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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 03 Hansard (Thursday, 18 March 2010) . . Page.. 1107 ..

minor and technical amendments. Those amendments should be of a non-contentious nature to ensure that the ACT statute book is kept up to date and contemporary. Major policy changes should be dealt with openly and under dedicated bills. I commend this motion to the Assembly.

MR RATTENBURY (Molonglo) (12.02): Statute law is made up by continually changing an array of interconnected pieces of legislation. One small change can require changes to numerous other pieces of legislation.

I noted Mrs Dunne’s lazy sideswipe regarding the amendments to the Fair Trading (Consumer Affairs) Act 1973 in the earlier debate about the Greens’ amendment to try to produce better protection for battery hens in the ACT and to provide consumers with the information to be able to make informed choices. This was exactly an example where one important policy change that was passed had some flow-on effects for other legislation. That is exactly the sort of thing that omnibus bills are supposed to do.

It also underlines the fact that omnibus bill generally are required. They make minor and consequential changes broadly across the entire statute book without introducing policy change. When policy change is made, it warrants and generally receives a bill in its own right.

Justice and community safety bills are the most common types of omnibus bills that the Assembly sees. There have been 24 such acts in the current series. As Mrs Dunne just noted, the standard presentation speech for all JACS bills—not just the most recent one but all of them—contains the introductory text where the minister says, “The bill I am introducing today will improve the quality of the statute book and make minor or technical amendments to portfolio legislation.”

The vast majority of amendments pursued through JACS bills are just that, minor and technical. They give effect to existing government policy which is well established. This is not always the case, as we are unfortunately starting to see. Sometimes amendments represent significant policy shifts. The Greens believe this must be guarded against. Mrs Dunne has, in her comments, highlighted a number of examples. For the sake of brevity I will not touch on them again.

The consequences of these moves to bring through perhaps more substantive policy questions are that important policy changes are not fully explained or justified by the government. There is the potential for significant policy changes to slip through without the appropriate level of scrutiny by the Assembly or by stakeholders, an important part of any debate. There is a greater risk of unintended consequences from that legislative change because of the potential lack of focus or lack of scrutiny that may have been received. What were slated as being minor or technical amendments, therefore, do not receive the attention they should.

Having made those comments, I concur with Mrs Dunne’s comments about the role of omnibus legislation. I again express my disappointment at the failure to take up the opportunity to stop the government doing this when we voted on the last bill. In concurring with those comments, I indicate that the Greens will support this motion

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