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Wednesday, 24 September 1997
Page: 6890

Senator MURRAY(4.53 p.m.) —I move:

(12)   Clause 61, page 63 (after line 11), insert:

(1A)   Any reference in this Act to disallowance of a legislative instrument or a provision of a legislative instrument is deemed to include a reference to disallowance of part of a legislative instrument.

(1B)   If, within 15 sitting days of a legislative instrument being laid before each House, each House by resolution amends the legislative instrument or part of the legislative instrument in identical terms, the legislative instrument as amended shall take effect according to those terms from the day of the later resolution.

I said in my second reading contribution that the ability to amend regulations by the parliament is or would be an important time saving and accountability mechanism. Not infrequently, we have found that governments of all political persuasions will include substantial improvements and much needed reforms amongst much needed regulations, but which will include less desirable public policy measures or politically contentious ones. This amendment addresses that issue by allowing this chamber to disallow part of an instrument. It seems strange to us that it is well within our daily lexicon to amend every bill that comes before us, but to be unable to do so with legislative instruments.

It would also allow the Senate to get around what I have been advised is the ambiguous legal position under section 48B of the Acts Interpretation Act. That provision of the Acts Interpretation Act makes unlawful any regulations which are made while a disallowance motion is on foot and which are the same in substance as those regulations subject to the disallowance motion. The effect of such regulations, when made in contravention of that section, is to render the new regulations as having no effect.

We have, on occasions in the past, seen some shady dealings the effect of which has been to circumvent debate in this chamber. In our view, a correct reading of section 48B may have the effect of invalidating those regulations which arise as a result of `done deals'. The courts will indeed ultimately adjudicate on this issue if asked to. However, we think that our amendment today will help to overcome that and, of course, we believe the amendment enhances accountability and the role of parliament for all the parties in this chamber.