Submission note: "A thesis submitted in total fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy [to the] School of Law, Faculty of Business, Economics and Law, La Trobe University, Bundoora"
This thesis investigates plain language legislation–legislation drafted with elements associated with the plain language movement. The objectives of participants in the movement vary greatly. In respect of lay users, an objective is that they are able to read and understand legislation directly, without the need for professional mediation. In respect of all users, including expert and other informed users, an objective is to improve the way the legal system operates. The thesis has two main purposes: to evaluate whether the various objectives have been achieved or can be achieved, and to determine the reasons for the achievement or non-achievement of those objectives. The thesis inquiry takes as its basic assumption the notion that, in its attempts to change the impact of the law, the plain language project can be usefully analysed from the perspective of the life cycle of legislation—the phases through which an Act is developed. The major phases are emergence, drafting, parliamentary consideration and enactment, implementation, and evaluation of its effects. Chapter 2 of the thesis analyses the debates about the utility of plain language legislation in terms of the life cycle of legislation. Chapter 3 investigates the emergence and drafting phases with a focus on the goal set by many participants in the plain language movement. Chapter 4 investigates the implementation of plain language legislation at the level of the courts. Chapter 5 investigates the implementation of plain language legislation at the level of the administration of the law. Chapter 6 investigates the effects of plain language legislation, as measured by empirical studies. The thesis concludes that, despite facing numerous potential obstacles in the life cycle of legislation, and despite not achieving its headline goal in the main, plain language legislation is not a mere professional writing initiative, but in a limited sense can improve the legal system and the democratic process.
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