​​​​​​​
You are here: Skip breadcrumbAttorney-General's Department >> Publications >> Annual reports >> Annual report 2007-08 >> Annual Report 2007-08 Output 1.5

Annual Report 2007-08 Output 1.5

Drafting of legislative and other instruments, maintenance of the Federal Register of Legislative Instruments, publication of legislative materials and provision of related legal services

Summary

The Department’s Office of Legislative Drafting and Publishing contributed to an equitable and accessible system of federal justice by drafting regulations and other instruments in an effective, plain English style and by publishing Commonwealth legislation and other material in a range of formats, including on the ComLaw website.

Major drafting exercises included preparing instruments for the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Scheme and continuing work on the reform of civil aviation safety instruments.

ComLaw incorporates the Federal Register of Legislative Instruments (FRLI), as well as Acts, historical legislation (both Acts and instruments) and ancillary material. The Office created compilations of Acts and regulations and, in most cases, published these within a day or two of the amendments coming into force. Considerable progress was made during 2007–08 in capturing and publishing instruments that pre-date the FRLI. Good progress also was made on a replacement website for ComLaw that will provide more user friendly access to legislation and that is planned to be operational in mid-2009.

The Office arranged commercial printing and publishing of Commonwealth legislative materials at reasonable cost to the public, and produced and distributed the Government Notices series of the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette.

Major achievements

Legislative drafting

Demand for the Office’s drafting and advisory services remained high in 2007–08 (see Table 3), although demand was lower, as usual, during the election period. Agencies are required to use the Office to draft regulations and commencement proclamations and may choose to use the Office for the drafting of other instruments on a user-pays basis. We are committed to drafting effective legislation in a plain English style that makes the law as accessible as possible to the public, legal practitioners and administrators. We regularly received positive comments from clients about the quality of our legislative drafting services.

The major clients for the drafting of regulations and other instruments were the Attorney-General’s Department, the Department of Health and Ageing, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. Major drafting projects included instruments for the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Scheme, continuing work on the reform of civil aviation safety instruments, reform of superannuation legislation and a rewrite of the Federal Court rules.

As a means of addressing the relative inexperience of many of its drafters, the Office introduced improved training programs for new staff and worked to ensure that its experienced staff were able to pass on their knowledge.

The Office provided training courses for client agencies to help them use the Office’s drafting service effectively and so improve the quality of legislation commissioned by them. Demand for those courses has been strong.

Table 3: Demand for drafting, advising and publishing services for 2006–07 to 2007–08
 

2006–07

2007–08

Percentage increase/decrease (%)

Total draft instruments 728 786 8
Select Legislative Instruments drafted 379 307 –19
Total number of pages of Select Legislative Instruments made 5,983 4,054 –32
Billable draft instruments 192 222 16
Billable draft instruments as a percentage of total draft instruments 26% 28% 8
Total billable revenue from drafting services $887,354 $1,251,468 41
Total billable revenue from publishing services $1,525,379 $1,906,139 25
Number of instruments assessed and registered on FRLI 4,489 4,940 10
Number of new and compiled items published on ComLaw 1,723 1,528 –13
Number of amending items incorporated 23,443 18,800 –20
Number of reprints published 37 30 23
Reprints published, number of pages 9,486 12,526 32
Number of Gazette notices published 1,512 1,411 –7
Number of existing instruments backcaptured 11,015 307 NA
ComLaw visitors 4,247,686 5,026,011 18

ComLaw and the Federal Register of Legislative Instruments

ComLaw, which incorporates FRLI, provides the public with quick, easy and free access to Acts, legislative instruments and related material through the internet. Since the beginning of 1995, all Commonwealth rule-making agencies have been required to lodge new legislative instruments for registration as soon as practicable after making them. All earlier instruments had to be lodged for registration by the end of 2007, or they would cease to operate. Some 20,000 instruments were backcaptured in this way, and most have now been registered. About 800 were still being processed by mid-2008; these represent the more complex and difficult registrations.

