The year has been very successful for the Office of Parliamentary Counsel (OPC).
Over the year, 121 Bills, totalling 4,069 pages, were introduced. These figures are a slight reduction compared to the previous year. The volume of Parliamentary Amendments continued at the same high level as the previous year.
Major legislation that was introduced included:
the Combatting Child Sexual Exploitation Legislation Amendment Bill 2019;
legislation to restructure the Federal Circuit Court and Family Court;
the Counter-Terrorism (Temporary Exclusion Orders) Act 2019;
the Future Drought Fund Act 2019; and
the Criminal Code Amendment (Sharing of Abhorrent Violent Material) Bill 2019.
Legislation administered by the Treasury continues to be an area of substantial demand. Legislation that was introduced included:
the Treasury Laws Amendment (Making Sure Foreign Investors Pay Their Fair Share of Tax in Australia and Other Measures) Act 2019;
the Treasury Laws Amendment (Prohibiting Energy Market Misconduct) Bill 2019;
the Treasury Laws Amendment (Strengthening Corporate and Financial Sector Penalties) Bill 2019; and
the Treasury Laws Amendment (Registries Modernisation and Other Measures) Bill 2019.
During the year, 348 Federal Executive Council (ExCo) legislative and notifiable instruments drafted by OPC, totalling 5,218 pages, were made and registered on the Federal Register of Legislation (the Legislation Register).
OPC also drafted 175 other legislative and notifiable instruments, totalling 2,161 pages, for government agency clients.
Major instruments that were made included:
the Migration Amendment (New Skilled Regional Visas) Regulations 2019; and
the Torres Strait Fisheries (Quotas for Tropical Rock Lobster (Kaiar)) Management Plan 2018.
A major project that was completed after many years was the rewrite of 6 major Parts of the Civil Aviation Safety Regulations 1998.
During the year, the Treasury continued a trial of using drafters other than OPC for some legislation.
The alternative drafters drafted material for 8 Bills, totalling 87 pages, that were introduced during the year.
The alternative drafters also drafted 10 Regulations, totalling 40 pages, that were made during the year.
OPC continued to play a key role in the management of the sunsetting of legislative instruments.
OPC worked closely with sunsetting coordinators in all portfolios to encourage early action on instruments due to sunset.
Key legislative instruments that were reviewed by portfolios and redrafted by OPC before the instruments were due to sunset included:
the Fisheries Management Regulations 2019;
the A New Tax System (Goods and Services Tax) Regulations 2019;
the Australian Crime Commission Regulations 2018; and
the Health Insurance Regulations 2018.
OPC will continue to play an important role in repealing spent and redundant legislation and ensuring that the Commonwealth statute book is as coherent, readable and readily accessible as possible.
Encouraging high drafting standards for legislative instruments
In 2012 the obligation to encourage high standards in the drafting of legislative instruments under section 16 of the Legislation Act 2003 (the Legislation Act) was transferred to me from the Secretary of the Attorney-General’s Department. Since 2012 I have taken a number of measures to fulfil my obligations under that section and enhance the quality of the Commonwealth’s overall statute book.
In 2018-2019 OPC continued to engage actively with rule-making agencies to encourage high standards of drafting and provided services to assist agencies drafting legislative or notifiable instruments. This work expands on OPC’s activities under the program component standardisation and quality control of legislation.
This year we continued the courses run by OPC for people involved in drafting legislative instruments.
More information on these activities is set out in later sections of this Annual Report.
OPC has increased its drafting staff over the year. We have been recruiting new drafters to ensure that we will have sufficient capacity in the future.
During the year, 3 new drafters started with OPC.
OPC continued to engage the services of Mr Richard Dennis AM PSM who had previously been the Parliamentary Counsel for South Australia.
The Publications group functions include:
publishing policy, including preparation of sunsetting and bulk repeal lists and managing the Legislation Register Helpdesk;
preparing compilations, operating the Legislation Register, and publishing and making arrangements for the printing of Commonwealth legislation Gazettes;
proofreading and editorial checking of all draft legislation drafted in OPC; and
the development and operation of the Legislation Register website.
The Publications group has continued to focus on data acquisition and cleansing to ensure quality is maintained and legislation is accessible on the Legislation Register. This included:
continuing significant work to move the format of compilations of Commonwealth legislation into a standard style;
preparing versions of as made legislation from 1901 in multiple formats;
publishing House of Representatives Bills, explanatory memoranda and associated documents from 1901; and
back-capturing historical metadata on the Legislation Register to make it consistent with current standards and therefore easier to search and retrieve information about older legislation.
Work also continued on the project to redevelop the Legislation Register.
Documentation and training
This year focus continued to be given to documenting the matters that specifically related to the drafting of instruments.
To provide greater training, drafters were rotated through Bill and instrument drafting positions. This will ensure that drafters can take on the full range of work that is now undertaken by OPC.
