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Wednesday, 3 November 1976

Mr ELLICOTT (Wentworth) (AttorneyGeneral) - I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

The purpose of this Bill is to effect a number of changes to the Acts Interpretation Act. This Act sets down general rules that are to apply, unless a contrary intention appears, to the interpretation of all Acts of Parliament and regulations and other instruments made under those Acts. It also confers certain powers of a general nature to facilitate the operation of other Acts. The main changes to be made by the Bill are to clarify certain matters as a result of the decision of the High Court in the Seas and Submerged Lands Act case and to facilitate future changes in the Administrative Arrangements Order.

Clause 3 of the Bill replaces section 4 of the principal Act that empowers action to be taken in the period between the passing of an Act and its commencement so that the Act can have effective operations on the date it comes into force. There are doubts as to the effectiveness of the present section in relation to its operation in case of an amending Act, and it is desired to remove those doubts. Moreover, section 4 as it stands contains a proviso that instruments made under the power thus conferred do not become effective until the Act comes into operation, but there is no similar provision as to the effective date of other things that may be done under the power. It should be clear that all such action does not take effect before the date on which the Act comes into operation and the clause so provides. If it is necessary in a particular case for appointments, for instance, to be in force before the commencement of the relevant Act, that Act, not the Acts Interpretation Act, should provide specifically for that to be done.

Clause 4 seeks to make it clear that Commonwealth Acts, existing and future, have effect in and in relation to the offshore area and to the outer edge of the territorial sea. This effect is to be subject to any contrary intention appearing in a particular Act. The need for the clause arises out of the decision of the High Court, in the Seas and Submerged Lands Act case, that the States end, generally speaking, at low water mark and do not include the territorial sea. The clause also makes it clear that Acts extending to an external territory have effect in and in relation to territorial sea of that territory. Nothing in the clause is to limit the operation of any Act before the amendment comes into force.

Clause 5 rephrases the existing definitions of certain words. The extended definition of the word 'Minister' arises out of amendments made by clause 8 of the Bill. The new definition of Gazette reflects the decision of the Government to revert to the title of Commonwealth of Australia Gazette that was in use over many years up to 1 July 1973. Clause 6 reflects a similar decision to change the title of the office of Government Printer. Clause 7 of the Bill inserts a new clause to provide that other parts of speech and grammatical forms of a word or phrase defined in an Act are to have corresponding meanings.

Clause 8 is intended to provide a procedure to overcome difficulties in applying legislation as a consequence of changes in ministerial offices, in the names of departments and in the Administrative Arrangements Order. These difficulties exist where legislation contains references to specified Ministers, departments or permanent heads and these references do not accord with the changed administrative arrangements. The existing sections 19a and 19b have been found not to be adequate for this purpose in all cases that arise. Proposed new sections 19b and 19ba will empower the Governor-General to make orders to adapt those statutory references to the altered administrative arrangements. 1 refer particularly to the provisions in proposed new section 19ba, applicable when a function is transferred from one Minister to another without the designation of the former Minister being altered. In that case the Bill will require the tabling in the Parliament of any order that requires that the relevant references in Acts to the former Minister be applied to the latter. Either House may disallow the order, in the same way that regulations may now be disallowed. This procedure recognises that the effect of an order by the Governor-General would be to change the operation of an Act conferring functions on a specified Minister by transferring those functions to another Minister. The opportunity is given to the Parliament to insist on the continued application of its enactment in the form in which the Parliament passed the legislation.

Proposed new section 19bb empowers the revocation of an order under sections 19b or 19ba. All orders made under proposed new sections 19b, 19ba and 19bb inserted by the clause are required to be published in the Gazette. Finally, clause 9 sets out a number of formal changes to be made to the principal Act in accordance with current drafting practices.

I have referred to the function of the principal Act as providing a valuable aid in the construction and application of Acts generally and in shortening their length. The amendments proposed in this Bill will enhance that function. I commend the Bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen) adjourned.

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