Wednesday, 14 September 2016
Statute Update Bill 2016; Second Reading
This bill, the Statute Update Bill 2016, is really in a similar category to the bill to which I have just spoken. Like the previous bill, it has been dressed up by this government as part of the 25-point battle plan that, as we were told in late August, the Prime Minister 'will challenge the parliament to fast-track'. He described it as a challenge to 'fast-track 25 priority reforms in a policy onslaught'. This particular bill was one in the 25-point battle plan.
One has to say that for this bill to be described as urgent is pretty much as laughable as describing the previous bill that was before the House as urgent. This bill, like the last bill, was first introduced on 17 March and unfortunately lapsed on the proroguing of parliament for the election. Far from being urgent, it was simply not given any debating time in the last parliament. It is not part of some tremendous policy reform. It is not part of a policy reform at all. This bill implements a range of drafting amendments across the Commonwealth statute book.
The amendments, I think it is fair to say, would properly be described as having little if any legal effect. They are matters that are largely of drafting style. That said, it is very important that the Commonwealth's statute book is tweaked and reviewed and examined, and amended if necessary, to make sure that at all times the law is as clear and coherent and comprehensible as possible. Of course it is the case that courts, officials, lawyers and the general public should be able to understand the effect of the law as easily as possible. The Statute Update Bill makes some changes that assist with that task and, for that reason, Labor is happy to support it.
But let us be very clear about this: this is not part of some vast attack by the Liberal government on regulation. It is not part of the anti-red tape push—nothing of the kind. It is certainly not something that could be described in any sense as a priority reform or as part of a policy onslaught. The idea that it would form part of a 25-point battle plan introduced by this Prime Minister is laughable. It is not groundbreaking reform. It is not bold policy action. The Prime Minister, again, should be embarrassed. On the anniversary of his accession to the job, the Prime Minister should be embarrassed that his stocks have sunk so low, that his government is so adrift and that he has to dress up routine legislative work like this as some kind of policy masterstroke—let alone that it should be part of a 25-point battle plan. Heaven help Australia if the battle plan of our government needs to consist of bills like the two that have just been before the House: the Statute Law Revision (Spring 2016) Bill 2016 and this bill, the Statute Update Bill 2016. I commend the bill to the House.