The very popular Legislation Process Course was reviewed and rewritten during the year. The course has continued to be very popular, with high enrolments and excellent feedback.
The Advanced Legislation Process Course was also reviewed and substantially changed. It is now known as the Legislative Design Course.
The two basic courses in drafting legislative instruments have also been very popular. These courses were reviewed and revised during the election period.
Substantial work has been undertaken to prepare documentation of the processes and procedures of the Publications group. This has assisted in training new staff and staff undertaking additional duties.
Financially, OPC is in a good position. OPC had a small surplus for the year and is budgeting for a break-even position in 2019-2020.
Liaison outside OPC
Over the year, OPC has continued to work on building closer relations with a number of key stakeholders. These have included the Treasury, Attorney-General’s Department, Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
OPC continued our close ties with a range of areas within the Attorney-General’s Department on matters of mutual interest. In particular, I continued as a member of the Department’s Legislation Committee and the Significant Legal Issues Committee.
OPC also has regular meetings with the Department of Health to assist them with management of their legislative program.
Through my membership of the Board of Taxation, I continued to maintain a close involvement in developments in taxation law and the implementation of that law.
Staff involved in Publications and Information Technology continued to be involved in the Australasian Parliamentary Counsel’s Committee IT, Publishing and Office Systems Forum. This year the meeting was hosted by the Western Australian Parliamentary Counsel's Office.
I gave speeches to a wide variety of organisations, including:
staff of the House of Representatives;
the South Australian Parliamentary Counsel's Office;
the Tax Institute in Western Australia;
the Law Society of Western Australia;
the Western Australian Parliamentary Counsel's Office;
the Office of the Queensland Parliamentary Counsel; and
the Australian Government Legal Network.
Other staff spoke at a variety of universities and to other bodies.
OPC staff met with participants in the 2018 Pacific Twinning Program. The participants were from the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Tonga and Tuvalu.
OPC staff also met with delegations from the Republic of Korea and the Kingdom of Thailand.
Secondment to OQPC
One of our drafters, Ms Elizabeth Edwards, went on a secondment to the Office of the Queensland Parliamentary Counsel. The secondment started in May 2019 and is scheduled to end in October 2019.
I led a delegation which also included senior drafters Mr Daniel Lovric and Ms Liza Quinn to the conference of the Commonwealth Association of Legislative Counsel in Zambia in April 2019.
Two of our senior drafters, Ms Naomi Carde and Ms Angela Theodorelos, attended the 19th Legislative Drafting Conference in September 2018 in Ottawa, Canada. The conference was convened by the Canadian Institute for the Administration of Justice, and was titled 'Charting Legislative Courses in a Complex World'.
Corporate Services support
OPC’s Corporate Services group has continued to provide outstanding support to the whole of OPC. Due to the small size of our Corporate Services group, many staff have duties covering a wide range of disparate areas. All of the Corporate Services staff have worked well in the small team environment to ensure that the drafters, the Senior Management Team and other staff received all the support they needed.
In addition to the ongoing administrative work of OPC, significant administrative activity during the year was devoted to:
completing minor fit-out works to OPC’s premises;
implementing the Timekeeper module within Aurion's Electronic Self-Service system;
digitisation of hard-copy personnel records;
testing and exercising OPC's business continuity management and ICT disaster recovery arrangements;
continuing promotion and implementation of activities in OPC’s third year of its Healthier Work Plan; and
reviewing and updating policies, procedures and processes. This included those for leave, flex-time, management of insurance policies and claims, and the Accountable Authority Instructions.
Drafting support to House and Senate
During the year we continued the arrangements to provide drafting support to each of the 2 Houses of Parliament.
The arrangement with the Senate is a secondment to the procedure office for one of our assistant drafters. This position is a valuable learning exercise for the drafters who are involved, as well as a practical way for OPC to provide some assistance to the Senate.
We also provided a senior drafter to assist the House of Representatives to deal with Private Members’ work. This arrangement has been quite successful and is being continued with the drafter predominantly working from OPC’s offices.
Election period projects
During election periods, there is a reduced amount of drafting work to be done. OPC takes advantage of these periods to undertake a range of projects.
In addition to preparing an incoming government brief, projects included revising a number of training courses, reviewing our subscriptions to electronic legal resources, updating a range of drafting directions and notes on drafting issues, and preparing and presenting seminars on drafting issues.
Outlook for coming year
I believe that the next year will see a substantial increase in the already very high level of demand for OPC’s drafting resources.
At the same time, OPC will continue to concentrate on the need to recruit, train and retain the highest quality staff in order to meet the demands of the future. OPC will also need to recruit new drafters to ensure the long-term viability of OPC.
Work will continue on the redevelopment of the Legislation Register and on continuing to improve the effectiveness of the Publications functions of OPC. These are critical in ensuring that the public has ready access to legislation.