an anti-regulatory government that it dressed up entirely routine legislation like this, a statute law revision bill, as part of some huge attack on regulation.
Bills of this kind are of course part of the routine work of any parliament. The first statute law revision bill appeared in this parliament in 1931, introduced by the then Attorney-General, Sir John Latham, and statute law revision bills have been part of the work of the House of Commons since the late 19th century. No government should attempt to pretend, as the former, Abbott government did, that this is somehow a work of miraculous importance. It is simply part of the routine work of any parliament.
This particular statute law revision bill, the relabelled Statute Law Revision (Spring 2016) Bill, makes a number of technical changes to existing acts of the Australian parliament. It corrects drafting, clerical and typographical errors. An example would be correcting the numbering in the Excise Act and replacing the words 'a item' with 'an item' in the Customs Act. It amends the Public Lending Right Act by replacing references to 'the Attorney-General' with the more flexible 'minister administering the Copyright Act', and it repeals a number of spent and obsolete provisions.
All of these are worthwhile measures; all of them are aimed at improving the ease of understanding of Commonwealth law. I commend the Office of Parliamentary Counsel for the diligent and thorough work that they do which produces bills like the Statute Law Revision (Spring 2016) Bill.
The Prime Minister should be embarrassed that his stocks have sunk so low, that his government is so adrift, that he has to dress up routine legislative work like this as some kind of policy masterstroke. I commend the bill to the House.