Saturday, May 06, 2006

Limited Duration Legislation

Under the current way of doing things, once a piece of legislation is enacted, it remains in place until another piece of legislation is passed that repeals or amends it. This is despite changes in the community's attitudes towards things, changes in technology, side effects of the legislation or it's implementation. A government has no obligation outside of the publics desire to review existing legislation.

Additionally, each year a number of new bills are passed, adding to the totality of the law. During the 1st session of the current parliament in Australia which was from the 16th of November to the 9th of December in 2004, 73 bills were introduced, and 29 of those where enacted during that time. The great majority of these were amendments to existing bills (this seems to lend more weight to last weeks idea than this weeks). All this occurred in less than one month. During the 1st session of the previous parliament, in five months 428 bills were introduced of which 150 were passed. That's a rate of about 1 in 3 being passed and about 4 bills per day (parliament has a very generous work week).

My idea had been that all legislation must include a date by which time it must specifically be extended, lest the bill lapse. The amount of time would have been about 10 years at the most, but a lesser amount could be stated. In light of the rate of amendment, I don't think this would have a great effect.

I had also been thinking that one of the consequences of such a time limit would be to devote a certain amount of the governments time to reviewing legislation coming up to expiration, and so this would reduce the rate at which new legislation is introduced, but again the current rate of amendment suggests that only a minority of government is creating truly new legislation.

At any rate, regular review of existing legislation to ensure that it is still achieving the aims it was created for, and not having adverse consequences in other areas is an important task for governments, and should be done in a regular and consistent manner.

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