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Thursday, 10 May 2018
Page: 2896


Senator PRATT (Western Australia) (13:31): This afternoon we are debating the Statute Update (Autumn 2018) Bill 2018. The purpose of this legislation is to correct largely typographical errors that have occurred in acts as a result of drafting and clerical mistakes. The bill has a further purpose of removing obsolete and spent legislation from Commonwealth statute books. We note that it's essentially a routine housekeeping bill to keep our statute books up to date.

I cannot help but note the lack of fanfare around this bill. If I cast my mind back to the way in which the Abbott government dealt with routine updating of typographic errors or spent legislation, their approach was markedly different. The Senate would remember the great farce that was the Abbott government's multiple repeal days. We heard feverish talk of a bonfire of regulations, with tremendous congratulations coming from the other side and much boasting on each of its two repeal days in 2015. But I see no such boasting now. This should be just the ordinary business of government.

The government claimed at the time that they would achieve somewhere between $1 billion and $2.1 billion worth of savings in compliance costs. This, as with so many of the Abbott and Turnbull governments' proclamations, was completely fanciful and disingenuous. The Australian people could be forgiven for thinking that the statute revision bills and amending act repeal bills of 2015 heralded a new global age of bold reform. Yet, on the contrary, they provided for nothing more than the routine and somewhat mundane work of our parliament.

Every year the Australian parliament passes these bills, which correct typos, update drafting and improve formatting and numbering, among other things. Amending act repeal bills simply remove redundant laws from the statute books which are no longer in force because they have served their purpose of amending or repealing other acts of parliament. The very idea that meaningful deregulation was ever achieved by repealing amending acts which had not been enforced for decades was nonsense and highly misleading.

We on this side of the chamber, in the Labor Party, believe in appropriate and necessary regulation. Where there's a clear need for deregulation, Labor, naturally, supports it. But this deregulation must be meaningful and, unlike our opponents, we will not cast the routine work of parliament as an exercise in massive deregulation.

Labor governments have successfully provided sweeping competition reform, the floating of the dollar and the slashing of tariffs—that's meaningful deregulation. We've never shied away from removing regulations which don't serve a worthwhile purpose. However, we do believe, unlike the government, that we need regulation. Good regulation protects consumers and good regulation protects workers and labour standards. Employers and their employees depend on good regulation to create a prosperous, harmonious working environment. We certainly need good regulation to protect our environment. But we've never supported regulation for regulation's sake. So, when the government puts forward anodyne, but necessary, measures like those in this bill, we're clearly very happy to support them.

The amendments in this bill are intended to enhance readability, facilitate interpretation and administration, and promote consistency across the Commonwealth statute book. They're minor and technical in nature, and make either no change or only minor changes to the substance of our laws. We have before us six schedules. Schedule 1 corrects errors in five principal acts and makes minor technical improvements to clarify the text of the law. Schedule 2 amends four acts to replace outdated references to 'the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia' with references to 'Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand'. Schedule 3 to the bill makes amendments to the Food Standards Australia New Zealand Act 1991 which are consequential to the enactment of the Acts and Instruments (Framework Reform) Act 2015. Schedule 4 repeals 22 obsolete references to the Crown in right of Norfolk Island, reflecting the abolition of that body politic on 1 July 2016. Schedule 5 repeals spent provisions in two acts and schedule 6 repeals 40 amending acts which are now obsolete.

This bill, like many similar bills that have come before successive parliaments, does not set the world alight. This bill is a necessary part of our administrative tasks in this parliament, and the Labor Party supports it. I commend the bill to the Senate.