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Wednesday, 30 November 2005
Page: 6


Senator ELLISON (Minister for Justice and Customs) (9:48 AM) —I table the explanatory memoranda relating to the bills and move:

That these bills be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speeches read as follows—

STATUTE LAW REVISION BILL (NO. 2) 2005

The Statute Law Revision Bill (No 2) 2005 continues the important exercise of correcting mistakes and removing expired laws from the statute book. The corrections and repeals are desirable in order to improve the quality and accuracy of Commonwealth legislation and to facilitate the publication of consolidated versions of Acts.

This Parliament is very well served by the Office of Parliamentary Counsel, which provides the Parliament with Bills that are drafted to a very high standard. The drafters in the Office demonstrate their professionalism and expertise in the quality of the drafting that comes before us. The Office’s commitment to the quality of the Commonwealth statute book is also evident in the fact that this bill is one that has been initiated by the Office of Parliamentary Counsel.

I commend the Office of Parliamentary Counsel for its work in preparing the bill, for being attentive to the operation of laws on the statute book and drafting amendments to correct any identified errors. In this way, Statute Law Revision Bills prepared by the Office of Parliamentary Counsel play a key role in ensuring the statute book is accurate, accessible and effective.

The bill proposes to correct technical errors such as misspellings, punctuation errors, numbering errors and misdescriptions of text that have occurred in Commonwealth Acts as a result of drafting and clerical mistakes. The bill also proposes to repeal a number of obsolete Acts that have no current or future operation.

The bill has three schedules. Schedule 1 amends errors contained in 14 principal Acts. The kinds of errors proposed for amendment in Schedule 1 are of a minor and technical nature, such as incorrect spelling, punctuation or numbering. Schedule 2 amends errors contained in 19 amending Acts. Many of these errors are misdescribed amendments that either incorrectly describe the text to be amended or specify the wrong location for the insertion of new text. None of the proposed amendments will make any substantive changes to the law.

Schedule 3 repeals a total of 27 obsolete Acts. Part 1 proposes to repeal one Act which is administered by the Minister for Defence. Part 2 proposes to repeal 19 Acts which are administered by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Part 3 proposes to repeal 10 Acts which are administered by the Minister for Industry, Tourism and Resources.

There are various commencement dates for the provisions listed in Schedule 1 and Schedule 2 because the commencement of each item is tied to the commencement of the provision that created the error. The effect of the commencement provisions is that the errors are taken to have been corrected immediately after the error was made. All other provisions commence on Royal Assent.

While none of the amendments proposed by the Schedules will alter the content of the law, the bill will improve the quality and public accessibility of Commonwealth legislation.


DEFENCE (ROAD TRANSPORT LEGISLATION EXEMPTION) BILL 2005

This bill clarifies the extent of Defence’s exemption from the operation of particular State and Territory road transport laws in certain circumstances. It will enable the effective operation of the Defence Road Transport Exemption Framework, recently negotiated between Defence and State and Territory road transport authorities. The agreed Exemption Framework details the exemptions and processes that will be applied uniformly across the States and Territories to support the conduct of Australian Defence Force road transport operations. The Australian Transport Council endorsed the Exemption Framework on 18 November 2005.

This bill and the Exemption Framework it underpins, reinforces the need for the Australian Defence Force to operate its land vehicle fleet without restrictions imposed by Commonwealth, State and Territory road transport laws. Exemptions from these laws enable the Australian Defence Force to move its capabilities effectively and efficiently along the Australian road transport network. Agreement to a national exemption framework further provides the Australian Defence Force with a consistent process in dealing with the requirements of individual State and Territory jurisdictions.

Australian Defence Force members currently enjoy a wide immunity from State and Territory licensing laws in relation to such matters as road transport under subsection 123(1) of the Defence Act 1903. This bill will better reflect the co-operative approach which underpins the Exemption Framework. It will limit the Defence exemption from State and Territory legislation under section 123 of the Defence Act in this area and, in effect, replace it with the agreed Exemption Framework. The bill provides an opportunity to address any uncertainty regarding possible gaps in the scope of section 123, as well as providing a clear statement of the Defence intent to work closely with the States and Territories in relation to road transport. The new Exemption Framework will be responsive to the requirements of the States and Territories as the owners of the road transport infrastructure and Defence as the user.

The introduction of this bill is consistent with a similar approach adopted in 1998 to limit the immunity contained in the Defence Act and replace it with a more specific exemption regime. At that time an amendment was made to the National Road Transport Commission Act 1991, providing the Australian Defence Force with a broad exemption for special defence-related circumstances.

However, these exemptions were never implemented because the regime prescribed was dependent on the adoption by the States and Territories of model road transport legislation, which did not occur. Following the Review of the National Road Transport Commission Act the Department of Transport and Regional Services recommended that the Defence provisions should not be carried forward to the replacement legislation. The replacement legislation, the National Transport Commission Act, was passed by parliament in 2003.

An intergovernmental agreement established to oversight the introduction of the National Transport Commission Act provided a mechanism for Defence and the State and Territory governments to move forward in developing an appropriate exemption framework. Consequently, the parties, with the assistance of the National Transport Commission, have worked assiduously over the past two years to deliver a workable exemption framework. This result provides an excellent example of cooperation between the Commonwealth and the States and Territories in support of the defence effort.

The Exemption Framework establishes the specific categories of exemptions that will apply for principal ADF routes used in exercises, operations and day-to-day activities. The exemptions involve specific engineering dimensions relating to the mass, size and width of Australian Defence Force land assets, as well as specific licensing and road rules exemptions for Australian Defence Force personnel. These exemptions will also apply to personnel from visiting foreign Defence Forces acting in accordance with an arrangement approved by the ADF.

Implementation of the Exemption Framework will occur over the next six to twelve months. Jurisdictions are expected to implement the Exemption Framework through their respective administrative processes on a voluntary basis. Defence will concurrently amend as required its Defence Road Transport Instructions to ensure internal compliance with the Exemption Framework.

Defence will be required to resolve outstanding issues with individual jurisdictions during this period before full implementation can be achieved. These matters will continue to be pursued in a consultative and cooperative manner. The Exemption Framework will be maintained by the National Transport Commission and will be available for public viewing on the National Transport Commission’s website.

Finally, it should be said that this bill does not impose any requirements on State and Territory governments. It simply limits the current Defence immunity under subsection 123(1) of the Defence Act to ensure that the road transport exemptions set out in the Exemption Framework can operate in the manner that they are intended to.

This bill reflects Defence’s willingness to work with the States and Territories on these matters, rather than utilising Commonwealth powers to impose an exemption solution on individual jurisdictions.

Ordered that further consideration of the bills be adjourned to the first day of the next period of sittings, in accordance with standing order 111.

Ordered that the bills be listed on the Notice Paper as separate orders of the day.