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Tuesday, 26 June 2012
Page: 8135


Mr ROBB (Goldstein) (18:12): I rise to speak on the Statute Stocktake (Appropriations) Bill (No. 1) 2012. The purpose of this bill is to repeal whole acts and special appropriations that are no longer relevant or in fact are wholly redundant. For example, it repeals old appropriations that have been spent, exhausted or lapsed. The bill therefore is housekeeping in nature. Perhaps the term 'noncontroversial' was coined for this bill. It is the fifth stock-take bill since 1988. It forms part of an ongoing process to clean-up the statute book. Despite the bills title, 'Appropriations', it does not in fact enact any new legislation, nor does it seek to appropriate any funds. If enacted, it would repeal 93 redundant appropriation acts from 1984 to 1999, 35 redundant supply acts from 1984 to 1997 and three acts containing redundant appropriations from the Treasury portfolio, including the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation (Transfer of Assets and Abolition) Repeal Act 2006, the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation (Transfer of Pre-Transfer Contracts) Act 2006 and the Mint Employees Act 1964. The bill also repeals three superannuation related provisions contained in the Superannuation Act 1922 and the Superannuation (Pension Increases) Act, which contain redundant provisions. Megan Shellie, a bright young law student who is currently doing work experience in my office, observed that housekeeping of this nature is indeed a very good thing. She said that this exercise will be of benefit to law students everywhere in reducing the amount of redundant legislation they have to read in the course of their studies. So we have helped law students all over the country, which is a great thing!

The bill's explanatory memorandum states that the bill:

… would also further the Government’s deregulation agenda. The Government has stepped up its deregulation reform program … It is important that continued progress is made by Government.

While this work is worthwhile—and we support the nature of this bill and the removal of all those acts from the statute; it is indeed tidying up—it does not make any material change with regard to easing the regulatory burden on business, as suggested by the explanatory memorandum. It can hardly be described as a feature of a meaningful deregulation agenda to remove some appropriation bill that applied for three years some 20 years ago.

This bill serves to remind us of how the government has failed to honour its key commitments on deregulation. We are reminded of the government's failure to honour its famous so-called 'one in, one out' commitment. Remember that, Madam Deputy Speaker? What a brave statement that was, heralded from one end of the country to the other. The government said it would be the champion of deregulation. That was a commitment to repeal one piece of red tape or regulation for every new piece introduced. I searched throughout this bill. I got quite excited. I thought we were going to see some material deregulation, something that was going to improve the abysmal productivity performance of the economy after five years of this government. Despite a rabid search of this bill, nothing could be found. This commitment to repeal one piece of red tape or regulation for every one piece introduced is not added to in any significant way by this piece of legislation.

The latest analysis by the Parliamentary Library shows that, since coming to office, the government has in fact introduced 18,089 new regulations and has repealed just 86 items—not 18,086 items but 86 items. This would have to be one of the most abysmal failures in terms of promises in the history of the federal parliament, and that is a big stretch when you think of some of the things that have been broken in the last year or two. But the opportunity for deregulation in this bill unfortunately has not been taken up by the government.

We know that, when convenient to do so, the government exempts proposals from regulatory impact statements. It exempted the NBN related legislation. We just had a most eloquent speech from the member for McEwen—I don't think!—on the question of the NBN. What he failed to mention was what will probably be another couple of thousand regulations associated with that white elephant in the end. That is not recorded, of course. It is only the biggest infrastructure project in our history, but it does not rate a mention when it comes to featuring in the budget bottom line or when we look at new regulations that have been added.

This bill, while supported by the coalition, represents another massive missed opportunity for material reform in the area of deregulation—an area of abysmal failure, I am afraid, by this government. Nevertheless, I commend the bill to the House.