Water Week

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Frightful Federal rush: Assessment of practical operation of Water Bill impeded by absence of RIS

Posted by waterweek on 17 September 2007

A Water Bill had been in development for several months through various intergovernmental working groups but the Explanatory Memorandum had failed to include a Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS)(16/08/07).

No draft: Earlier versions of the Bill had been circulated to some peak stakeholder rural, commercial and environmental groups. However, no exposure draft or outline had been publicly released before introduction of the Bill into Parliament on 8 August. Some believed that this was partly due to the politically sensitive nature of the negotiations regarding key principles underlying the Bill.

RIS ensures transparency:The Explanatory Memorandum did not include a RIS. Under the government’s Legislative Handbook, a RIS had to be prepared for all proposed new or amending legislation which directly affected business or which had a significant indirect effect on business or restricted competition.

RIS analyses viability: One of the major benefits of having a RIS prepared and incorporated in the Explanatory Memorandum was that it often provided a useful analysis of the practical operation of how key provisions in the Bill would affect businesses and other related stakeholders.

Omitting a RIS: Whilst the Explanatory Memorandum did not say why a RIS was not included, it was understood that the reason was that the Bill’s focus was more of a planning and management framework, and it was only regulations of instruments made under the Bill which would have had a sufficient effect on business to warrant a RIS.

Numerous obstacles: Although this was arguably true, the assessment of the practical operation of the Bill was impeded by several factors. These included the lack of a RIS, the extremely short time allocated to the relevant Parliamentary inquiry and the scheduling of debate less than one week after introduction, particularly given the length and importance of the Bill.

Reference: Bill McCormick, Science, Technology, Environment, and Resources Section, Water Bill 2007 – Angus Martyn and Paula Pyburne Law and Bills Digest Section, Parliamentary Library Information – analysis and advice for the Parliament, Parliament of Australia Department of Parliamentary Service, 14 August 2007, no. 30, 2007-08, ISSN 1328-8091.

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