House of Representatives Speech- Omnibus Repeal Day (Spring 2014) Bill 2014, Amending Acts 1970 to 1979 Repeal Bill 2014, Statute Law Revision Bill (No. 2) 2014

The Statute Law Revision Bill (No. 2) 2014 is the second introduced by the government this year. The parliament has introduced such bills with regularity since 1934. They are, as the Bills Digest notes, a matter of 'housekeeping'. These bills correct drafting errors, update cross-references and remove spent or obsolete provisions. These bills serve a worthy purpose—they maintain the tidiness of the statute book. This is an ongoing task for this and other parliaments.

The Statute Law Revision Bill (No. 2) 2014 is the second introduced by the government this year. The parliament has introduced such bills with regularity since 1934. They are, as the Bills Digest notes, a matter of 'housekeeping'. These bills correct drafting errors, update cross-references and remove spent or obsolete provisions. These bills serve a worthy purpose—they maintain the tidiness of the statute book. This is an ongoing task for this and other parliaments.

But this is not bold deregulatory reform; it is routine work undertaken by all modern governments. Among other things, this bill fixes an incorrect cross-reference in the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Code Act 1994; closes a bracket in 474.258(2) of the Criminal Code; corrects the spelling of 'laminated' in a schedule to the Customs Tariffs Act 1995, which presently reads 'laminiated'; and removes a comma from the Surveillance Devices Act 2004, but adds a full stop to the Superannuation Industry (Supervision) Act 1993.

The bill inserts gender-neutral language into two acts. I certainly thank the government for this. It has quite rightly been the policy of Commonwealth drafters to use gender-neutral language since 1984. I am genuinely very pleased to see that the Attorney-General has not taken the lead of his LNP counterpart in Queensland, who has recently and controversially returned to gender-specific language in legislation, restructuring the Crime and Misconduct Commission. The use of 'chairman' over 'chairperson' is probably the least of the problems of Queenslanders under Attorney-General Bleijie, but I agree with the many lawyers and citizens in Queensland who have objected to this retrograde step. I thank the Commonwealth Attorney-General for sticking to proper modern drafting practice in this regard.

This bill makes other sundry changes. In a number of acts it replaces the antiquated legal term 'servant' with its modern equivalent 'employee'. Again, this is an uncontroversial drafting point, which the Acts Interpretation Act makes clear is of no substantive legal effect. The bill restructures the Veterans' Entitlements Act for better readability. Again, all of this is worthy. None of it is groundbreaking. This bill is not in any sense 'deregulation'. The inclusion of this routine piece of housekeeping in the government's repeal day stunt beggars belief. It is routine housekeeping which has been the practice of the Australian parliament since the first Statute Law Revision Act in 1934. It has been the practice of the United Kingdom parliament since 1861. It is not novel and certainly not some grand act of deregulation. This bill will not reduce in any measurable way the regulatory burden on any Australian business. It will not remove or streamline any operative regulation. That the government would try to dress this bill up into a grand political gesture shows this government's lack of substance.

The Amending Act Repeal Bill, which is also before the House, follows on from the Amending Acts 1901 to 1969 Repeal Act introduced in the government's last 'repeal day' stunt in March. This bill repeals around 650 amending or repeal acts passed between 1970 and 1979. As the amendments or repeals have already taken place, the effect of these acts is spent. Section 7 of the Acts Interpretation Act makes clear that the repeal of an amending or repeal act does not undo its operation. This bill therefore has no effect on the operation of any law.

The explanatory memorandum to the bill claims the repeal of these acts is desirable in order to reduce the regulatory burden and make accessing the law simpler for both businesses and individuals. However, the explanatory memorandum also states that 'the repeal of these acts will not substantially alter existing arrangements or make any change to the substance of the law' and that there is 'no financial impact'. We do not argue with getting rid of regulations that are redundant, no longer enforced and not relevant. It is the same attitude we had while we were in government. We repealed over 16,000 acts, regulations and legislative instruments when we were in office.

Let us not pretend, however, that the removal of these 650 acts that is proposed in this bill does anything to 'reduce the regulatory burden' when the explanatory memorandum to the bill itself says 'the repeal of these acts will not substantially alter existing arrangements or make any change to the substance of the law'. Not a single piece of legislation repealed by this bill has any operation. All of the acts to be repealed have been inoperative for at least 35 years. They do not and cannot have any bearing on the needs of Australian businesses and individuals in 2014.

We will not hear from anyone on the government side in this debate say how the repeal of the Brigalow Lands Agreement Amendment Act 1977 or the repeal of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands Amendment Act 1979 or the repeal of the National Fitness Amendment Act 1979 will affect businesses or individuals because the repeal makes no change at all to the substance of Australian law. This bill is nothing more than a stunt to allow the government to claim that it is cutting regulation while not saving any money or removing any operative regulation.