Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 4 Hansard (25 June) . . Page.. 1034 ..
MR KAINE (11.21): There are some points that need to be put on the record about this legislation because it is new legislation that fits into the new concept of national enterprise rather than State or territorial enterprise. I think we need to heed the warning that comes from the scrutiny of Bills committee's report on this matter, where its advice drew attention to the fact that with this kind of legislation we are passing to people outside the Territory the power to make law for us. What these Bills do collectively is, first of all, confer on the Government of South Australia the right to amend our law, because it is a South Australian law that we are adopting and by amendment to that law those amendments automatically flow to the ACT; and, secondly, adopt codes of practice which are controlled elsewhere.
This raises the question, in my view, of whether or not we ought to be blindly adopting South Australian law and simply saying, "The law for the Territory is the South Australian law", because it means that we cannot amend it. It may well be that at some time in the future we wish to amend our law and it may, by that amendment, be out of step to some degree with what is happening in South Australia. We should have the power to be able to do that, but our legal advice is that it is not going to be possible. When we adopt these national regimes, whether in connection with gas, electrical energy or whatever, we need to be a bit cautious about simply picking up a body of law that exists somewhere else and adopting that law by reference to it in our own legislation.
Maybe we would have been better off to have enacted the South Australian legislation in its entirety as ACT law with an ACT title on the top of it. This Assembly could then amend it as it sees fit. Obviously, in doing that, we have to be careful that we are operating within a national agreement. We could not amend it too far, perhaps, without getting out of step with the national agreement. But it does raise questions about who is responsible for enacting ACT law. It is quite clear that, with this legislation, we are passing that responsibility to another government, to other entities who, by these Acts, are given the power to enact legislation for us. It is something that we need to note carefully. The Government in future need to think about it a bit before they simply adopt another body of law without qualification, and removing our right to amend it.
The legal advice through the scrutiny of Bills committee also notes that these bodies that are now empowered to enact law for us even have a very tenuous and indirect link with the ACT Executive. So it is not only the legislature that will not have a great impact on the legislation in the future; it is the ACT Executive as well. When members of our Executive go to ministerial meetings around the country to deal with these matters and it is intended to amend the law as a result of discussions of that kind, perhaps the Executive should seek the views of this place before the Minister goes, rather than the Minister going off to a meeting, coming back and saying, "We are now committed to amending our law because all the Ministers in Australia agreed to it. We went along meekly, so we are obligated to amend our law as well". This legislature ought to be aware, perhaps, of the potential changes to the law before they are agreed to, rather than afterwards. Mr Speaker, in connection with the supply Bill, I have made the point that it adopts Australian standards and codes of practice. I think that in this case it is probably not such a bad thing because codes of practice can be changed more readily than some other State's law can.