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Tuesday, 18 June 2013
Page: 6125


Mr DREYFUS (IsaacsAttorney-General, Minister for Emergency Management, Minister for the Public Service and Integrity and Special Minister of State) (18:22): I thank the member for Stirling for his contribution to this debate. In 2012, this parliament had 188 bills, totalling 8,203 pages, introduced to this chamber. If it were not for bills such as this, a bill which cuts legal red tape, the number of pages that we would have to consider would be significantly larger. A primary function of the Regulatory Powers (Standard Provisions) Bill 2012 is to provide a statutory framework that will reduce the size of legislation by standardising common regulatory powers provisions across Commonwealth legislation.

The 2003 report of the Australian Law Reform Commission Principled regulation: federal, civil and administrative penalties in Australia, ALRC 95, recommended that a bill of general application should be enacted to govern non-criminal contraventions of federal law and led to the provisions in this bill. Over the years, regulatory powers provisions have been amended or new provisions added without particular regard to the overall clarity of this legislation. Many of the provisions also retained the old drafting style of the early to mid 1900s and are no longer appropriate to the work of the regulatory agency.

This bill addresses these issues by providing a consistent and central framework of regulatory powers so that regulatory laws affecting agency performance are both consistent and flexible. This will mean that the law is sufficiently certain and predictable but still flexible enough to take into account differences in the functions of regulatory agencies. This bill represents an important step for the government in improving Australia's law and justice system. It is a key achievement of the Attorney-General's Department clearer laws project. By improving the accessibility and consistency of the Commonwealth statute book, the law can be better understood, complied with and administered.

The standardisation of Commonwealth regulatory powers will help to reduce the complexity and inconsistency of legislation that has developed since Federation. Complex and inconsistent legislation makes it difficult, expensive and time-consuming for people to understand their legal rights and obligations. This creates burdens for business and restricts access to justice. Lack of knowledge about the law often means that individuals and families do not get a fair go under the law. This bill is therefore an indication of the government's ongoing commitment to take measures to improve the clarity and accessibility of laws. I thank the Office of Parliamentary Counsel for the significant time and effort that went into preparing this bill. I commend that office for the quality of the bill and its commitment to maintaining the accuracy and clarity of the Commonwealth statute book. I also thank the members of Parliamentary committees: the Senate Scrutiny of Bills Committee, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement and the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee for their consideration of the bill. I commend this bill to the House.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.