Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . .

Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 11 Hansard (24 September) . . Page.. 3285 ..

MS FOLLETT (continuing):

I think it is also very important that the publishing of our legislation keep pace with modern technology. I am aware that this republication Bill will make it easier for electronic publishing of laws to occur, either within the Territory or outside of the Territory. I think it is important that we continue to advance our use of modern technology for legislation.

The Bill will allow for things like the removal of sexist language, the simplification of expression, renumbering and so on to occur without reference back to the Assembly. I think that is an absolutely commonsense approach to the revision of legislation, but I also think that it does impose some additional responsibilities upon the people who make the drafting amendments, I presume the parliamentary counsel. We do expect that those drafters will pay absolutely scrupulous attention to whether the amendments that they are proposing to make without reference back to the Assembly are in fact amendments purely of an editorial or renumbering nature or whether they may have some policy or other implication which may change the nature of the legislation. I would remind the Assembly that we recently had enormous controversy, in fact I believe a court case, involving the use of a comma or the failure to use a comma in a particular piece of legislation. Clearly, if the drafters are to be going to make those kinds of amendments without their having public scrutiny, then they will have to exercise that responsibility in a way that is extremely careful in attention to detail.

To conclude, the Opposition will be supporting the Bill. I hope that it does mean much clearer legislation and, of course, much greater access to legislation by our community generally. I think that we will have to monitor the use of the republication laws over the next couple of years to make an assessment as to whether they have in fact worked to the benefit of our community and not just to the benefit of the Assembly, which will of course get far fewer Statute Law Revision Bills for its consideration.

MR MOORE (11.35): Ms Follett is indeed right in drawing attention to the irony that the whole intention and drive behind this Bill is to improve accessibility to, and readability of, legislation through clearer language, shortening and simplification, and improved style of presentation; yet it is called the Legislation (Republication) Bill, which is clearly going to cause some confusion for people when they look at the piece of legislation. Ms Follett also points out correctly that the Bill is the result of an initiative of the Scrutiny of Bills Committee - I think an important initiative which goes back some years - but that does not take away credit from the Minister. He raises his eyebrows, so he may well take issue with that. I think there is a role for the Scrutiny of Bills Committee where this legislation is used, where there are situations where legislation has been clarified, where modifications have been made of the limited types that are proposed in this Bill - in other words, not to the substance of the legislation but to its style, presentation and use of language. In that case, I think it is appropriate that the Scrutiny of Bills Committee, under the chairpersonship of Ms Follett, look at that with great care and ensure that where it has been done there are no substantive changes to legislation that, I suppose, would be possible with this Bill.

One thing that eases my mind is the care with which parliamentary counsel always operate. When we give drafting instructions to parliamentary counsel, they invariably raise with us a series of issues or problems about changing legislation. We know the care that they take, but the reality is that the responsibility for legislation still lies fairly and

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . .