9 January 2024

Embarrassment for government as new legislation website crashes links across all agencies

| Chris Johnson
Start the conversation

Performance issues! You are greeted with this when you open the Federal Register of Legislation. Image: Screenshot.

The Federal Government agency charged with drafting and publishing legislation for all to see has managed the exact opposite by launching a new website that has crashed the system across the entire public service.

Don’t try to open a link to any federal legislation because it just won’t work.

The Office of Parliamentary Counsel (OPC) went live with its new Federal Register of Legislation on the first of January this year and posted news about the launch on its website.

The office has even asked people to share their thoughts about the new site.

However, there’s a problem. The new site has somehow infected all links to legislation. Departments and agencies across the Australian Public Service are affected.

The general public, or anyone else, cannot open links to legislation.

The OPC is established under the Parliamentary Counsel Act 1970, but even the link to that piece of legislation can’t currently be opened.

In fact, Region has clicked on links to legislation of more than a dozen federal agencies – trying through the departmental websites and also entering externally – only to be greeted with error alerts or be timed out.

READ ALSO Grattan Institute gets new boss

The new website itself now has its own alert (just above a panel asking the public to share their views about the website), drawing attention to ‘performance issues’.

“The register is currently experiencing performance issues. Our technical team are working on improving performance as a priority,” it states.

“We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause and thank you for your patience.”

Region contacted the OPC, which said the issue related to linking to legislation on the register from other agency websites.

Information was provided to agencies in March 2023 about how to update links for the new register.

“Despite receiving overwhelming positive feedback on the ‘look and feel’ and new functionality of the site, we are experiencing some issues,” general manager publishing Aasha Swift said in a written reply.

“Our number one issue at the moment is slowness, this is impacting most users. We have a team working around the clock to resolve this issue.

“The slowness is being experienced by most users and is being worked on as a matter of urgency.”

Other public servants contacted across several agencies have confirmed the crash has been widespread.

“Click on a link to any legislation and the’ wheel of death’ pops up,” one said in reference to the spinning wheel on a computer page to let users know there is a problem.

Another said: “This is extremely embarrassing.”

The Federal Register of Legislation is the authorised whole-of-government website for Commonwealth legislation and related documents.

It contains the full text and details of the lifecycle of individual laws and the relationships between them. The register is managed by the OPC.

READ ALSO Boeing awarded $600-million contract to sustain RAAF Super Hornet and Growler fleets

Ironically, the OPC’s website states that in the event of “technical difficulties that stop an Act, instrument or other document from being registered on the register”, they will be published on the OPC’s own page.

“If the OPC website is also unavailable the Act, instrument or other document will be displayed publicly in hard copy at 28 Sydney Avenue, Forrest, in the Australian Capital Territory,” it states.

“Publishing on the OPC website or being made publicly available has the same effect as registration on the register.

“As soon as practicable after the technical difficulties have been resolved, anything published using the alternative registration arrangements will be published on the register and removed from this page.”

According to its website, functions of the OPC include:

  • drafting proposed laws for introduction into the Parliament
  • drafting amendments of proposed laws that are being considered by the Parliament
  • drafting subordinate legislation such as regulations, proclamations and other legislative instruments
  • preparing compilations and reprints of Commonwealth laws
  • publishing:
    * laws, and proposed laws, of the Commonwealth
    * compilations and reprints of Commonwealth laws
    * information relating to Commonwealth laws
  • preparing and publishing Government Notices Gazettes
  • maintaining the Federal Register of Legislation
  • promoting the legal effectiveness and clarity of legislation, including by providing advice and training in drafting matters
  • other functions conferred on OPC or on the First Parliamentary Counsel under the Legislation Act 2003 and any other laws of the Commonwealth, and
  • with ministerial approval, providing assistance to foreign countries in relation to drafting, printing or publishing of their laws.

Original Article published by Chris Johnson on Riotact.

Start the conversation

Be among the first to get all the Public Sector and Defence news and views that matter.

Subscribe now and receive the latest news, delivered free to your inbox.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.