I have seen a number of posts on social media about how old and archaic some laws are, citing the title of the legislation with the year it was enacted as the example of how old it is. Now this article is not a debate about if the law is right or wrong or even if it’s relevant to our current times. Let’s be honest, everyone’s opinion is naturally different. You would need a year off work, cartons of wine, lots of patience and buckets of coffee to really delve deep to consider the legal, moral and ethical considerations of our laws. This article briefly addresses the myth regarding legislation and its title. Not everyone has had exposure to the law so it can be confusing if you don’t understand how law is enacted and later amended.
I follow a few bloggers online through social media. Family Law is a discussion that comes up a lot on social media blogging and group pages. I often see comments about separation and discussion generally turns to the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) (“FLA”) stating, “how can a law made in 1975 be applicable to our current times,” and “the law needs to change it was made in 1975,” just to name a few.
Myth v Fact. At the time of writing this article, the FLA has, since 1975, been amended no less than 79 times. Now, not all of these are major amendments however, this law has been amended 79 times in 41 years. Following these 79 amendments the title of the FLA has stayed the same with the year that the law was enacted, 1975.
As another example the Criminal Code 1899 (Qld) (“Code”). The Code again delivers this same assumption “it’s super old.” Hello!, The title says 1899! However, again this law has been amended a number of time since its enactment. One of the most recent at the time of writing this article is the insertion of a new section of the Code, s 315A regarding updated domestic violence laws made by the Criminal Law (Domestic Violence) Amendment Act 2016.
How is the legislation changed? By a range of people who have been voted into Parliament. In brief, (as there really is a lot to changing Legislation);
- The Queensland Parliament is made up of members of political parties (voted in).
- A Bill is made (by a Minister) with a proposal for a new law or amendment and the Minister then seeks approval from cabinet.
- If the cabinet approve, the Parliamentary Counsel prepares the Bill and its presented to the cabinet and members.
- If approved, it is read into Parliament by the Minister (all members are provided with a copy).
- The Bill is then read a second time (the minister talks about what the Bill intends to achieve). Discussion and debate takes place, sometimes changes are made.
- The third reading then takes place, Parliament then votes.
- If the Bill is voted in, it is sent to the Governor for royal assent. When assent is given the Bill becomes the law and it is then titled an Act of Parliament rather than a Bill.
So, using the Code above as an example the Criminal Law (Domestic Violence) Amendment Act 2016 was first a Bill before assent was given. Following assent (at which time it becomes an “Act” and the law) the Code was then amended to include the new section 315A. The date of the Code does not change; it remains at its original enactment date in 1899.
Hopefully this provides some insight into the title of our legislation and the myth that the law never changes.
For more information on this, the Queensland Government have released a handbook “The Queensland Legislation handbook” which provides some insight into this complex area of how Legislation is made in Queensland, located here.