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Friday, 10 December 1965

Mr SNEDDEN (Bruce) (AttorneyGeneral) . - by leave - Mr. Speaker, in answer to a question in the Senate earlier in the present session, the Minister representing me in that chamber stated that it was hoped that it would be possible to prepare a reprint of Commonwealth acts as at 31st December 1965. While the necessary precursor to a reprint, a Statute Law Revision Bill, is well in hand, events now show that the date originally contemplated for the reprint is impracticable. Tt was realised when 31st December 1965 was tentatively chosen as the date as at which the acts would be reprinted that a problem would arise in relation to references to amounts of money. That date would precede the changeover to decimal currency and reprinting of the acts with the references to the present currency would obviously be unsatisfactory. The Parliament has just passed some 32 bills that make specific amendments to acts in connection with the changeover to decimal currency. There are, however, hundreds of acts in which references to money occur but it is not proposed that these shall be specifically amended this year. Nevertheless, by virtue of section 10 of the Currency Act 1965 these other references to the present currency will, where appropriate and unless a contrary intention appears, be construed as if they are references to decimal currency. This, however, does not amount to a textual amendment of an act in which such a reference appears, so that the text of the act remains unaltered. To effect a textual alteration, some further legislative action has to be taken.

When the question of the preparation of a reprint of the acts was being considered, it was thought that some general formula could be devised, to be authorised by an act, whereby textual amendments could be made in the reprint in the acts not specifically amended. The reprint could then have been prepared with the references to money in decimal currency. One of the problems that was encountered when considering the form that such a formula might take was that it might be considered improper that it should be left to a person reprinting an act to alter it in accordance with his understanding of how the act should be read. It was thought rather that each reference to money should be reviewed and a specific amendment of that reference made. This more exact kind of amendment, no matter what form it takes, will involve the preparation of an instrument or instruments, of a kind yet to be worked out, of formidable dimensions - an undertaking that will take considerable time. Even if it had been possible to reprint the acts, making the necessary alterations consequential upon decimal currency, officers of my Department would have had to be diverted from the work in which they are currently engaged - in particular, drafting legislation, especially in the last two or three weeks of the session - to undertake the preparation of the reprint. This would inevitably have led to delays in the carrying out of the work of the Department - something that honorable members I am sure will agree is highly undesirable. May I here remind honorable members that a reprint of Commonwealth acts is annotated with cases relevant to particular acts. The preparation of these case notes is, of course, a major undertaking in itself.

Taking all the foregoing into consideration, I have decided, with great regret, that the only practicable course is to postpone the preparation of the reprint for the time being. I would, however, point out to honorable members that all the more important acts of this Parliament are being continually reprinted in pamphlet form. The more frequently amended have been reprinted more than once since the last reprint of acts in 1950. The Income Tax Assessment Act, indeed, because of its importance, is reprinted annually. Thus an up to date version of the acts most often used is readily available. In fact, honorable members may feel that it is of greater use to the public to have the more widely used acts available in an up to date pamphlet form than to have a reprint of all the acts that, because of the length of time it necessarily takes to produce it, reproduces them in a form that is out of date. However, the project of a complete reprint of the acts has not been abandoned and I hope to introduce next year both a general Statute Law Revision Bill and also a bill to change, by some appropriate measure yet to be worked out, all old currency references to decimal currency references.

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