Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 2 Hansard (27 February) . . Page.. 311..
MR STANHOPE (Leader of the Opposition) (11.26): Mr Speaker, this bill represents another step into the brave new frontier represented by the Internet and electronic access to vital information. The bill deals with formal requirements to permit the authorised version of ACT legislation in its widest sense to be published on the Internet, and other formal requirements about the making, application and interpretation of legislation currently dealt with in the Subordinate Laws Act, the Interpretation Act and other acts. These latter acts are repealed so far as they cover the same ground.
There is much in the bill to applaud, particularly the publication of authorised versions of legislation on the Internet. Current versions of legislation available on the Internet through such databases as ScalePlus and Austlii are not authorised; that is, the courts, legal practitioners and others cannot rely upon them as the definitive version of the legislation.
This bill requires the Parliamentary Counsel to establish and maintain electronic registers of acts and statutory instruments. The Parliamentary Counsel may approve one or more web sites to publish the electronic register. This will ensure widely available authorised versions of ACT acts and statutory instruments, something which we should all applaud, Mr Speaker.
However, I think there are a couple of problems, some pointed out by the scrutiny of bills committee and some that are longstanding. Some I will attempt to address with amendments at the appropriate time, and one has a number of solutions that the government may be addressing.
Clause 28 is a machinery provision providing that the Speaker must arrange notification of laws that are passed. This provision can be traced from the self-government act to the Interpretation Act, where the power resides with the Chief Minister. I think it is appropriate that the Speaker be given the power. However, none of the earlier provisions or the standing orders bearing on this process contain any time limit within which the Chief Minister had to notify the making of the law. We have always relied on the convention that the Chief Minister would act promptly. That convention was reinforced by standing order 193 which required the Clerk to certify to the Speaker that a bill was a true copy of the bill as passed. If the Chief Minister had not acted promptly it was open to the Assembly to take issue over the matter.
I note, Mr Speaker, that no time limits are set in the provisions of this bill either. I think there is an issue there in terms of the potential discretion which exists and which may, in extreme circumstances, be exercised-of course, Mr Speaker I would never suggest that it would be done with any mal-intent-by a Speaker to determine the timing for the commencement of any legislation.
I might indicate, Mr Speaker, that I have circulated a number of amendments to clause 28, but I have concluded, after some quiet reflection and discussion, not to proceed with them. I will not proceed with those three amendments in relation to the time limit. I am simply making the point, for the record, that we acknowledge that there is a discretion in the Speaker. That discretion, whilst we will bear it, leaves me with some ill-ease, without reflecting at all on you, Mr Speaker, or any other Speaker.
MR SPEAKER: Thank you.