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Context:  The Regulatory Standards Bill

1. The Regulatory Standards Bill was introduced as a Government Bill in March 2011. Its stated purpose is to improve the quality of legislation by:

  • specifying principles of responsible regulation that are to apply to new legislation and, over time, to all legislation;
  • requiring those proposing new legislation to state whether it is compatible with those principles and, if not, the reasons for the incompatibility; and
  • granting courts the power to declare existing legislation to be incompatible with those principles.

2. The content of the Bill reflects the recommendations of the Regulatory Responsibility Taskforce, a group of external experts appointed by the Government to assess and propose changes to an earlier private members Bill.

3. The Taskforce's report and proposed Bill created sharply divided opinion even before the Bill itself was introduced. As a generalisation, it has attracted support from businesses and business organisations, and criticism from legislative experts, academic commentators, and departments. The Commerce Committee, to which the Regulatory Standards Bill was referred, then produced an interim report in September 2011 to disclose advice received from the Regulations Review Committee, which identifies a range of concerns with the Bill.

4. Following the 2011 election, the National and ACT parties concluded a Confidence and Supply Agreement that included the following commitment:

"The Regulatory Standards Bill will be included in the continuance motion for the new Parliament, and the Minister for Regulatory Reform will work closely with the Minister of Finance to achieve a mutually agreed outcome, based on Treasury's preferred option (option 5)."

5. All these references can be accessed online from links in the Endnotes on p.20.

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