A quick look at the ‘Repeal Day’ concept – almost right
The Australian Government has announced a ‘Repeal Day’, intended to be used to axe the existence of hundreds of outdated laws. The concept is a good one, though for me, doesn’t quite get the Australian Parliament into a forward looking setting in how it could develop FUTURE legislation. So what could be done instead and what are the Repeal Day risks?
Repeal Day is not a new concept with the US Government often spending time wiping out old laws in one big all encompassing sitting. The idea is both necessary and overdue and I can see this idea becoming an annual or ‘first event’ headline act of new Governments across Australia.
To give you a small personal example of outdated laws, in my first career out of school I had cause to use a piece of law, a by-law of a large council, which made it an offence for people to walk on the right hand side of the footpath. Yes, please do re-read that and then understand that the law dated back to the latter part of the 19thC. So there I was, in the late part of the 20thC applying a law from around 1865 or so. It seems ridiculous and I’m not sure if that law still exists, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it was yet to be repealed – law and order for society and all that.
And so now we have a whole raft of laws that were ‘good ideas’ (or not) in their day. As a small business owner I’d really look forward to not having to do BAS every quarter or deal with the multiple requirements of superannuation payments. There’s many others. And so the Repeal Day appeals. But there are risks
The core risk is that in the passion for cutting red tape or intention to simplify the burdens of legal compliance, good laws get thrown out. There’s the risk that this idea of simplification becomes a political football where a repeal is targeted in a heavy handed fashion. That is as likely as it is unlikely.
Overall though the greatest risk is that laws with good intentions that are still valid, are scrapped because they were poorly constructed – a solid and worthwhile principal is discarded because of the existence of a clumsy or heavy handed nature in how the law applies.
Which is why Repeal Day doesn’t quite set us up for FUTURE legal developments. For those who’ve read some of my thoughts before, you’ll know that for years I’ve been calling for a ‘Sunset Clause’ on all legislation. The sunset clause would make all legislation self repealing making a Repeal Day irrelevant. It would also turn the focus of Parliament towards updating laws. Trying to keep pace with IT developments in Privacy for instance, is beyond the realm of most Governments. A sunset clause would see the law developed and then consistently reassessed to ensure the law is still meeting the intentions and relevancy framing. A refresh, new sunset clause and on it goes. If no longer required, the law would sunset and nothing else need be done.
I think the Repeal Day concept could be useful if treated carefully, and not as a sweeping of ideology. That’s its big risk. Developing Laws with a Sunset Clause brings Parliament up to date as a forward thinking legislative body
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