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    2.12 Other matters needing consideration for thorough policy development

    2.12.1 General application provisions


    Legislation tends to be expressed as applying generally to all persons and things. This is sufficient for the vast majority of legislative purposes. However, there are some occasions when it may be necessary to make overarching statements about the application of the whole legislation. For example, an issue may arise about whether the legislation is to bind the State or another Australian body politic, or whether the legislation is to have extraterritorial effect.

    Binding on the State or another Australian body politic

    The instructing department must specifically consider and address whether or not the Bill is to bind the State (and the other States and the Commonwealth). The Queensland Cabinet Handbook requires that this matter be specifically addressed in the Authority to Prepare a Bill submission.

    In Queensland, the Acts Interpretation Act 1954, section 13 provides that an Act does not bind the State unless express words are included for that purpose. However, clarity is required in legislation and case law suggests that the issue should be dealt with expressly or by necessary implication in each Act.

    The State’s ability to bind the other States and the Commonwealth is limited. For example, the Australian Constitution, section 114 provides:

    A State shall not, without the consent of the Parliament of the Commonwealth, … impose any tax on property of any kind belonging to the Commonwealth …

    If an ability to bind the Commonwealth or the other States to achieve a particular outcome is essential, legal advice on the validity of the proposal should be obtained at the earliest possible stage.

    Extraterritorial application

    If the nature of the legislation is such that the implementation of its policy will require persons and events outside the State to be covered by the legislation, then it is essential that this is made clear in the legislation.

    The Criminal Code, sections 12(2) to (4), 13, and 14 and the Crimes at Sea Act 2001 seek to ensure that the substantive criminal law of Queensland has an appropriate extraterritorial application.

    However, other aspects of legislation may also require specific application to persons and circumstances outside the State generally or require provisions making it clear the legislation has effect offshore under the offshore settlement. (See Chapter 1.4.)

    2.12.2 Commencement and expiry

    An Act commences on the date of assent unless the Act expressly provides otherwise (Acts Interpretation Act 1954, section 15A). Often, an Act will include specific arrangements for its commencement, for example by specifically stating a commencement date for the whole Act or for particular provisions of the Act, or by providing for the commencement of the Act or particular provisions of the Act on a day to be fixed by a proclamation.

    An Act or provision of an Act that has not commenced within one year of the assent day automatically commences on the next day, although a regulation may extend the period of one year by a further maximum period of one year (Acts Interpretation Act 1954, section 15DA).Legislation may not be commenced in a way that results in it having an effect different to that which Parliament intended when the legislation was enacted.

    For practical reasons, the timetable for the commencement of provisions of an Act should be known at the earliest possible stage. If possible, the timetable for commencement should be stated in the Bill instead of being left to proclamation. Overlapping, complex, delayed and excessively separated commencement of provisions can make it difficult to understand what is the applicable law at a particular time.

    The timely, efficient and accurate preparation of reprints of legislation also requires that the timing of the commencement of legislation be known as soon as possible and be kept as simple as possible.

    Occasionally, because of particular policy considerations, Acts provide for their own expiry at some specified future time. This is referred to as a sunset clause. Expiry provisions are seen more frequently in subordinate legislation, usually arising out of the declaratory or transient nature of some subordinate legislation.

    There are no statutory or other arrangements requiring OQPC to warn departments of the forthcoming automatic commencement of any Act or provision of an Act. Nor are there arrangements for warning of the forthcoming expiry of any Act. OQPC is required to give advice about the forthcoming expiry of subordinate legislation, but only in the context of staged automatic expiry under the Statutory Instruments Act 1992.

    2.12.3 Consequential amendments

    Research should be conducted on the impact of the proposed Act on existing legislation and other laws. All provisions of Acts and subordinate legislation requiring amendment as a consequence of the proposed Act should be identified.

