Page 1571 - Week 05 - Thursday, 2 June 2022
Statute law amendment bills serve the important purpose of improving the overall quality of the ACT statute book so that our laws are kept up to date and are easier to find, read and understand. A well-maintained statute book greatly enhances access to ACT legislation. While it sounds trite to say that comprehensible and cohesive legislation is key for our community to be able to rely on it, we should not take for granted the diligence of our Parliamentary Counsel’s Office in keeping up with this regular program of amendments.
The bill contains a number of minor amendments, with detailed explanatory notes, so it is not useful for me to go through each and every one of them. However, I would like to take the opportunity to highlight a few matters. I would ordinarily run through these highlights in order, but I wish to highlight schedule 3, in particular, of this bill. Schedule 3 contains a series of amendments to remove gendered language from multiple acts and regulations.
Consistent with the recognition of gender diverse people, the use of personal pronouns in the masculine or feminine is no longer appropriate drafting practice in the ACT. Multiple amendments in schedule 3 update the statute book with gender neutral language—that is, language that avoids bias towards a particular sex or social gender. Instances of “he or she”, “his or her”, “him or her” and “himself or herself” are replaced with “they”, “their”, “them”, “themself” or the noun that is the subject of the sentence.
As I have said before in this place, language is powerful. When our legislation is unnecessarily gendered it sends a message of erasure and exclusion. That is not the kind of community that Canberra is, so we must adapt our legislation to accord with our values. I am very pleased to be bringing forward these inclusive amendments today.
Moving to the other matters contained in this bill, schedule 1 will make a minor amendment to the Territory Records Act 2002, section 36(e). The paragraph provides that the minister may end the appointment of the director of territory records “if the director is absent from duty for 14 consecutive days, or for 28 days in any 12 months, except on leave given by the minister”. The words “except on leave given by the minister” inadvertently create a requirement for the minister to approve the director’s leave if the director intends to be on leave for longer than 14 consecutive days or for 28 days in any 12-month period.
While the director’s appointment to the position of director of territory records is made under the Territory Records Act 2002, part 4, the director is employed as a senior executive service member of the ACT public service under the Public Sector Management Act 1994. The bill replaces the words “except on leave given by the minister” with “other than on approved leave” so that it is clear that there is no requirement for the minister to approve the director’s leave.
Schedule 2 of the bill is reserved for minor, non-controversial amendments of the Legislation Act 2001 initiated by the Parliamentary Counsel’s Office. The bill does not provide for such amendments to the Legislation Act but retains the schedule heading to preserve the usual numbering of schedule 3.