Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Sittings . . . . PDF . . . . Video

Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 03 Hansard (Thursday, 18 March 2010) . . Page.. 1105 ..


(a) the past generally accepted practice of using “omnibus” bills to deal with amendments to legislation that are minor, technical and non-contentious in nature; and

(b) the increasing prevalence of the inclusion of substantive amendments to legislation in “omnibus” bills; and

(2) calls on the Government to:

(a) 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

(b) bring forward amendments of a more substantive nature in separate bills dealing specifically with those amendments.

Omnibus bills have been used in legislatures around the world for centuries. They are typically used to allow the legislature to pass a range of laws in one document. They should be used to deal with matters that are minor and technical in nature or that are non-contentious to our laws.

That said, it is to be acknowledged that omnibus legislation has been used in the past in quite major laws, the most outstanding of which was the compromise of 1850 in the US that was an intricate package of five bills defusing a four-year confrontation between the slave states of the south and the free states of the north that arose from the expectation of territorial expansion of the United States.

The irony of these five bills passing the US legislature is that they were initially combined into one, but they were so substantial and the general public was so uninformed about them that eventually the matters could not pass because the provisions could not be supported by the majority. Therefore, eventually the bills had to be split, whereby they were able to be passed.

In the ACT, we have seen the Attorney-General testing that risk. The latest example is the JACS Amendment Bill, which the Assembly has just voted into law. At the end of the day, we voted for the bill because we agreed with the various elements. But we did consider voting it down because of the predominance of substantive elements that should have been presented separately.

Let me again identify those major elements. They comprise amendments to the ACAT Act, the Emergencies Act, the Magistrates Court Act, the Supreme Court Act and the Wills Act. In other words, half of the 10 acts that were amended by the JACS bill carried substantive changes.

One question I ask myself is: how is the general public supposed to find out about or be aware of these substantive changes? For example, would a family, grappling with the testamentary problems of a member, who hears that the government intends to change the law to allow the Supreme Court to help, go to the JACS bill to find out how it would work? I very much doubt that it would. It would not go looking under


Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Sittings . . . . PDF . . . . Video