Australian State Wants To Let Tech Companies Ignore Laws And Regulations

from the everyone-is-equal-before-the-law,-but-some-are-more-equal-than-others dept

Here on Techdirt, we are big fans of technology and innovation — provided, of course, they are not abused. That means we always happy to see ways of promoting research and development. The state of South Australia (SA) has come up with a rather novel approach to doing just that, spotted by Computerworld:

SA’s lower house last month passed the Research, Development and Innovation Bill 2017. The proposed legislation is currently being considered by the state’s Legislative Council.

The bill would allow a minister — via a recommendation to the state’s governor — to suspend the application of laws or regulations to research and development projects or activities in the state.

The logic of the proposed legislation (pdf) seems to be that since technology generally moves much faster than legislation, there may be outdated laws and regulations preventing innovative new products or services from being developed. Rather than trying to repeal or modify those laws — a process that is invariably long, and often impossible in practice — they are put into abeyance for up to 18 months, with a possible further 18 months’ extension, in order to allow research and development to proceed immediately. However, as the Law Society of South Australia points out in an open letter to the state’s attorney-general (pdf):

The Bill confers broad unfettered powers to the Government to override any existing legislation by way of declaration. The Society is concerned that the Bill lacks appropriate safeguards and does not support the Bill.

There is one exception to that “unfettered power”: the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006, which protects Aboriginal cultural heritage in the state, may not be ignored by anyone at any time. Although there may be good reasons for that exemption, the Law Society notes that the Bill does not explain why only this law is mentioned, nor why key criminal laws, and legislation relating to environmental protection, health and safety are not excluded from the scope of the Research, Development and Innovation Bill 2017. For her part, a local politician from the Greens party, Tammy Franks, is worried about the lack of public consultations on the new Bill:

SA attorney-general and Deputy Premier John Rau indicated during lower house debate on the legislation that he had sent copies of the bill to local executives at Google, Amazon, Apple, Tesla, Hill Ltd, Microsoft Australia, Samsung and Facebook.

“That he has consulted with Amazon, Google and Facebook over [this bill] but not the public of South Australia is extraordinary,” Franks said.

Many local citizens agreed, and have just succeeded in stopping the Bill in its present form from progressing further:

The Research, Development and Innovation Bill moved through the lower house without opposition but was set aside today in the upper house in the face of questions from Ms Franks and an online petition that garnered over 10,000 signatures within 24 hours.

However, as Franks warns on her website:

“We’ve stopped this bill for the moment, but I suspect it will be back with a vengeance next year. We’ll be keeping our eyes on this one,” she concluded.

Franks says her party wants to see the tech industry flourish in South Australia, but not at the expense of legal protection and civil liberties, which seems a reasonable approach.

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Comments on “Australian State Wants To Let Tech Companies Ignore Laws And Regulations”

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aerinai says:

Great idea... keep working on it.

I understand the intent and where they were going. But yeah… that is a little too little regulation for me… plus, this will also turn into a favorites game unless ANYONE can use a superseded law and not just a specific company.

Company X is doing research and gets a waiver to do Y. Company Z is also doing research. If Company X is granted a waiver, and Z cannot get the waiver, that puts X at a huge competitive disadvantage.

For things like drones, autonomous driving, flying cars; I could see benefits for relaxing certain types of laws. Things like dumping mercury into water because you are testing something for a new oil refining process…not so much.

Barry says:

Re: Great problem

There is no problem. This is the way government “regulation” works, especially in U.S.

The legislature (by formal law) grants agencies within the executive branch … broad discretionary powers to regulate/control various sectors of the private economy — thus freeing the legislature from the daily burdens of managing government oversight of these private economic sectors. Regulatory agencies are usually granted legislative authority to create their own laws (conveniently termed as “regulations”)

If you fundamentally object to this South Australian proposal — then you automatically object to the U.S. FDA, FCC, SEC, FAA, DOT, DOA, FTC, etc.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Great problem

Sure they can

Federal agencies routinely grant temporary or permanent “waivers” or “exemptions” (aka “exceptions”) from regulatory and codified legal requirements — to “regulated parties”. (this practice is legally and theoretically distinct from prosecutorial discretion possessed by regulators).

Also, the supposed sharp distinction between “Laws” and “Regulations” is merely pro forma. From the citizen perspective, laws and regulations are exactly the same thing — commands from the government enforced by penalties.
This false distinction was created by politicians to grant legislative (law-making) authority to a broad array of unelected/unaccountable executive agencies — thus greatly expanding government power over citizens.

Anonymous Coward says:

It always seemed like the creation of the Internet resulted in keeping far more lawyers employed than the engineers, programmers and technicians that kept the internet going. Sadly, that seems to be the curse of every new technology; the more useful, the more (and expensive) lawsuits will result over the question of how it should be used or not used.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

That is because engineers try to solve problems. Sure old standards may leave some awkward decisions in place, security flaws, or useless vestiges in place but the code is designed to be set and forgotten about while it diligently works in the background.

Meanwhile lawyers are always up to something for billable hours or their clients want to finagle their way out of something or into something.

Anonymous Coward says:

They can’t ignore aboriginal protections, but who needs to when there are plenty of white australians to perform vivisections on against their will?

Suspending ALL laws for ‘scientific establishments’?

Jesus FUCKING christ, have these people not SEEN what Joseph Mengele etc did to men women and children without laws to stop him?

ShadowNinja (profile) says:

Re: Re:

That was my thought exactly.

In theory under this proposed law you could propose a tech company that’s an Uber for hiring an assassin or hit man/woman, and get an exemption from laws against murder.

And you only need to get 1 or 2 people to agree to it according to the article!

This sounds like a major recipe for potential disaster if literally ANY criminal law can be wiped out. And as mentioned in the article, civil laws being wiped out can cause a ton of problems like (like environmental protections).

ECA (profile) says:


“from the everyone-is-equal-before-the-law,-but-some-are-more-equal-than-others dept”

From everyone is equal before the law, unless WE SAY SO..So!
(how can yo be more Equal??)

MOST laws are put into place AFTER THE FACT!!
If you goto the Gov. and explain you are going to do the SAME, but in a different way to MAKE something GOOD happen, you SHOULD be able to bypass the law..

EVEN in the USA, we have 1-2 hemp farms..IF you can find them. We have a few Biological facilities, for strange reasons, as to MAKE SOLUTIONS for them..

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