Legislative morass and the rule of law: a warning, and some possible solutions

Australian Public Law Blog Article by William Isdale and Christopher Ash

Today, legislation is the predominant source of law. Its voluminous production is a central feature of our governance, and shows no signs of slowing. “[E]very day”, Waldron writes, “another demand emerges for new legislation to deal with some difficulty or to reorganize some aspect of social affairs”.

The proliferation of legislation has been long-standing, and appears to be widespread. Lord Denning observed that in England in 1923 “there was one volume of 500 pages”, while at the time of his writing in 1978, there were “three volumes of more than 3,000 pages”. Currently, two statutes in Australia – the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997 (Cth) and Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) – each single-handedly exceed that 3,000 page mark.