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Thursday, 26 November 2015
Page: 9109

Senator LEYONHJELM (New South Wales) (13:09): I assure Senator Fifield there will be no further singing, on the advice of my staff.

Winston Churchill said that if you have 10,000 regulations you destroy all respect for the law. We passed the 10,000 mark some time ago. Too much legislation goes through this place. Almost every aspect of our private life and our working day is regulated. On nearly every question of what is right and what is wrong, the government has introduced a law telling us what to do. As a consequence of this plethora of legislation, respect for the law is disturbingly low. I am a libertarian, not an anarchist, so I want government to be effective and the rule of law to be upheld. Because of that, I believe we need far less law.

The ceaseless churn of new legislation means that we end up with sloppy law. Bills go through this place that no one reads. Consider the bill before us today, the Maritime Legislation Amendment Bill 2015. I assert that no-one representing the government here has actually read it. To test this assertion, I ask the senator representing the minister to tell me what schedule 2 of the bill does, and I challenge the public servants who whisper in the senator's ear to answer from memory rather than look up the answer. I also assert that no parliamentarian has read the Maritime Legislation Amendment Bill 2015. Unfortunately, I cannot test that assertion because, as you can see, this bill is about to be waved into law through a virtually empty Senate chamber.

I have scanned the Maritime Legislation Amendment Bill 2015. It bans the use of heavy-grade oil as ballast in Antarctic waters. I oppose this provision on the grounds that there should not be special regulations just for Antarctic waters. The remainder of the bill removes supposedly unintended changes to maritime law made in 2012. This begs the question: how did unintended changes make their way into maritime law in 2012? The answer, of course, is that no one read the changes before they were waved through the parliament.

Those unintended changes made to maritime law in 2012 include: accidentally excluding certain waters of a state or external territory from bans on dumping; accidentally defining dangerous goods as those goods listed in a particular international code rather than a particular international convention; accidentally introducing requirements relating to insurance and pollution certificates that are impossible to enforce; accidentally referring to a division 3 rather than a division 4; accidentally inserting a non-grammatical sentence because someone forgot to type in an 'or' and did not bother to click on 'grammar check'; and accidentally directing readers to section 10(3) for a definition of a domestic shipping voyage, despite the fact that section 10(3) does not exist.

I believe that we should keep these unintended features of maritime law as a monument to all that is wrong with Canberra. Preserving these unintended and sometimes nonsensical features of maritime law for posterity will do no real harm but will serve as a reminder, like a corpse left hanging in a village square, of the consequences of lax drafting, absent oversight and excessive regulation.