Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 10 Hansard (Thursday, 23 September 2010) . . Page.. 4430 ..
MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (12.00): The opposition will support most elements of the bill, which is one in a series of omnibus legislation to amend laws administered by the Department of Justice and Community Safety.
In March this year, I put forward a motion calling for the establishment of a practice of refraining from using omnibus legislation for matters of substantive policy change. That motion was supported in the Assembly. There are two elements of this bill that do not comply with the spirit and intent of that motion or with the spirit and intent of having omnibus legislation. Once again, this government has not been honest in the way these amendments were presented. Today I will deal with those two matters.
The bill deals with four overall matters. The first relates to the transfer of consumer credit regulation to the commonwealth. A national consumer credit scheme was established by a COAG agreement in June 2008. Responsibility transferred to the commonwealth on 1 July 2010, with some matters not coming under the control of the commonwealth until 1 July 2011. In connection with that shift in responsibility, the bill repeals a number of acts and the legislative instruments made under them.
The bill also identifies a number of other acts that require consequential amendments. These mainly relate to cross-referencing to the repealed legislation. One of them, though, the Fair Trading (Consumer Affairs) Act 1973, also carries a number of transitional amendments which will expire on 1 July 2013; 2½ years after the commonwealth takes full control. These transitional amendments do the following: they preserve the financial counselling fund; allow the ACT to disclose information to the commonwealth for efficient operation of the national law as it applies in the ACT; allow the ACT to engage the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, ASIC, to undertake local functions on behalf of the ACT; provide that references to repealed laws become references to the national credit legislation; apply the repealed legislation to any pre-national credit code contracts; and continue to apply repealed finance broking provisions to protect consumers from being ripped off on commission charges.
The amendments that bring ASIC into play carry the first of the issues that give me considerable concern that I referred to earlier, but on balance, and notwithstanding my concerns, I think that they should be supported.
The scrutiny of bills committee, in its report 27, noted the inclusion of a deceptively simple provision that the provisions apply irrespective of any other territory law. The committee pointed out that this is misleading because the provision in no way prevents the territory from making laws—even some that might amend, repeal or override the provision itself. When the committee drew this to the government’s attention in a previous instance, the government itself acknowledged the matter. However, in this case it is clear that the government has not taken heed of its own position in the drafting of this provision.
Mr Corbell’s response on this occasion was given in his usual off-handed, dismissive manner, which is a matter of increasing concern for me as the shadow attorney-general and also as the chairman of the scrutiny of bills committee. But worse,