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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 8 Hansard (25 August) . . Page.. 2362 ..


MR STANHOPE (Leader of the Opposition) (11.48): I present the Subordinate Laws Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1999, together with its explanatory memorandum.

Title read by Clerk.


That this Bill be agreed to in principle.

Mr Speaker, this Bill amends the Subordinate Laws Act 1989 to require any subordinate law proposed by a Minister to have been approved by the whole Executive and for one of the signing Ministers to be the responsible Minister. The policy objective to be achieved by the Bill ensures collective and individual responsibility by the Executive for the making or signing of regulations. It is also to ensure that the intention of any Act empowering the Executive to make regulations for the purposes of the Act is first supported by the whole Executive.

I have been forced to do this because the current requirement that any two Ministers who are members of the Executive may sign regulation into effect is being used to breach that clear intention that any two Ministers signing regulations are clearly interpreting the will of the Executive. In addition, the Westminster convention of collective and personal ministerial responsibility is being further undermined by this practice.

The Attorney-General has stated that he intends, with the assistance of the Minister for Urban Services, to introduce regulations concerning an important policy issue, namely, abortion. The regulations are to be made under an Act administered by the Minister for Health, not the Attorney-General or the Minister for Urban Services. The Minister for Health has publicly stated that he will not make any such regulations, and he has further stated that if they are made he will vote against them.

The Attorney-General has also stated that he has no intention of seeking the approval of the Executive in order to make the regulations. He is content with the notion that any two Ministers are, for the purposes of exercising the regulation-making power, the Executive. I believe this is clearly a fiction and has the capacity to completely undermine the checks and balances provided in the self-government Act in relation to the making of regulations.

It is true that the proposed regulations that have prompted my amending Bill cover a policy area that is subject to a conscience vote. If this Government paid any heed at all to the need for members of the Executive or Cabinet to accept collective and personal responsibility for its decisions or actions, then the Attorney-General and the Minister for Urban Services would be legislating by regulation on a conscience issue.

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