Federal Acts Interpretation Act amended to Clarify Law

Friday 13 May 2011 @ 1.08 p.m. | Legal Research

The Acts Interpretation Amendment Bill 2011 was introduced into Parliament on 12 May 2011 to "progresses the implementation of the clearer laws elements of the Government’s Strategic Framework for Access to Justice in the Federal Civil Justice System."

The Bill contains a number of substantive amendments as follows:

  • ensuring that powers in relation to instruments apply to all types of instruments (contrary to some judicial interpretation that suggests they only apply to instruments of a legislative character)

  • allowing section 19B and 19BA Orders to apply retrospectively (these Orders update references in legislation to a particular Minister, Department or Secretary of a Department so that they can be read consistently with responsibilities as allocated under the Administrative Arrangements Order)

  • providing that an action by a Minister other than the Minister who is authorised to perform that action is not invalid merely on that basis

  • providing that anything done by or in relation to a person purporting to act under an appointment (including an acting appointment) is not invalid merely because the occasion for the appointment had not arisen, there was a defect or irregularity in connection with the appointment, the appointment had ceased to have effect or, in the case of acting appointments, the occasion to act had not arisen or had ceased

  • specifying that everything in an Act as enacted by the Parliament should be considered part of an Act

Several concepts in the original Act are being modernised so that it can continue to be relevant into the 21st century, for example:

  • allowing meeting participants to be in different locations and to participate using technology such as video-conferencing, and

  • adjusting the definition of ‘document’ to include things like maps, plans, drawings and photographs.

Generally the Bill improves the structure of the Acts Interpretation Act by:

  • co-locating the definitions which are currently scattered throughout the Act, and

  • co-locating other provisions that are currently not in a logical order.

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