Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 5 Hansard (10 May) . . Page.. 1483..
MR CORBELL (continuing):
is well informed by discussions with a broad range of stakeholders. It is for those reasons that the government will not be agreeing to this legislation.
MR STEFANIAK (Ginninderra) (4.11): The opposition will not be supporting this bill either. Of course, Dr Foskey consulted with a lot of people here. To take the consultation point first, I would agree with a lot of what the Attorney-General says in relation to that. When you introduce a bill, in your speech it is appropriate to say who has been consulted. People are interested, regardless of whether it is a government bill, an opposition bill or a crossbench bill. Indeed, when I am getting briefings on bills I always ask, "Just whom have you consulted?"Then I often ring around to see if the groups I think should be consulted have been consulted—and it is a bit of a problem if they have not been consulted. It is probably not something you need to put in the explanatory statement. I have great sympathy for what the Attorney-General has indicated in that regard.
Also as far as explanatory statements are concerned, in scrutiny law reports we have recently had some comments as to some of them not being particularly adequate and some being quite good. It is somewhat patchy. What is an explanatory statement? Basically, it explains what is in a bill. I believe it is not done by parliamentary counsel but rather as a result of the drafting instructions and what is put forward by departments. Doing an explanatory statement is a bit of a fine art, which is a problem in itself when looking at all bills.
At its best, an explanatory statement will perhaps go a bit further and explain the nuances of certain pieces of legislation. Some legislation is quite evident and you do not need an explanatory statement. It certainly can assist in certain circumstances, but to make it compulsory is a real problem. It is not difficult for a government, which has the departmental resources to do explanatory statements, but it can be very difficult for other people in the Assembly.
I could be wrong here, but in the seven years we were in government I cannot remember too many opposition bills—they were a bit slack there. When there were opposition bills then, I cannot recall any explanatory statements. Because of the small size of the Assembly and the fact that they could go around and talk to people if they were a little bit uncertain as to what something in the bill meant, that was not a problem. As I said earlier, doing explanatory statements is a fairly intricate art.
In the capacity of shadow Attorney-General and in other areas, I introduced quite a few bills into the last Assembly and this one as well, and I will probably continue to do so. In most instances I have not put in an explanatory statement. For larger bills, it is very difficult. It is a resourcing issue if you are in opposition. I offer no criticism of the Labor government when they were in opposition for not putting in explanatory statements. I can certainly say that, for the bills they put in, it was not a problem. It did not affect the government's understanding of them. On the odd occasion when something was a little bit uncertain, you would just go to the member who put the bill in and ask, "What is the problem here? What does it mean?"That would give you an idea of what they were intending to do. Doing something like that is not rocket science. I think that to mandate that everyone has to put in an explanatory statement is largely unnecessary and very time consuming. It is often very difficult for people who are not necessarily expert in that to get it right. I think that is a big problem.