QUESTION: Simplify Bills

During Question Time today, Mark asked the Leader of the Government in the Legislative Council, about the Government's plans to introduce "Simplify" Bills.

The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: Towards the end of the previous government, a legislative technique designed to reduce unnecessary red tape and anomalies was introduced in the form of two Simplify bills. On face value these bills appeared to be non-contentious; however, it now seems that dark forces were at work within various government departments to sneak things through that diminished community rights and which I suspect they hoped would go unnoticed if they were buried amongst hundreds of amendments to dozens of acts.

One such issue in the first Simplify bill last year related to amendments to the Crown Land Management Act and provided that waterfront Crown land could be sold off or leased to private developers without public consultation provided that a thin coastal strip was excised from the land first.

This is precisely what the government is now doing on Kangaroo Island. Using the provisions of the Statutes Amendment and Repeal (Simplify) Act 2017, at least 10 hectares of conservation zoned, waterfront Crown land near Pelican Lagoon on Kangaroo Island will lose its protected status and be leased to a golf course developer, who will clear native vegetation and replace it with putting greens, fairways and other golfing infrastructure.

My question of the leader is: will the current government continue with the policy of the previous government of introducing omnibus Simplify bills during this term of parliament?

The Hon. R.I. Lucas: You supported that bill.

The Hon. M.C. Parnell: I know I did. I got it wrong. I got it terribly wrong.

The Hon. R.I. LUCAS (Treasurer): That sounded like a confessional. My recollection is that the Hon. Mr Parnell supported the legislation in the simplify bill that went through.

The Hon. M.C. Parnell: I've now discovered how sneaky they were.

The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: I don't think we needed a simplify bill to make that particular judgement about the former government. With the greatest of respect to the Hon. Mr Parnell—and I hold him in some esteem at least for being a Greens member of parliament around the nation; I hold both the Greens members here in some esteem—I am sure he didn't need a simplify bill to know that the former government was sneaky in relation to its approach to issues. As I said, the honourable member did support the legislation, as indeed did the former opposition, now government. But my recollection is that we did—and I look anxiously at my colleague—move a number of amendments in the Legislative Council as it related to the tourism area and a number of areas.

One of the jobs of parliament and the Legislative Council in particular—it's an important role of the Legislative Council—is to not allow governments, sneaky or otherwise, to get things through. This should be the last thing I should have to put to the Hon. Mr Parnell, because I know he shares my views about the importance of the role of the Legislative Council, but the Legislative Council has an important role to play as a house of review so that sneaky, tricky governments of whatever flavour or complexion are subject to appropriate review in the house of review, which is the Legislative Council.

The Liberal opposition, as it was then, together with crossbenchers, did have the numbers to make amendments, and we picked up a number of provisions which we thought that sneaky government was trying to get through, and we sought the support of the Legislative Council to correct those particular provisions. If, in retrospect, the Hon. Mr Parnell slipped up, if that is his confessional—

The Hon. M.C. Parnell: I'm not saying that.

The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: It sounded like it. It sounded like a mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa coming from the honourable member in relation to the legislation. But as a general principle, we are not opposed to the notion of reducing red tape and regulation, so the government's approach of a simplify bill I don't think in and of itself is sneaky. So I don't think you can dismiss the notion of having a bill there.

I think the challenge for each of us as members is to hold those pieces of legislation up, if we have any doubts about them, and to consult. That is certainly what we did. Each shadow minister—and we concede we have greater numbers to do this sort of task than crossbenchers do—were required to consult with all stakeholders in their area in relation to the pieces of legislation to say, 'Okay, do you have concerns in relation to what the government is attempting to do in this particular area?' We did have some concerns expressed to us and we then moved some amendments in the Legislative Council to those provisions.

My recollection is that I think there was a simplify bill of a second nature which was before the parliament. I can't remember whether it arrived at the Legislative Council or not. Certainly, it is the new government's intention probably to dust that off and have a look at it. There were some sensible provisions in it, so I am advised, potentially to proceed down the path, but we are still looking at an approach.

Perhaps we can forewarn the Hon. Mr Parnell that it is possible that the former government's simplify bill No. 2, if that's what it was called, which has been out in the public arena at least for 12 months now, may well be proceeded with in whole or in part by the new government and that is fair warning to have a close look at what the former government might have been trying to sneak through and see whether or not the honourable members' constituents have any concerns in relation to any aspect of the legislation.

In conclusion, in and of itself I don't see that there is a problem in relation to deregulation removing red tape; in fact, that's what the new government is about. The various mechanisms are quite open: you can have 50 separate bills all doing a little bit each, or you can have one reduce red tape bill, and in and of itself I don't see that that is necessarily a problem. We will consider both options as we proceed with our deregulation program.