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Wednesday, 23 May 2012
Page: 5406

Mr KEENAN (Stirling) (15:57): I rise to talk briefly on the Parliamentary Counsel and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2012. This bill seeks a rather simple process which is to merge two arms of the Parliamentary Counsel, which is part of the department that does legislative drafting and publishing on behalf of the parliament. Currently, responsibility for legislative drafting is split between the Office of Legislative Drafting and Publishing, and the Office of Parliamentary Counsel. The Office of Legislative Drafting and Publishing is a division within the department comprising 23 legislative drafters and 50 staff responsible for drafting subordinate legislation as well as the registration, editing, compilation and publication of all Commonwealth laws.

The Office of Parliamentary Counsel is an independent statutory agency consisting of a First Parliamentary Counsel, two Second Parliamentary Counsel and 55 staff. Its responsibility is the drafting of government bills and amendments. Most other Australian jurisdictions combine the drafting of bills and subordinate legislation in one office. That recommendation for the Commonwealth to do so was contained within the strategic review of small and medium agencies in the Attorney-General's portfolio, the inquiry which has recently been conducted, and a merger was recommended in order to realise efficiencies in the use of specialised technology and to achieve uniformity in drafting practice for principal and subordinate legislation.

This review has not been made public and it is not clear to the opposition why it has not been released by the government. Clearly, when bills like this come up—although, on the face of it, it is pretty uncontroversial—it would be welcomed by the opposition if we did actually get a chance to have a look at the report. It is very difficult to see why a report of this nature would not be made publicly available and I would call upon the government to consider releasing it. Notwithstanding that, the coalition does welcome any move that identifies efficiencies within the drafting process and, as such, we will not be opposing this particular legislation.