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Thursday, 15 October 2015
Page: 7790


Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (13:23): Labor support the Amending Acts 1980 to 1989 Repeal Bill 2015 and related bill, but we really do not see that this legislation has any substance to it at all. The Liberal Party have changed their leader, but we have moved from this talk of medieval doom and gloom under former Prime Minister Tony Abbott to the current Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull speaking loftily about the future. But it is increasingly clear that this is simply a change of style. The new Prime Minister talks a big game on economic reform, but he is yet to deliver any substance.

The two cognate bills before the Senate today, the Amending Acts 1980 to 1989 Repeal Bill 2015 and the Statute Law Revision Bill (No. 2) 2015, are relics held over from the Abbott government's last repeal day stunt. They show just how threadbare this new government's economic agenda is. Malcolm Turnbull has personal ambition in spades, but his persistence with these Abbott government bills show just how little policy ambition he has for this country, a country he is now responsible for leading.

These two bills are part of the government's much-vaunted repeal day stunt. According to the government, these bills are part of an important deregulation project. With great rhetorical flair, we see government speakers, each time bills of this kind come through this place, describe what a great blow for liberty they are and describe how they are freeing Australian businesses, families and individuals from unnecessary legislation. But this is a complete charade. It is worth looking closely at what these bills actually achieve.

The first of these two bills, the Amending Acts 1980 to 1989 Repeal Bill 2015, repeals 870 Commonwealth acts spanning from 1980 to 1989 which amended or repealed other pieces of legislation. As these amendments or repeals have already occurred, the operation of these acts is spent. In repealing those acts, this bill will have no actual effect on the operation of any law, none whatsoever. I repeat: not one iota of legal effect. Yet, three times in this parliament, the government has introduced a bill like this. They did not deal with all the amending acts on the statute book in one go. No, they wanted to string it out. So we are forced to trapeze back here each time, time after time, to deal with these bills—bills which have no legal effect.

In early 2014, as part of their first repeal day stunt, they passed a bill dealing with amending acts passed between 1901 and 1969. But, now, they have slowed down the pace. Now they are asking the parliament to go through this charade decade by decade. Earlier this year, we passed a bill dealing with amending acts between 1970 and 1979. Now, under this government, we have finally reached the 1980s. Unfortunately, some of their other legislation has taken us way further back than that! But, no doubt, when the government holds its next day stunt in October, they will move onto the 1990s. That will certainly be a sight to see: government members railing heroically against the dead hand of Howard government regulation.

The second bill, the Statute Law Revision Bill (No. 2) 2015 is the third such bill introduced by the government in this parliament. The parliament has passed such bills with regularity since 1934. They are a matter of housekeeping. These bills correct drafting errors, update cross-references and remove spent or obsolete provisions. These bills serve a worthy purpose. They maintain the tidiness of the statute book. This is an ongoing task for this and other parliaments. This is no bold deregulatory reform; it is routine work undertaken by all modern governments.

Amongst other things, this bill corrects the spelling of the word 'division' in the Sex Discrimination Act, which presently lacks its third 'i'; reletters a section of the Personal Property Security Act, which currently contains two paragraphs (b); removes a misplaced quotation mark in the Federal Circuit Court of Australia Act; and corrects the spelling of 'of' in the Surveillance Devices Act, evidently a particularly typo-ridden statute that was also amended by the government in both of its previous statute law revision bills.

The bill inserts gender neutral language in two acts. It makes clear in relevant legislation predating ACT and Northern Territory self-government that the legislation binds the territories. This does not change the law. The ACT and the NT self-government acts already provide that acts which are expressed to bind each of these states also bind the territories. All of this is worthy; none of it is groundbreaking. This bill, as with the amending acts bill, is not in any sense deregulation. It is certainly not any evidence of the economic leadership Prime Minister Turnbull promised us before he toppled former Prime Minister Tony Abbott in a parlous coup in the Liberal Party room in September. Neither bill will reduce in any measurable way the regulatory burden on any Australian business. It beggars belief that the government would again try to do dress these bills up into a grand political gesture. And it is even more staggering that they would do so now that, so they say, we have descended into the sunlit uplands of Prime Minister Turnbull's prime ministership. Is this really the economic leadership the Liberals are offering the Australian people—the repeal of long dead statutes, the correction of typos, the renumbering of regulations?

It has been a month now since the leadership change but for all the talk of change, of renewal, of excitement, here we are, once again, working through the tired old Abbott government trick bag. Once again, those opposite are going through the motions, pretending that correcting titles is economic reform. If this is the sort of economic leadership you can expect from the new Prime Minister, I cannot see much for the Australian public to be excited about.