Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 5 Hansard (6 May) . . Page.. 1837..
MR CORBELL (Molonglo—Attorney-General, Minister for the Environment, Climate Change and Water, Minister for Energy and Minister for Police and Emergency Services) (10.07): I move:
That this bill be agreed to in principle.
The Justice and Community Safety Legislation Amendment Bill 2010 (No 2) is the 25th bill in a series of legislation that concerns the Justice and Community Safety portfolio. The bill I am introducing today will improve the quality of the ACT statute book.
Members would remember that the Assembly recently supported a motion calling on the government to, firstly, adhere to the generally accepted practice of using omnibus bills to deal only with amendments to legislation that are minor, technical and non-contentious in nature and, secondly, bring forward amendments of a more substantive nature in separate bills dealing specifically with those amendments.
I would like to take the opportunity now to reflect on the government's understanding of what is the generally accepted practice in relation to the content of omnibus bills. The omnibus bill program was developed in response to the need for greater flexibility in the drafting of amendments for revision purposes and to minimise costs associated with keeping ACT legislation up to date. Omnibus bills enable legislative amendments and repeals to be made that, taken alone, would generally be insufficiently important to justify separate legislation.
There are two major types of omnibus bills which the government uses to effect change to the ACT statute book—JACS bills and statute law amendment bills, or SLABs, as they are more commonly known. SLABs are designed to effect minor and technical amendments to legislation. They are an important part of maintaining and enhancing the standard of ACT law. The types of amendments that are typically included in SLABs are purely technical, involving the correction of grammatical issues, restructuring, omitting redundant words and updating language in line with current legislative drafting practice. SLABs are never used as a vehicle to enact substantive amendments.
JACS bills, on the other hand, have always been used to effect more substantive changes to the law than SLABs. While the amendments included may be substantive, the government has always striven to ensure that they do not involve a significant policy shift. JACS bills typically involve amendments which clarify or simplify procedures under the existing law, reinforce an existing policy intention or achieve national consistency through implementation of nationally agreed amendments.
In supporting the recent motion on the use of omnibus bills, I do not think that any member was suggesting that substantive amendments should not be made in JACS bills. However, the government is supportive of ensuring that the norm is that a majority of the substantive issues pursued through a JACS bill should not be controversial. The government is also supportive of ensuring that major new initiatives and major new policy are pursued through a distinct and separate bill.