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proposed legislation (pdf) seems to be that since technology generally moves much faster than legislation, there may be outdated laws and regulations preventing innovative new products or services from being developed.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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Filed Under: abuse, australia, innovation, regulations


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  1. identicon
    Kronomex, 1 Dec 2017 @ 2:39pm

    The only other news service to mention it here is the ABC. Not a peep from TV or other papers. No real surprise there.

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