The Office creates compilations of Acts and regulations (up-to-date versions incorporating amendments), which enable users to see at a glance the current law, rather than having to piece together the original documents and amendments. In most cases a compilation is published online within a day or two of any amendment coming into force. For instruments other than regulations, the responsible agency must provide a compilation as soon as practicable after the instrument is amended, or may commission the Office to do so.

The ComLaw system reached a plateau of development during 2007–08. The Office (in conjunction with the Information and Knowledge Services Group) has concentrated on redeveloping it to meet future IT developments and changes in the legislative landscape and to provide a more intuitive and accessible system for users. The new ComLaw II system is scheduled for introduction in July 2009. Small improvements have been made in the existing system to meet client and legislative requirements, and significant progress has been made preparing historical data for migration from SCALEplus to ComLaw II.

Other publications

We publish Acts and instruments in printed form and sell copies to the public, industry and the legal profession through the bookshop network maintained by CanPrint Communications. Legislation for which there is a regular demand is printed in bulk at comparatively low cost. Other legislation is printed on demand.

The Office publishes the Government Notices series of the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette, both in printed form and online.

Overseas work

We continued to provide training and drafting services to other countries in the region, undertaking projects in Indonesia and Samoa and hosting a second South Pacific drafter in a professional placement.

Purchaser–provider arrangements

The Office drafts legislative instruments on instructions received by Australian Government agencies. The Office is funded for its work on regulations, proclamations and rules of court from the Budget. For other instruments, agencies are free to obtain services from the market and the Office is a competitor in this area. The Office provides a similar service for compilations. We publish the Government Notices Gazette series and charge agencies market rates for those publishing services. Agencies are charged a small lodgement fee for instruments and compilations that are to be registered on FRLI. The Office is the sole supplier of these last two services.

Outlook

The Office of Legislative Drafting and Publishing expects demand for its drafting services to continue at a high level as the Government moves through its reform program. The Office will continue to focus on building its capacity to provide legislation of the highest quality by training its staff, and maintaining a stable group of drafters who can steadily increase their levels of experience and skill.

The Office will maintain the current ComLaw system, but will continue to develop the ComLaw II system to replace it. This development will need to take into account the outcome of the review of the Legislative Instruments Act 2003 currently underway and the Government’s response to it. It will also need to take into account the expected passage of amendments to the Evidence Act 1995 that would allow electronic forms of Acts to be authoritative for the purposes of court proceedings.

We will complete the registration of backcaptured instruments, and focus on the migration of existing historical databases to ComLaw and the generation of new historical databases for publication. The Office will participate in a departmental review of charging and billing arrangements in the second half of the year.

We expect our involvement in providing training and drafting services to other countries in the region to increase further, including by providing more services within those countries.

Performance indicators
Quantitative and qualitative

Output 1.5

Drafting of legislative and other instruments, maintenance of the Federal Register of Legislative Instruments, publication of legislative materials and provision of related legal services

Activity

Performance indicator

Result

Policy advice provided to ministers Quantity   2006–07 2007–08
Submissions to ministers 2 1
Cabinet submissions
Ministerial correspondence*
Responses to questions on notice
Briefs 2
Speeches
Quality Advice to ministers provided within agreed time frames Achieved
Extent of satisfaction of ministers as measured by periodic feedback from ministers and their offices Highly satisfied
Provision of drafting services and advice

– Drafting subordinate legislation and instruments for signature by the Governor-General, ministers and other rule-makers

– Providing instruments that are legally effective and meet client policy objectives, are accurate, easy to read and understand and meet best-practice drafting, legal and parliamentary standards
Quantity   2006–07 2007–08
Select Legislative Instruments drafted 379 307
Total number of instruments drafted 728 786
Quality Proportion (100%) of instruments drafted not criticised by the Select Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances (SSCRO) as breaching the principles of good drafting practice Achieved
Proportion (95%) of drafting and advising matters to be completed within 6 weeks after instructions are received, or by another deadline set or agreed to by the client for the particular matter Achieved
Legislative instruments are registered on FRLI and lodged for tabling in Parliament in accordance with statutory requirements Quantity   2006–07 2007–08
Legislative instruments registered 15,504
(includes over 10,000 backcaptured instruments)
4,940
Legislative instruments lodged for tabling 4,573 4,955
Disallowable instruments delivered
to SSCRO
2,332 2,868
Quality All new legislative instruments that are lodged for registration to be registered on FRLI within the timeframe set for their commencement and in time to ensure that they are enforceable:

