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Thursday, 29 April 1971

Senator WILLESEE (Western Australia) - The ministerial statement on the Publication of Commonwealth Act and Statutory Rules which we are discussing arose out of quite a long discussion we had during the proceedings of Estimates Com mittee B. Senator Greenwood and I, as well as almost every other member of the Committee, were concerned about the very problems Senator Murphy has been discussing. Some unsatisfactory results seem to have arisen. One result was that there seemed to be some reticence on the part of the Public Service to suggest that the position of the consolidated bound volumes was adequate. We pointed out that only a few days before when we received copies of a Bill from the Bills and Papers Office, we were actually handling 10 pieces of paper. We had a copy of the original Act and 9 separate amending Acts. In a fairly fast moving debate in the Committee stages it is very difficult if one has to shuffle 10 pieces of paper because if one wishes to quote a section of the original Act one can be 9 amendments out or any less number than nine.

Senator Wrightdid ' not" seem to think that that was important although I pointed out to him that in days gone by he was a great critic of this situation. I. suggest to the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson)' that Senator Greenwood took a great interest iri this subject matter. Indeed, when I moved to take note of the paper I consulted Senator Greenwood. "He 'asked me to take that course. If I had not done so he certainly would have. Whether we should put this motion tonight without" consulting Senator Greenwood is something I put back to the Government. I ani inclined to think that we should seek his views. A point which was raised during the Committee hearing was that the advisers seemed to think that the situation of the reprint of the enact: ment was adequate. Another point was that there seemed to. be some honest differences. Once we had overcome the point that the present . consolidation was not adequate there seemed to be a disagreement as to the most competent way to carry out the reprint.- One was to put it in bound copies, as was the practice with the 1950 Consolidated Acts or, secondly, that it could be done in a. sort of a running form, putting them into bound volumes but doing a sort of rotating analysis, compilation and consolidation of these Acts. The present system . is completely unsatisfactory; there is no doubt about that. I think this feeling .would be held by anyone who has come up against this problem. There do seem to be some genuine problems, and I would be inclined to put this matter to one side until we have heard Senator Greenwood's views on it.

Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson - I think that is the right thing to do.

Senator WILLESEE - If the Minister accepts that proposal, I think that course should be followed. I make the further point - I hope the Minister takes it on board - that there is a lot of dissatisfaction and it may be that the Minister will have to have a radical look at the situation to ascertain the best way to bring these matters up to date. Senator Murphy has made a suggestion about Constitution printings, having in mind that the Minister receives notices and decisions, particularly High Court decisions, which are of tremendous value. After all, the Parliament makes the laws and the courts interpret them, and their interpretations become part of the law. So although it might be. very difficult to. arrange these things, they would be very valuable. The first point that I make, to which Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson agreed, is that- we should not put the question on this matter at this time. The second point is that I hope that Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson, in his capacity as Leader of the Government, does realise that there is dissatisfaction and that there are some difficulties involved. I do. not think the difficulties should stop the Department from adopting a radical approach to determine a satisfactory proposition in relation to these things.

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