Wednesday 30 November, 2016

Mr TARZIA (Hartley) (15:44): I rise today to speak to the Statutes Amendment and Repeal (Simplify) Bill 2016. I might just start where the member for Newland left off. He said that if we were to rely on the opposition (his words) for ideas he would be in trouble. I just want to remind the member for Newland that the idea of a repeal day was actually that of the Liberal Party. In my research before I was looking to speak on this bill, I saw that there was a Liberal Party document dated 3 April 2013 about a repeal day and removing redundant laws.

The Labor Party seems to have this obsession with passing laws that interfere with the daily lives of business owners. As Liberals, on this side of the chamber we are actually committed to making sure that government interference is at a minimum and that individual freedom is consistent with good order and sound administration. We know that unnecessary legislation and redundant laws add costs to small business, and are a burden on society and government departments. We acknowledge that it is time to clean out laws that have passed their use-by date.

It has been said that in 1975, after about 140 years of South Australia's laws, a full set of South Australian statutes took up 60 centimetres of shelf space. Over 40 years later, they actually occupy double that space. We had a five-point repeal day plan to do a number of things, including:

1. Identify outdated legislation that had no relevance to the everyday lives of South Australian business owners, individuals and government;

2. Work with the private sector, non-government organisations, community groups and individuals to identify opportunities to cut down the burden of unnecessary legislation affecting them;

I point out that we would not just dictate; we would listen to the private sector, listen to non-government organisations and listen to community groups. What the government has done here, judging by the low level of consultation they have conducted, is as per usual: they are dictating; they are not listening to the people. You can see that because community groups have not had enough time, in my opinion, to be consulted and to provide feedback in relation to this. We also said we would:

3. Dedicate a full day of Parliamentary sitting in our first year in office—

because this is a priority—

to this cleaning up and repeal of outdated and redundant legislation: 'Repeal Day';

We would not rush it in one of the last weeks of a sitting year like this government is trying to do. We would also:

4. Ensure that all ministers in a…Government would actively identify ways to simply legislation in their portfolio areas—

which is consistent with this theme, and we would also aim to:

5. Consolidate other laws to remove duplication and avoid confusion amongst government and the private sector.

We would consult widely in doing this. We understand that we must embrace technology, especially when technology can reduce red tape and also add value. This South Australian government wants to talk about repealing redundant laws; however, it has certainly taken its time to do so. I understand that in recent times the Attorney's priorities have been perhaps in the wrong place, getting letters behind his name and what have you. I notice that he has passed it on to other members of the government to carry the weight in this bill.

The government keeps passing laws that interfere with our daily lives. As I said, we on this side of the chamber are certainly committed to keeping the level of government interference to a minimum. Individual freedom consistent with good order and sound administration is extremely important on this side of the chamber. We understand that we have to take the handbrake off the South Australian economy, because for too long it has been shackled by a bad Labor government which has too much red tape in a whole array of areas.

We understand that, whilst there must be a legal framework in some areas, the government should always try to get out of the way where it is possible to do so. Whilst the government's spin-off of this Liberal policy sees consultation with various government departments, it would be beneficial for the government to consult with more, and to listen rather than dictate to, various bodies, including the private sector. They should also work alongside these groups to cut down the burden of unnecessary legislation.

There are a few questions the government must answer, as put forward by my colleague the member for Mitchell. Firstly, we must understand from the government how many jobs this will create. Not only that, but how much money will this save, and is there any associated modelling with this? These are very important questions that the government must answer in speaking to this bill. As I said, we announced in the 2013 plan at the time that a Liberal government would dedicate a full day of parliamentary sitting to the cleaning up and repeal of outdated and redundant legislation rather than trying to rush things through in the late stages of a sitting calendar, as we are seeing this year.

We would ensure that every single minister in the government of the day would try to find ways to simplify legislation in their portfolio and also consolidate other laws, because we understand that duplication and confusion amongst government and the private sector is not a good thing. For the last 15 years, what have we seen? We have seen Labor pass many laws that interfere with our daily lives. We are certainly committed to minimal government interference wherever possible.

I would now like to speak on some of the legislative changes that the bill seeks to implement, beginning with the Conveyancers Act 1994. Clause 19 of the bill seeks to allow body corporate conveyancers to carry on their business without approval being obtained from Consumer and Business Services through changes to the Conveyancers Act 1994. The partnership details required to be listed on the public register are already under separate regulations. It is important to note that approximately 70 body corporate conveyancers operating in South Australia currently are inconvenienced by the need for approval from the Commissioner for Consumer Affairs. I support reforming what seems to be an unclear and unnecessary additional rule for conducting business.

The Crown Land Management Act 2009, which came into effect in 2009 under the Labor government, replaced the Crown Land Act 1929 and six other minor acts dealing with crown land during that period. Since its implementation, a number of provisions have been proven to be ambiguous and cumbersome, as acknowledged in the 'Simplify Day: reducing red tape and regulatory burden' document released by the government.

In the bill before us today, clause 21 provides that if a land parcel owned by a crown agency is declared surplus, the minister may dispose of it without declaring. Clause 23 gives the minister final consent on granting a lease in relation to crown land of which they are the custodian, and clause 28 allows some crown land to be disposed of without a competitive process and for less than market value.

In terms of the Electronic Transactions Act 2000, clause 42 seeks to extend the exemptions to government documents specified in the regulations. Clause 44 broadens the act to include other forms of electronic communications, to allow the government to issue documents electronically. Clause 48 allows the minister to determine what the approved communications system is and the usage rules around the system. The receiver of this information must also have consented to receiving the information electronically.

As shadow parliamentary secretary for entrepreneurship, innovation and business start-up, I hope to see the government spend more time looking into these kinds of amendments to assist in the shift to the digital age. I note that the government has engaged in a pilot program in this area and, should any issues be identified, I hope that they are addressed in the polishing of this legislation in the other place. It might be a good time to also point out that, whilst we will reserve our rights on this legislation, we will likely be amending parts of the legislation. We will reserve that right for the upper house.

Under the Evidence Act 1929, clause 53 adds a section 25A to abolish the oath belief rule, whereby a witness can be questioned and can express an opinion about whether the evidence given by another person in court on oath should be believed. We then have the Heritage Places Act 1993. Clause 64 seeks to implement changes to meetings of the Heritage Council so they will no longer need to be held in a public place and allows for a conference by telephone or other means to be a meeting, as long as participants have notice and are capable of participating. Clause 64 also states that meetings of the Heritage Council are to be open to the public unless the council considers it necessary to exclude them.

Under the Land Agents Act 1994, I note that clause 66 removes the penalty for a late payment of a land agent's registration fee. Clause 67 removes the default penalty for a failure to lodge an audit statement and also allows an agent to be liable in both a civil and criminal matter for a charge of failure to lodge an audit statement. Currently, I believe it can only be one or the other. Various changes are also proposed for the Security and Investigation Industry Act 1995. There are a number of regulatory changes proposed, especially in regard to the Development (Panels) (Transitional Provisions) Regulations 2006 and the Urban Renewal Regulations 2014.

The South Australian economy has certainly been slowed by unnecessary laws in a whole array of areas. What we need to be doing is addressing this now in every single area that it applies because we know that simplifying and reducing the number of redundant laws is certainly an effective way of unshackling the red tape burden on the South Australian economy. I anticipate that many of my colleagues on this side of the chamber will also review and identify other areas of improvement for the legislation. As I said, we support the passage of the bill in this house; however, we do respect our right to seek amendments in the other place.