WA Introduces Legislation Bill to Modernise Legislative Publishing
The Legislation Bill 2021 (WA) ("the Bill") was introduced on 29 April by Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan ("the Premier"). It is the first Bill introduced to the 41st WA Parliament. The Bill is currently at the second reading stage in the WA Assembly.
The Bill is a reintroduced bill, as the Legislation Bill 2018 lapsed as Parliament was prorogued on 7 December 2020. The Bill contains one change to clause 33 and some other minor drafting changes.
Overview of the Bill
If enacted, the Bill proposes modernisation of the processes involved in the publication of WA legislation. The Bill also contains proposed provisions to set out the responsibilities of the Parliamentary Counsel’s Office of Western Australia ("the PCO") in regards to the publication of WA legislation.
The Bill seeks to introduce a definition of the official version of a law to include both the electronic and hard copy versions of the law, where it indicates in the prescribed way that it is an official version of the legislation. Similarly, electronic versions of the Gazette will also be considered to be an official version of the document. The Bill also proposes additional editorial powers to the PCO to assist in maintaining, modernising and simplifying the publication of WA legislation. The Bill also suggests improvements on the processes for error correction that do not require enactment by Parliament. However, according to the explanatory materials, important restrictions on the exercise of those editorial powers will remain.
The Bill also proposes the repeal of the Reprints Act 1984 (WA), in line with the conferring official status on the electronic versions of WA legislation.
Clause 3 of the Bill provides for the proposed objectives of the Act. Western Australian legislation is to be easy to find, use and understand and these objectives are to be achieved by:
- making Western Australian legislation publicly available
- giving official status to Western Australian legislation in both hard copy and electronic form; and
- conferring power on the Parliamentary Counsel to make certain editorial changes so that Western Australian legislation can be kept up-to-date, modernised and simplified, and errors corrected, without the need for Parliament to enact the changes.
The Bill provides for the publication of the laws of Western Australia as originally enacted or made, and for updated versions of the laws to incorporate subsequent amendments. The definition of "law" proposed by the Bill is wider in scope. It includes not only written laws, but also imperial enactments (as also defined in clause 4 of the Bill), proclamations of commencement, and instruments made under the Royal Prerogative.
If passed, the changes would apply to all laws (as defined in clause 4 of the Bill), regardless of when they were passed or made.
In terms of relationship with other Acts, clause 7 of the Bill clarifies that, if passed, the Bill is "not intended to be a comprehensive statement of the law" relating to the publication or effect of WA legislation. It is in addition to and does not limit the operation of other Acts relating to legislation, such as the Interpretation Act 1984 (WA), Evidence Act 1906 (WA) and Local Government Act 1995 (WA).
Part 2 of the Bill contains proposed provisions in regards to the actual publication of legislation and in particular provides for WA legislation website, and includes provisions dealing with:
- the purpose of WA legislation website (clause 9)
- what is to be published on WA legislation website (clause 10)
- versions showing the effect of uncommenced amendments or modifications, or law as modified (clause 11); and
- when a law is to be published on WA legislation website (clause 12).
Division 2 of Part 2 of the Bill contains clauses that deals with official versions of legislation and provides that both electronic and hard copy versions of legislation, published in the prescribed way, are to be regarded as official versions of the legislation. The effect of changing the official status of legislative versions, is that the evidentiary and judicial notice provisions would apply.
Currently, the Evidence Act 1906 (WA) provides for the judicial notice of and gives evidential status to copies of WA Acts, subsidiary legislation, and Gazettes. The Bill seeks to amend these provisions in order to extend their application beyond printed material. Similarly, section 8 of the Reprints Act 1984 (WA) currently provides for judicial notice of and attributes evidential status to reprints of written laws produced under that Act. If the Bill is passed, section 8 will no longer be necessary, and the Reprints Act 1984 (WA) is to be repealed.
Clause 15 of the Bill proposes the conferring of official status on certain electronic versions of laws. To be an official version, the law must be accessed at, or downloaded from, the WA legislation website in a prescribed format. Furthermore, it must indicate in a prescribed way that it is an official version, or the website must indicate that fact in a prescribed way. Subsequent regulations will prescribe the requirements.
The proposed Division 3 of Part 2 of the Bill deals with the legal and evidential status of official versions of legislation, evidence of the day of publication of laws and of the day of Royal Assent to an Act, and judicial notice of laws. Division 4 of Part 2 proposes to enable instruments that would otherwise be required or authorised to be published or notified in the Gazette, to be published or notified instead on the WA legislation website.
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Legislation Bill 2021 (WA), second reading speech and explanatory materials available on the TimeBase's LawOne Service
Legislation Bill 2018 (WA), second reading speech and explanatory materials available on the TimeBase's LawOne Service