Page 2889 - Week 09 - Thursday, 18 August 2005

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practicable after 30 June 2007. These review provisions were initiated through amendments by the crossbench during debate on both bills in March 2004 and June 2004.

The Dangerous Substances Act creates a modern duty-based framework for the regulation of dangerous goods and hazardous substances, and anticipates international developments in integrated chemicals management. The OH&S Act, as amended, creates an enhanced compliance and enforcement framework for workplace safety in the ACT. This framework is paralleled in the compliance and enforcement provisions of the Dangerous Substances Act. Both acts, as amended, establish complex and innovative regulatory regimes.

Legislative requirements to review the operation of significant new laws are not uncommon and ensure that, following a sufficient period; a sound assessment of the workability of the legislation and its effectiveness in meeting its objectives can be made. However, the government believes that the period of time needed to adequately and comprehensibly assess the legislation should be longer than that currently specified in the Dangerous Substances Act. In seeking to amend the provisions along the lines I will now outline, the government maintains its commitment to the robust review of both these important bodies of legislation.

The Dangerous Substances Act is amended by clause 4 of the bill. The review of act provisions at section 224 presently require a reviewer must not be a public employee employed in an administrative unit that is responsible for the administration of either the Dangerous Substances Act or the OH&S Act; nor should the reviewer be subject to direction by the minister or the chief executive in carrying out the review. While the government is committed to reviewing the Dangerous Substances Act, it questions the need for the current specific requirements regarding arrangements for their conduct. The exclusion of public servants involved in the administration of the legislation from the role of reviewer unnecessarily limits the options that I, as minister, may wish to consider in establishing a review process.

The current requirements could potentially impose considerable costs on the conduct of the review through the need to engage an independent reviewer. The public servants who developed this legislation are experts in the area, and their core duty is to develop and evaluate appropriate legislative regimes. The work of an independent reviewer will, undoubtedly, duplicate much of this work. The merits of an independent review and the public expense it would attract should be a matter for the minister to take into consideration when a review is being set up.

The government recognises that a serious review exercise requires a reviewer to proceed in an objective and impartial manner. This imperative should inform the conduct of all reviews. A requirement that the reviewer not be subject to a direction by the minister or chief executive when carrying out the review, however, is not representative of the general approach to legislative reviews. It could place unnecessary constraints on the framing of the review’s terms of reference and its arrangements that go beyond the objectivity and independence of the findings. This requirement is also subject to amendment in this bill.

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