Legislative Council: Wednesday, September 13, 2023


Legislative Review Committee

The Hon. C. BONAROS (15:11): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the President a question about the function of the Legislative Review Committee and public interest.

Leave granted.

The Hon. C. BONAROS: As everyone in this place knows, the Legislative Review Committee is one of the most critical committees in terms of its scrutiny role and has an enormous workload. In 2016, it had a total of 415 instruments referred to it; in 2017, 432; in 2018, 372; in 2019, 346; and in 2020, 469. In 2020, the annual report indicated that the Legislative Review Committee reported that of the 514 pieces of legislation enacted, 9 per cent (45 enactments) were primary legislation enacted by parliament, while 91 per cent (469 instruments) were delegated instruments made by the Governor or other persons. That doesn't include codes, guidelines and other instruments that the committee considers.

Members of this chamber would also be aware that this issue was extensively canvassed—and the subject of scrutiny and criticism and, indeed, recommendations—during the committee on committee inquiry. Just yesterday, we passed a bill made necessary by a High Court decision which found regulations to be invalidly made. The taxpayer of South Australia must now pay the significant and yet to be determined costs for that.

That is not the first court challenge based on validity based on regulations. A similar case occurred regarding commercial and retail leases some years ago, again at a significant cost to taxpayers. There is also a move on foot right now to remove prescribed early commencement certification processes, which further undermines transparency and oversight of regulations made.

This has been the subject of recent criticism by the Law Society, which has also raised concerns that regulations are being used to make substantive changes to existing laws. Every other jurisdiction and the commonwealth recognises and ensures adequate resources for their scrutiny committees. My questions to you, Mr President, respectfully, are:

1. Are you aware of continued requests for appropriate funding for suitably qualified staff by successive committee members to support the critical functions of that committee?

2. Have you sought advice on appropriately funding that committee?

3. Are you aware of a decision in recent days to cease providing members with advice other than on administrative matters?

4. What, if anything, do you intend to do to ensure the most important oversight committee—indeed, the only scrutiny committee—in this parliament is not reduced to a rubberstamping measure when it comes to the most utilised lawmaking mechanism?

5. How do you expect members of that committee to undertake their competing duties on committees, in this chamber, and otherwise in the absence of appropriately qualified and resourced staff arrangements?

The PRESIDENT (15:15): I will take your question on notice. If your staff are listening, the convention is normally to make the President aware that he or she is going to have a question asked of them, so they can provide a response on the day. I will take it on notice, and I will certainly come back with a response.