February 25, 2015  |  Second reading speech

Intepretation of Legislation Amendment Bill 2015

Mr CARROLL (Niddrie) — I rise also to make a contribution on the Interpretation of Legislation Amendment Bill 2015. I welcome the member for Hawthorn’s comments and support. I noted his priorities. I have read his comments in the Herald Sun, and it is good also that the member for Kew is putting his priorities into the Herald Sun. I look forward to continuing to watch the member for Hawthorn and the member for Kew battle for inches in the Herald Sun. I welcome that. I say to them: keep doing what you are doing.

It is very important that we make these changes to legislation. I will speak a little bit more about the importance of this legislation. I will not talk just about law and order matters. This is key government legislation that makes this place and the laws function a lot more appropriately, even if it is technical.

I also want to talk a bit about the Office of the Chief Parliamentary Counsel and pay some respect to our public servants, who we on this side of the house value to the very end. They are public servants — and we are not introducing a sustainable government initiative.

In relation to the Office of the Chief Parliamentary Counsel, I note that in a previous role under Premier Steve Bracks I got to know Eamonn Moran, a former chief parliamentary counsel, very well. He served the Bracks government superbly. The work he did in the Office of Chief Parliamentary Counsel with his staff was second to none. I pay tribute to him as well as to all the other important individuals who have had the same role. If you go back and look at the time of the Cain Labor government, you see that it appointed the first female, Rowena Armstrong, who Eamonn succeeded. Rowena herself also did an excellent job. The current chief parliamentary counsel, Gemma Varley, was also appointed by a Labor government, that of John Brumby. Labor is therefore very supportive of the role of the crafters of legislation.

The Office of Chief Parliamentary Counsel website talks a little about the history of the office. Given that there are a few lawyers on the side of those opposite and a few on ours, I note also that before we had the Office of Chief Parliamentary Counsel we had barristers doing a lot of the work until the government worked out what sort of money we were spending on barristers and thought we should appoint our own public servants to do the role. There was so much concern about the standard of some of the drafting done by the barristers and the costs of engaging them that we appointed our own parliamentary professional assistants, who do the law of the Crown. One member of the Parliament once said:

Large sums of money were annually spent by government in paying barristers, who might be called outsiders, for drafting bills which were only worth burning — they were not fit to see the light of day.

The office’s website comments:

Nonetheless the bar continued to be involved in the drafting process until 1879 when Edward Carlile was appointed parliamentary draftsman.

This legislation is important. It is important particularly for the Andrews Labor government, which has a strong legislative reform agenda and is a socially progressive government. This bill will be central to its work. It will help develop new acts and statutory rules. Although the amendments made by the bill are technical, they are important in clarifying particular aspects of legislative interpretation, and they promote consistency in definitions and style across the Victorian statute book.

The commencement date is 1 July 2015, which was chosen to coincide with the parliamentary winter recess so that there is minimal impact on bills that are before the Parliament at the same time as this bill. Labor is very proud of this legislation. The Attorney-General brought this through. Among the key issues will be additional powers to the chief parliamentary counsel in terms of stylistic changes to legislation and statutory rules. The bill also inserts two new definitions for use in Victorian legislation and subordinate instruments and includes several new interpretive provisions.

It is very important that we make these changes, which will help us going forward. Definitions of ‘police officer’ and ‘registered medical practitioner’ are being inserted into the Interpretation of Legislation Act 1984 and will be used across all Victorian acts. The bill will make the activity of drafting legislation and subordinate instruments a lot more seamless and transparent, which is very important. The amendments made in relation to style, definitions and interpretation will simplify the drafting of legislation and subordinate instruments in Victoria and will ensure consistency in the appearance of existing and new laws.

Members on this side of the house are proud to support our hardworking public servants, including those in the Office of the Chief Parliamentary Counsel. They do a great job. I commend this bill to the house, I wish it a speedy passage and I welcome the support of the opposite side.