Reading Legislation!

Anyone on this site If reading legislation is like reading a map or a reference book, than it is a simple task, not to compare to reading a novel. In fact reading legislation is more like digging into the various tombs in Egypt and trying to figure out which skeleton belong to which dynasty . How does each mummy match? How was it wrapped? Which tomb was it from? And so on . . .

From the view of a reader or one who need to understand, say the law governing migration issues in Australia, all the relevant pieces of legislation are extremely overwhelming, scattered everywhere and chaotic. Unreadable! From the viewpoint of a novelist, such anarchy is like his or her first drafts. Indeed, it is. First drafts ideas are everywhere, too. A novelist will put in all the scattered points and thread them all through the storyline, with distinctive characterization that makes it memorable after the story was read.

Of course in any legislation or even the Constitution, a stream of lawyers must have read and reread the bill, with various amendments incorporated before it could pass through Parliament. Still, it’s like first drafts. It haven’t been scrutinised by the court system. After been scrutinised, Parliament couldn’t go back and redo all the legislations relating to migration, especially as some are inside the almost unalterable Constitution.

A novelist, on the other hand, has the advantage to have her work critiqued. She can rewrite and rewrite to her satisfaction before passing to a publisher. There, the publishing will go through more rounds of critiques and amendments before it’s seen as perfect!

Look at Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, for example. Her first line, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife,” is not just a perfect statement but a universal truth . It’s timeless: it was first published in 1813 but it’s still true today!

Series of televisions and movies were made from the same novel, and the universal theme is always there. So whenever I am reading the legislation, I often wonder, if we have the privilege of having Jane Austen, how she would had written and finalise a piece of legislation for immigration !

~ by Joel Huan on February 26, 2012.

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