– Proportion (95%) of routine new legislative instruments are registered no later than two business days of receipt of lodgement

– Proportion (100%) of urgent new legislative instruments are registered within the required deadline
Achieved
All new legislative instruments are delivered to each House of the Parliament for tabling within six sitting days after registration:

– When Parliament is sitting—proportion (95%) no later than 2 business days after registration

– When Parliament is not sitting—proportion (95%) no later than 3 business days after registration
Achieved
Compilations of legislative instruments are prepared and registered on FRLI in accordance with statutory requirements Quantity   2006–07 2007–08
Total Office-prepared compilations registered 1,610 509
Select Legislative Instrument compilations registered 462 262
Agency-prepared compilations registered 156 192
Commonwealth Acts are electronically published and compilations of Commonwealth Acts are prepared and electronically published on ComLaw in a timely manner Quantity   2006–07 2007–08
Total number of Acts published on ComLaw 191 116
Number of Act compilations published on ComLaw 687 711
Government Notices Gazette is prepared and published accurately and in a timely manner Quantity   2006–07 2007–08
Special Gazettes published 244 277
Periodic Gazettes published 9 7
Government Notices Gazette notices published 1,259 1,127
Total Gazette notices published 1,512 1,411

* The number of ministerials relates to the number of actions in relation to ministerial correspondence.

† Briefs include papers on current issues, possible parliamentary questions (new and updated) and meeting briefs.

Performance information for Output 1.5—administered items

Administered item

Performance indicator

Result

Publication of Acts and Select Legislative Instruments Quantity   2006–07 2007–08
Total number of reprints published 37 25
Number of pages reprinted 13,953 7,614
Quality Act bound volumes for a particular calendar year to be made available to the printer by 31 March of the following year Achieved

Bound volumes were sent to the printer before 31 March 2008.
Commonwealth hard-copy reprints (Acts and Select Legislative Instruments) are published in compliance with publishing standards and the Reprint Program in a timely manner Achieved

Reprints were published in compliance with publishing standards and the Reprint Program.
Budget price: $1.018 million Actual price: $1.016 million

Our people

Creating the authoritative source for Commonwealth legislative instruments

Nikki Conduit (left) and Kate Fenwick, Office of Legislative Drafting and Publishing.

Nikki Conduit (left) and Kate Fenwick,
Office of Legislative Drafting and Publishing.

Each year the Commonwealth makes more than 4,000 legislative instruments. Until recently there has been no easy way to locate information about most of those legislative instruments, particularly the older ones.

Following the introduction of the Legislative Instruments Act 2003, the Office of Legislative Drafting and Publishing established a central register, the Federal Register of Legislative Instruments, to capture all new instruments.

The team also initiated a project to backcapture older instruments, and during 2007–08 made good progress registering the approximately 16,500 instruments before the statutory deadline to lodge backcaptured instruments had passed.

The Backcapture and Data Migration Team, including team leader Nikki Conduit and Kate Fenwick, can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

‘As at 30 June 2008, we have fewer than 1,000 instruments to go,’ she explained.

‘Once these have been registered, we will have created a complete electronic record of every legislative instrument in force.

‘The register, which forms part of the ComLaw website www.comlaw.gov.au, is accessed by as many as 22,000 people a day and includes a wide variety of legal information that is simply not available elsewhere.

‘Working with older legislation is challenging and the work involved to address issues with the instruments is very time-consuming.’

‘Problems that need to be dealt with include resolving discrepancies between the electronic copy provided and the original signed version, and establishing whether the instrument is legislative and whether it is still in force. The team liaises with other departments and agencies to resolve many of the issues that arise.

‘As it has been such a huge task involving thousands of legislative instruments, it will be extremely rewarding for the whole team once the backcapture project has been completed,’ Nikki said.