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Tuesday, 14 May 1985
Page: 1874

Senator ZAKHAROV —Is the Minister representing the Attorney-General aware of the steps being taken by the Victorian Government to rewrite statute law in language more readily understood than is current legal terminology? Does the Government have any plans for similar action at Federal level?

Senator GARETH EVANS —We are familiar with the proposals, in the words of the Victorian Attorney-General, to 'Kennanise' the Victorian statute book. I should say at the outset, however, that I do not think Lionel Bowen, or anyone else for that matter, is keen to talk in terms of 'Bowenising' the Commonwealth statute book. We are, however, sympathetic to the need to get plain language into statutes to the extent that we possibly can. The Office of Parliamentary Counsel is certainly alert to that need. I believe that by comparison with most other jurisdictions whose legislation I am familiar with, and certainly jurisdictions like the United States of America, for anyone who has ever tried to read that legislation, our legislation at the national level is a model of drafting clarity.

The Office of Parliamentary Counsel has, of course, to work in drafting within two specific parameters, quite apart from the need for legal precision in drafting which is not always compatible with linguistic informality. Those two parameters are: First, that existing legislation, particularly that which has been extensively amended, has a certain number of expressions which have to be adopted and go on being used; and, secondly, that certain words and phrases must continue to be used because they have taken on special meanings as a result of being the subject of judicial decisions in the past. But I am advised by the Attorney-General and the Office of Parliamentary Counsel that within these parameters that Office is mindful of the need to use short words and sentences, although at this stage there is no intention to alter in any basic way the drafting style of the Commonwealth.

Finally, I draw to Senator Zakharov's attention one change that has been made in drafting style in recent months, and that has been action to remove sexism from drafting language which was spelt out in loving detail in a Press release I issued in my former incarnation on 30 September 1984 and which I recommend to honourable senators.

Senator Chaney —Mr President, I ask the Minister to table the paper from which he was quoting.

The PRESIDENT —Will the Minister table the paper from which he has quoted?

Senator GARETH EVANS —Yes, sure.

The PRESIDENT —The Minister has tabled the paper.