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Wednesday, 23 May 2012
Page: 5407

Mr ZAPPIA (Makin) (16:00): As the Attorney-General said in her second reading speech, the Parliamentary Counsel and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2012 amends the Parliamentary Counsel Act 1970, the Acts Publication Act 1905, and the Legislative Instruments Act 2003 to enable the functions of the Office of Legislative Drafting and Publishing in the Attorney-General's Department to be transferred to the Office of Parliamentary Counsel. As the Attorney-General went on to say, and as the previous speaker has already stated, the two functions are currently separate and, in effect, this legislation brings them together under the Office of Parliamentary Counsel.

Parliament could not function without the professionalism and competency of the people who work behind the scenes in support of the parliamentarians who are elected to this place. As parliamentarians, we come to this place with ideas and beliefs, ideas which may become policies. To give effect to those policies we then enact laws. In doing so, there are three important considerations that immediately come to my mind: firstly, that the laws enacted accurately reflect the intent of the policy; secondly, that the laws enacted can be clearly interpreted by the courts; and, thirdly, that the laws enacted are not in conflict with other laws. I will briefly speak to each of those three considerations.

Firstly, as we all know, from time to time disputes arise with respect to laws of the land and, in handing down judgments it is not uncommon for judges of the day, or people who sit on the bench, to rely on the intent of the legislation when it has been passed in parliament, whether a federal or a state parliament. So the intent of the legislation becomes an important consideration. It is therefore important that the laws that are drafted and subsequently passed by the parliament accurately reflect the intent of the parliament. It is also in the public interest to clearly understand what that intent is, because whether you are a citizen of the land, a business operator or any community organisation for that matter, our laws govern the general conduct of yourself or the organisation and therefore to understand the clear intent of the law is important for everybody.

The second issue relates to the courts and their role in disputes, and both the legal profession and the courts have an interest in this matter. The legal profession have an interest in advising their clients. The courts have an interest, because they try to interpret the laws and it greatly assists them if the laws are written up very clearly in a way that everybody can understand. If they are written clearly and without ambiguity, then it makes the job of both lawyers advising clients and the courts much, much easier—and certainly it makes the role of those people who seek the advice of the lawyers, who in turn then have to decide whether they will go to court, much easier also. The third issue is conflict. Again, this would be an incredibly difficult role for anybody: to ensure that any law that is passed is not in some way in conflict with another law of the land. I have to give credit to the people who advise this parliament and who draft our laws for the work that they do because it would be fair to say they do an excellent job in trying to ensure that that is not the case. If it is the case, again as we have seen from time to time, laws are then challenged because they are in conflict with another law of the land.

For those reasons, this particular aspect of the support that is provided to parliamentarians is absolutely crucial. It does not affect just the parliamentarians who come to this place. It ultimately affects everyone throughout the country. By transferring the Office of Legislative Drafting and Publishing to the Office of Parliamentary Counsel, we have brought the two sections together. That, in my view, makes eminent sense because whether you are drafting primary or subordinate legislation it seems logical to me that both have to be compatible with one another. The best way to ensure that compatibility is to have the same department drafting the original law or subordinate legislation and regulations that flow from it.

It makes sense. It ensures that the same person who understands and who has put the work into drafting the original legislation perhaps has a role in ensuring that the subordinate legislation is consistent with the primary legislation. It is also a much more efficient process, in my view, and that was clearly the outcome from the review carried out by the Attorney-General. For those reasons, I believe that this legislation not only makes sense but also is good legislation for everyone concerned. I commend it to the House.