    2.12.4 Enforcement of provisions

    A provision imposing a liability or obligation must make it clear how the liability or obligation is to be enforced. In particular, if it is proposed that a breach of a provision creates a liability to a penalty, that should be made clear. However, it may not be necessary or desirable to create an offence if other legislation already covers the intended offence. In particular, if the Criminal Code provides for an offence, it is undesirable that another Act should erode its nature as a comprehensive code by providing for the same or essentially the same offence.

    Appropriate provision needs to be made about the enforcement process to be followed. For example, for the prosecution of an offence, it should be clear whether the prosecution is to be on indictment or to be dealt with in summary proceedings.

    Penalties in a Bill are presented as fines or, for more serious offences, terms of imprisonment. Fines are generally expressed as a specified number of penalty units. See the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992, section 5 for the value of a penalty unit. See that Act also for penalty options other than imprisonment or a fine.

    Penalties must be internally consistent and also consistent with government policy and other legislation. They should reflect the seriousness with which the Parliament views a contravention of the provision to which the penalty attaches. Offences that are dealt with summarily, that is, simple offences, and indictable offences when dealt with summarily, should not ordinarily carry a penalty greater than two years imprisonment.

    Penalties for a contravention of subordinate legislation should generally be limited to not more than 20 penalty units.3

    In relation to enforcement matters generally, it should be noted that The Queensland Cabinet Handbook requires that the Department of Justice and Attorney-General be consulted about legislative proposals involving the creation of new offences or the giving of increased powers to police (see also Chapter 2.12.7) or other State officials, and proposals affecting court or tribunal processes or resources. It should be noted, for example, that an increase in the maximum penalty for an offence may have an effect on court resources if that offence can no longer be dealt with summarily.

    Depending on the nature of the legislation, it may be necessary to make express statements about the enforcement or non-enforcement of the legislation against children. In preparing legislation, it may be necessary to test the enforcement provisions in the legislation against the Childrens Court Act 1992, the Youth Justice Act 1992, the Police Powers and Responsibilities Act 2000 and other legislation making special provision for children to gain an understanding of whether the proposed enforcement provisions are appropriate for children.

    1. Policy No. 2 of 1996 of the Scrutiny of Legislation Committee, in Alert Digest No. 4 of 1996 at pages 6–7, deals with the delegation of legislative power to create offences and prescribe penalties.

    2.12.5 Forms

    If forms are required for an Act, current legislative drafting practice is generally to provide for the forms to be administratively approved, rather than prescribed by the Act or subordinate legislation. Administratively approved forms are generally approved by the chief executive of the department administering the legislation. These forms can be amended quickly if necessary.

    Each administratively approved form is required to be given a unique number and approval or the availability of the form must be notified in the gazette (Acts Interpretation Act,s 48).  If a form is approved under an Act for a particular purpose, the form may only require information or documents that are reasonably necessary for this purpose (Acts Interpretation Act, s 48A(4)).  Further, if a form is approved under an Act, strict compliance with the form is not necessary and substantial compliance is sufficient (Acts Interpretation Act 1954, s 48A(1)).

    2.12.6 National Competition Policy

    The Treasury Department is responsible for the coordination of National Competition Policy implementation across departments. All legislative proposals for Cabinet consideration with competition policy implications or financial implications should be the subject of consultation with the relevant business group within the Treasury Department.

    For further information, policy or instructing officers should refer to The Queensland Cabinet Handbook, and consult with relevant officers in the Treasury Department.

    2.12.7 Police powers

    A principal objective of the Police Powers and Responsibilities Act 2000 is to consolidate all powers relating to police officers in one Act. Generally, any action to give additional powers to police officers should be by amendment of that Act.

    2.12.8 Regulation-making power

    The Statutory Instruments Act 1992, particularly in sections 21 to 31, provides for specific regulation-making powers. For example, section 22 provides that, if an Act authorises the making of statutory instruments, the power will include a power to make a statutory instrument with respect to any matter that is necessary or convenient for carrying out or giving effect to the Act. If regulations are intended that go beyond this power, it may be that additional regulation-making powers need to be expressly stated in the Bill.

