House of Representatives Speech- Acts and Instruments (Framework Reform) Bill 2014

  The Acts and Instruments (Framework Reform) Bill updates and consolidates the arrangements for the registration, tabling, scrutiny and repeal of a range of Commonwealth instruments. The bill implements the recommendations of a statutory review of the Legislative Instruments Act 2003 in 2008 led by a committee comprising Mr Anthony Blunn AO, Mr Ian Govey and Professor John McMillan AO. The bill makes a number of reforms to the arrangements for delegated legislation under the Legislative Instruments Act 2003, which sets out a comprehensive regime for the registration, tabling, scrutiny and repeal of legislative instruments. It consolidates the Acts Publication Act 1905, which deals with statutes, and the Legislative Instruments Act 2003 into a new legislation act. It integrates the database of Commonwealth acts and the Federal Register of Legislative Instruments into a single Federal Register of Legislation. It provides that Commonwealth instruments which are not legislative in character and therefore not captured by the present Legislative Instruments Act be registered on the Federal Register of Legislation as a new category of 'notifiable instrument'. Finally, the bill makes various other technical changes to consolidate the handling of Commonwealth instruments.

The Acts and Instruments (Framework Reform) Bill updates and consolidates the arrangements for the registration, tabling, scrutiny and repeal of a range of Commonwealth instruments. The bill implements the recommendations of a statutory review of the Legislative Instruments Act 2003 in 2008 led by a committee comprising Mr Anthony Blunn AO, Mr Ian Govey and Professor John McMillan AO. The bill makes a number of reforms to the arrangements for delegated legislation under the Legislative Instruments Act 2003, which sets out a comprehensive regime for the registration, tabling, scrutiny and repeal of legislative instruments. It consolidates the Acts Publication Act 1905, which deals with statutes, and the Legislative Instruments Act 2003 into a new legislation act. It integrates the database of Commonwealth acts and the Federal Register of Legislative Instruments into a single Federal Register of Legislation. It provides that Commonwealth instruments which are not legislative in character and therefore not captured by the present Legislative Instruments Act be registered on the Federal Register of Legislation as a new category of 'notifiable instrument'. Finally, the bill makes various other technical changes to consolidate the handling of Commonwealth instruments.

The bill also make changes to the powers of the First Parliamentary Counsel, enabling the FPC to make corrections and minor editorial changes in preparing registered compilations of acts and instruments that do not change the effect of the legislation and to make rules relating to the register. The power given to the First Parliamentary Counsel to make editorial changes to acts or instruments as they appear on the register is, appropriately, closely constrained. The bill is clear that the First Parliamentary Counsel may not change the effect of an act or instrument. 'Editorial change' is defined in the bill to make it clear that only technical drafting changes are intended. The definition includes, for example, spelling and punctuation matters, correct numbering and changes to non-operative parts of statutes such as tables of contents or summaries. The bill provides that where this power is exercised, a statement must be included in the instrument outlining the editorial change or changes which have been made.

I expect that as is its usual practice in other areas of its responsibilities, the Parliamentary Counsel will issue clear guidance about how the power is to be exercised. I expect that alongside the requirement under this bill to give notice in particular instruments when the power has been exercised the First Parliamentary Counsel will report to the parliament about use of the power across the whole statute book. In order words, I would expect that there will be reporting by the First Parliamentary Counsel in annual reporting to parliament or, and I would not expect this to occur, if the power is used more frequently perhaps more frequent reporting to parliament but certainly that parliament will be advised when this novel power enabling the First Parliamentary Counsel to make editorial changes to acts of parliament is exercised.

Labor supports this bill. It is important that delegated legislation and other Commonwealth instruments are dealt with as clearly and as transparently as possible. We support any measure which makes Commonwealth instruments easier to locate and easier to understand. I commend this bill to the House.