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Thursday, 24 February 2011
Page: 1475


Mr NEUMANN (10:45 AM) —I speak in support of the Statute Law Revision Bill (No. 2) 2010. It was a fascinating contribution from the shadow minister for foreign affairs. We are seeing the ructions, the rancour and the rifts in the coalition about her position and her description—


Ms Julie Bishop —Madam Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Having been admonished by you for not remaining relevant to the bill before the chamber, I point out that the next speaker is in fact attempting to stray from the topic in the same way. I am sure you will mete out equal punishment to him.


The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Ms K Livermore)—I take the member’s point and I issue the same reminder to the member for Blair. I will be listening carefully.


Mr NEUMANN —I am mortified and horrified that the shadow minister is so precious about her own title when faced with the ambitious erstwhile colleagues who so desire her position.


The DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order!


Ms Julie Bishop —Madam Deputy Speaker, I must rise to take a point of order. The point of order is on relevance to the bill. I ask the speaker not to stray from the precise terms of this extremely important Statute Law Revision Bill, particularly in the presence of the esteemed Attorney-General.


The DEPUTY SPEAKER —The member for Blair will confine his remarks to the bill, please.


Mr NEUMANN —I will. Sadly the Australian Labor Party has only occupied the treasury bench about 30 per cent of the time since Federation—so, if we are to be held at fault for omissions and problems in relation to statute law revision, we will accept 30 per cent of the failure. Those opposite should accept 70 per cent. The good thing about statute law revision is that both sides of politics seriously have made attempts in the last 30 years to redress the problems. It is a serious issue if you have got legislation that refers to non-existent sections or there is an O where there should be a zero or there is an apostrophe missing or there is the word ‘also’ in some section which makes the section nonsensical. There can be chaos in a courtroom or in the community when it comes to understanding what a piece of legislation means.

Correcting drafting or clerical errors is important. We need to modernise the language. Sometimes old statutes need to be modernised. I can well remember, when I was studying law at the University of Queensland, seeing legislation that referred to women and children as ‘chattels’. That was in legislation that was on the statute books. So there is a real need to seriously look at legislation to update the language to make sure it is consistent in style and reflects community standards of linguistics, morality, ethics and virtue. So this is important legislation.

I will run through some of the errors being corrected in the bill. There is a reference, for example, in the Australian Securities and Investments Commission Act to a subsection that simply does not exist. That should be changed. There is a reference in the Corporations Act 2001 to the Fair Trading Act 1987 of Queensland, when it should be the Fair Trading Act 1989. There are other things that need to be fixed up in the Corporations Act. It incorrectly refers to a section 610BA when it really should refer to 601BA. These are important changes to make. The word ‘website’ should be rendered as one word, not two words. If we were talking about 30 or 40 years ago that might be correct, but it is certainly not correct now. And, as the shadow minister for foreign affairs correctly pointed out, there is a need to be consistent with the capitalisation of the word ‘internet’, and the common usage should be used.

There is a typographical error, for example in the Customs Act, where the Arabic numeral ‘1’ is represented by the letter ‘l’. That is a mistake. There is a section of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act that is totally redundant that incorrectly contains the number ‘6666’. There is a situation where an apostrophe is wrongly added after the word ‘representative’ in the National Consumer Credit Protection Act. In the Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Management Act, instead of H2O, which we know is water, the act has got H20. So there are some changes that need to be made.

In the Veterans’ Entitlements Act, ‘entitlements’ is wrong; it should be ‘entitlement’. We have also got, as I said before, the word ‘also’, which makes a nonsense of one of the other pieces of legislation that deals with proceeds of crime. There is a really bad mistake in the family law legislation where there is no particular definition referring to family violence. So a number of changes need to be made. I think a classic case of someone messing it up is the reference to steps ‘2, 2A’ and ‘2A’ a second time in schedule 6 of the Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986. That is simply a duplication that needs to be removed. Sometimes we can make mistakes that simply make up words that cannot be found in the English language—for example, words in relation to tradeable water rights. The Water Act 2007 incorrectly makes reference to ‘tradable water rights’. The classic and best one that I could find would have to be where the Water Act refers to not ‘mediation’ but ‘meditation’. That is something we should all think about. We see perhaps the need for mediation at question time, and the speaker talks about that. But I think at times as federal politicians we need to undertake just a bit of meditation, and with those words I support this legislation.