    2.12.9 When Act operates

    An Act has prospective operation, unless a contrary intention appears. Retrospective operation of an Act requires considerable clarity of objective and expression. A retrospective operation is most easily accepted by a court if it has a beneficial effect for members of the community affected by the retrospectivity. If the intention is to have an adverse effect operating retrospectively, the policy objectives need to be particularly clear and capable of express provision in the Act.

    Achieving retrospectivity in the criminal law in particular requires a considerable degree of express precision. Retrospectivity is generally limited to matters of process and other incidental matters.

    2.12.10 Statutory bodies and statutory office holders

    If an Act establishes a statutory body, the nature of the body should be clear on the following points:

    • whether or not the body represents the State
    • how appointments to the body are made
    • the status of employees of the body  for example, whether the Public Service Act 2008 applies) whether particular Acts of general application apply to the body, including, for example:
    • Crime and Misconduct Act 2001
    • Financial Accountability Act 2009
    • Public Records Act 2002
    • Statutory Bodies Financial Arrangements Act 1982
    • if the body is a corporation, the extent to which it is subject to the corporations legislation.

    It is important to keep in mind the corporate or non-corporate nature of a body being established by, or dealt with in, legislation. If a body is non-corporate, it is not the practice to give it attributes normally reserved for bodies with legal personality. Responsibility for something done or omitted to be done, or power to take legal or significant action, is normally allocated only to someone or something with legal personality.

    It is also important to ensure unnecessary statutory bodies, particularly corporate bodies, are not created. If the activity involved is a government activity and those concerned are able to act under the ordinary authority of the State, there needs to be a substantial justification for the creation of the statutory body. Creation of statutory bodies, when administrative arrangements would be sufficient, erodes the flexibility of executive government and causes unnecessary problems when administrative changes in responsibilities happen. It can also be difficult for the community to understand where responsibility for something lies.

    In preparing a provision authorising appointment of a member of a statutory body, issues concerning conflict of interest should be considered. If it is intended that the holder of an existing class of office may be appointed as a member of the statutory body and a conflict of interest arises between the two offices, it may be necessary to expressly authorise such an appointment and provide for ways to avoid the conflict.4

    If it is proposed that criminal history checks must or may be made in relation to persons proposed to be appointed as members of a statutory body, appropriate provisions should be included authorising the public sector entities holding the required information (for example, the Commissioner of the Police Service) to be approached and to disclose the information.

    Sometimes an Act provides for a new statutory office (as opposed to a new statutory body). An Act that creates an office must contain provisions securing the independence of the holder of the office to the degree appropriate to the office.

    1. See PD Finn, ‘Public officers: some personal liabilities’ (1977) 51 The Australian Law Journal 313  at page 317.

    2.12.11 Time

    The time factor should always be carefully considered when developing new or amending provisions.

    For example, if a provision deals with a set of circumstances, some of which could happen before the provision commences and some after, it may be that a specific provision is needed to deal with the earlier circumstances. This is essential when introducing a criminal offence, penalty or process change. Existing processes that need to be examined with care when legislative change happens include any litigation, enforcement, appeal, review or administrative application processes. See also Chapter 2.12.12.

    Also, if the Bill requires a person to do something, when the thing is to be done needs to be stated. If no express statement is made, the thing is to be done as soon as possible, and as often as the relevant occasion happens – see the Acts Interpretation Act 1954, section 38(4). This can sometimes be impractical to administer.

    2.12.12 Transitional and savings provisions

    Proper consideration should be given to transitional and savings provisions. Some examples of matters to be considered include:

    • the application of the existing legislation or the proposed legislation to cases that arose before the change
    • rights or expectations a person may have under the existing legislation
    • the extent to which things done under the existing legislation are to have effect under the proposed legislation.

    Some occasions when express transitional or savings provisions may be required have been mentioned in relation to provisions taking account of the time factor (see Chapter 2.12.11). Transitional provisions are also often required when amending or replacing schemes for the grant of any form of property, right, privilege, authority or licence, and in order to continue decisions, appointments or appeals or the right to decide, appoint or appeal.

