Statute Update (Autumn 2018) Bill 2018

Australian Parliament House, Canberra.

Mr DREYFUS (Isaacs—Deputy Manager of Opposition Business) (11:08):  Labor supports this bill, the Statute Update (Autumn 2018) Bill 2018, which is a standard piece of legislative housekeeping—that is the proper term for it. These bills, under both the Abbott and Turnbull governments, regrettably had been given a status which they did not deserve. The reason I say that is that the purpose of bills like this is largely to correct typographical errors that have occurred in acts as a result of drafting and clerical mistakes, and to remove obsolete and spent legislation from the statute books. It's essentially a routine housekeeping bill to keep the statute books up to date.

I cannot help but cast my mind back to the way in which the Abbott government dealt with routine updating of typographical errors or spent legislation. The House will remember the great farce that was the Abbott government's multiple repeal days.

At that time, we heard feverish talk about a bonfire of regulations. With tremendous fanfare and much boasting on each of its two repeal days in 2015, the Abbott government introduced a statute law revision bill and an amending acts repeal bill. The government claimed at the time that they would achieve somewhere between $1 billion and $2.1 billion in savings in compliance cost. This, as with so much of the Abbott and now the Turnbull government's proclamations, was fanciful and disingenuous.

The Australian people would have been forgiven for thinking that the statute law revisions bills and the amending acts repeal bills of 2015 were bold reform cast large on the national stage. They were not. Every year Australian parliaments pass these bills, which correct typos, update drafting and improve formatting and numbering, among other things. Amending acts repeal bills simply remove from the statute books now-redundant laws which are no longer in force because they have served their purpose of amending or repealing other acts of parliament. The notion that meaningful deregulation was achieved by repealing amending acts which had not been in force for decades was nonsense and it was misleading.

The Labor Party has a genuine belief in appropriate and necessary regulation. Where there is a need for deregulation, Labor will support it, but deregulation must be meaningful and, unlike our opponents, Labor will not cast the routine work of the parliament as an exercise in massive deregulation. Labor governments have successfully provided sweeping competition reform, the floating of the dollar and the slashing of tariffs. This was meaningful deregulation. Labor has never shied away from removing regulations which do not serve a worthwhile purpose. However, we do believe, unlike the government, that we need regulation to protect labour standards, our consumers and our environment. But we have never supported regulation for regulation's sake.

So, when the government puts forward anodyne but necessary measures like those in this bill, we are happy to support them. The amendments in this bill are intended to enhance readability, facilitate interpretation and administration, and promote consistency across the Commonwealth statute book. The amendments are minor and technical in nature and make either no change or only very minor changes to the substance of the law.

The bill contains six schedules. Schedule 1 corrects errors in five principal acts and makes minor technical improvements to clarify the text of the law. Schedule 2 amends four acts to replace outdated references to 'the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia' with references to 'Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand'. Schedule 3 to the bill makes amendments to the Food Standards Australia New Zealand Act 1991 which are consequential to the amendment of the Acts and Instruments (Framework Reforms) Act 2015. Schedule 4 repeals 22 obsolete references to the Crown in the right of Norfolk Island, reflecting the abolition of that body politic on 1 July 2016. Schedule 5 repeals spent provisions in two acts. Schedule 6 repeals 40 amending acts which are now obsolete.

This bill, like many similar bills that have come before successive parliaments, will not set the world alight, but they are a necessary administrative task of the parliament, and the Labor Party supports them. I commend the bill to the House.