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Thursday, 1 June 2023
Page: 4045

Mr DREYFUS (IsaacsAttorney-General and Cabinet Secretary) (09:01): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The Statute Law Amendment (Prescribed Forms and Other Updates) Bill 2023 amends 85 Commonwealth acts to enhance administration and promote consistency across the statute book. It does this by amending references to prescribed forms in the statute law of the Commonwealth, making minor and technical changes to the Commonwealth statute book, and repealing certain obsolete acts and provisions of acts.

Statute law revision acts and statute stocktake acts have been passed since 1934 in order to remove obsolete and spent provisions from the statute book and correct drafting mistakes. They are traditionally non-controversial and are essential to keep the Commonwealth statute book accurate and up to date.

Statute law revision and update bills aim to enhance the clarity and efficiency of the statute book. The amendments are minor in nature and either make no change, or only minor changes, to the substance of the law.

This bill contains six schedules. Schedule 1 updates references to prescribed forms in 33 acts across the Commonwealth statute book.

The provisions amended by Schedule 1 currently provide for forms to be prescribed by regulations. Those forms generally impose requirements for things to occur, such as particular information to be provided. Modern legislative drafting approaches recognise that requiring forms to be prescribed in regulations can be unnecessarily restrictive. In some situations, it will remain important to provide for a form to be prescribed by, or set out in, an act or regulations. However, in other cases, it is more appropriate for the form to be approved by a specified person or body by notifiable instrument. This enables minor updates or significant improvements to be made to those forms, without requiring further regulations to be made. Where prescribed or approved forms are made by notifiable instrument they will still appear of the Federal Register of Legislation.

Schedule 1 of the bill amends provisions that require forms to be prescribed by regulations and replaces them with other approaches that are best suited to the context of the particular form. These amendments will ensure well-targeted requirements will apply, taking into account the best modern practices available in the relevant circumstances. They will ensure there is still oversight of the information to be provided while enabling flexibility in updating and improving forms.

Schedule 2 updates language relating to persons with disability to focus on the person, rather than the disability. These amendments give effect to the recommendations made by Economic Justice Australia in its August 2022 research report, 'Handicapped': Use of outdated terminology in Social Security law and policy.

The object of the amendments in schedule 2 is to prevent negative impacts on the lives of people with disability resulting from the way they are referred to in particular legislative provisions. These amendments are not intended to change the way these provisions operate.

Schedule 3 updates references in Commonwealth acts and Northern Territory acts to make those references consistent with the way the Northern Territory now cites its acts.

Schedules 4 to 6 of the bill correct technical errors that have occurred in acts as a result of drafting and clerical mistakes and repeals spent and obsolete provisions of acts. The amendments in schedules 4 to 6 enhance readability, facilitate interpretation and administration and promote consistency across the Commonwealth statute book.

These ongoing improvements to legislation are important to ensure that the Commonwealth statute book remains up to date, accurate and user friendly. I commend the bill to the House.

Debate adjourned.