    The Acts Interpretation Act 1954, part 6, contains standard provisions applying to all legislative change. In deciding whether specific transitional or savings provisions should be prepared that replace or supplement the standard provisions, it is relevant to consider whether specific provisions would merely confuse the operation of the standard provisions, or whether there is good reason for including a specific provision. A difficulty with the standard provisions is that there is much case law about their interpretation. If the impact of the legislative change on existing matters is sensitive or difficult to decide, specific transitional or savings provisions should be prepared.

    If possible, subordinate legislation made under a repealed Act should not be carried over under a new Act. Even when the repealed Act and the new Act remain similar, changes to language and concepts can make administering and interpreting any subordinate legislation carried forward very difficult. If the new Act carries forward subordinate legislation made under the repealed Act, the new Act should provide that the subordinate legislation is repealed at a stated time.

    2.12.13 Delegations

    An Act commonly authorises an official to whom a power is given under the Act to delegate the power to another suitably qualified person. The actual delegation of the power is the subject of a separate instrument. However, if an amending Act will, in substance, vary a delegated power, including by adding to the power, the instructing officer should note this during the drafting process and prepare for any adjustment of delegations necessary for when the amending Act commences. It should not be assumed that an existing delegation, no matter how widely drawn, will still be effective to delegate the power as expanded or varied.

    The Acts Interpretation Act 1954, section 27A provides for standard provisions about delegations.

    2.12.14 Inconsistency with Corporations Act 2001 (Cwlth)

    If proposed legislation could be inconsistent with the Corporations Act 2001 (Cwlth) and will require notification to, and approval of, the Legislative and Governance Forum for Corporations (previously the Ministerial Council for Corporations), The Queensland Cabinet Handbook requires that this should be the subject of consultation with the Department of Justice and Attorney-General.

    2.12.15 National scheme legislation

    The principal objective of national scheme legislation is to ensure a consistent national approach. All legislative proposals that involve, or may have an impact on, national scheme legislation should be referred to the parliamentary counsel for advice. For further information about drafting national scheme legislation, see the Parliamentary Counsel’s Committee website at

    2.12.16 Liability of directors or executive officers of corporation for the corporation’s offences

    Proposed legislation should not make directors or executive officers of a corporation personally liable for offences committed by the corporation unless there is clear justification for so doing.5 If it is proposed to include a legislative provision imposing this liability, the Premier must first be consulted, after which the case for including the provision needs to be considered by Cabinet at Policy or Authority to Prepare stage. If a provision is included, it must not reverse the onus of proof. That is, it must not require a director or executive officer to prove that he or she did not authorise or permit the conduct of the corporation that constituted the corporation’s offence. 

    The Directors’ Liability Principles published by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) should be considered in deciding if the imposition of this kind of liability, sometimes referred to as ‘derivative liability’, is justifiable in particular circumstances.  The Directors’ Liability Principles include the following:

    • A corporation should, in the first instance, be held liable if it contravenes a statutory requirement.
    • Legislation should not impose ‘blanket’ or ‘general’ liability on a director or executive officer of a corporation for the corporation’s contravention of a statutory requirement.
    • A director or executive officer of a corporation should be made personally liable for a contravention of a statutory requirement by the corporation only if:
      • there is a compelling public policy reason;
      • holding the corporation liable is not likely on its own to be sufficient to promote compliance with a statutory obligation; and
    • it is reasonable in all the circumstances for the director or executive officer to be made liable—for example, if the obligation on the corporation, and therefore the director or executive officer, was clear, the director or executive officer had the capacity to influence the conduct of the corporation in relation to the contravention and there were reasonable steps that he or she might have taken to ensure the corporation did not engage in the conduct constituting the contravention.

    In addition to the Directors’ Liability Principles, COAG’s publication Personal Liability for Corporate Fault—Guidelines for applying the COAG principles should also be considered.

    1. Following Cabinet’s decision of 24 June 2013.

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    Last updated:
    15 January, 2020
    Last reviewed:
    13 November, 2013