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Thursday, 25 February 1971

Senator WRIGHT (Tasmania) (Minister for Works) - by leave - While the Senate was considering the report of Estimates Committee C in relation -to the AttorneyGeneral's Department during the debate on the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1970-1971 on 3rd November 1970, I undertook to take up with the Attorney-General and convey to the Senate by 31st March 1971 a decision on the question of a new bound general reprint of the Commonwealth Acts. The Attorney-General (Mr Hughes) has made in the House of Representatives today the statement that I am about to read, lt should be understood that when I use the first person personal pronoun it relates to the Attorney-General.

The question whether a general reprint of Commonwealth Acts should be undertaken has been considered by my predecessors from time to time and more recently by myself. I have now decided not to undertake a general bound reprint of Acts at the present time but rather to concentrate the available resources of the Office of Parliamentary Counsel on the production of reprints of legislation in pamphlet form. These reprints will incorporate all amendments .to the date of publication.

Reasonably up-to-date reprints of most significant Acts in common use - approximately 150 in number - are available in pamphlet form. If a complete set of reprints of Acts is maintained in alphabetical order, there is little occasion to refer to the 1901-1950 bound reprint or to subsequent annual volumes. During 1970, 37 Acts were reprinted in pamphlet form. I hope that this number can bc increased this year and in later years.

Adequate stocks of the existing 1901- 1950 reprint of Acts are now available, although shortages did exist while unbound copies of that reprint were being bound. Some of the annual volumes of Acts published since 1950 are in short supply, lt is proposed to reprint sufficient numbers of the volumes since 1950 that are out of print or in short supply to enable complete sets of the 1901-1950 reprint and annual volumes since 1950 to be available for the next few years. Adequate stocks of the 1901-1956 reprint of Commonwealth Statutory Rules are also available, lt is likewise planned to reprint the annual volumes since 1956 that are in short supply.

To assist consideration of the question of a new reprint of Acts, the views on the form of a new reprint, if one were to be undertaken, were sought from the Law Council of Australia and its constituent bodies and from' law publishers. The system of publishing reprints in pamphlet form incorporating all amendments to the dale of publication of the reprint appears to be favoured by the majority of Law Societies. Suggestions for different forms of permanently bound reprints were put forward by the law publishers. A necessary precursor of a reprint is the drafting and enactment of a Statute Law Revision Bill, which reduces considerably the overall size of a reprint by repealing Acts and portions of Acts the operation of which is exhausted. Such a Bill also incorporates necessary amendments of a noncontentious nature. Having regard to other drafting tasks of a more urgent nature, it has nol been and is nol likely soon to be practicable to undertake the drafting of such a Bill. In any event economic circumstances render it undesirable to incur the expense of commencing any new undertaking that can reasonably be deferred. Accordingly it has been decided to concentrate for the present on the publication of pamphlet reprints together, of course, with the regular annual volumes of Acts and Statutory Rules. This course would seem best to meet the immediate needs of the legal profession and other users, but it does not rule out the possibility of general reprints being undertaken in the future.

The question of the best form to be adopted for a general reprint is not easy to resolve. A reprint in bound form becomes progressively more out of date and cumbersome as each year passes, and many Acts in such a reprint are amended even before the reprint becomes available. An advantage of a separate pamphlet system is that an Act that is extensively amended may be reprinted with the amendments incorporated and then issued in lieu of the existing reprint. An example of this advantage is provided by the Income Tax Assessment Act, which is reprinted every year as amended. In an endeavour to achieve speedier production of the annual volumes of Acts and Statutory Rules, the form of the volumes has been altered to reduce their size. The comprehensive tables associated wilh the annual volume of Acts have been recast and will be published as a separate pamphlet that will be replaced annually by a later tables pamphlet. This arrangement will prevent extensive tables that are superseded being retained permanently in bound annual %'olumes, and should permit the bound volume containing the text of the Acts passed each year to become available more quickly. I shall inform the Parliament if altered circumstances enable the course of action that I have just outlined to be changed.

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