ANALYSIS

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Debatable impact: Prime Minister Tony Abbott has axed thousands of Acts and Regulations of Parliament. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

It's easy to slash red tape when it changes nothing. Tony Abbott says by axing 10,000 acts and regulations he will help ''the local newsagent, dry cleaner, baker and butcher''.

Maybe. But it's more likely they won't notice. That's because, for the most part, nothing will change.

One of Australia's very first acts, the 1901 Acts Interpretation Act says when an act that amends another is repealed, the amendment stays.

Here's how it will work with the Flags Act 1954. Tony Abbott plans to abolish it. It amended the Flags Act 1953 by shrinking the size of the seven-point star that sits in the bottom-left quarter of the Australian flag. Previously it took up three-eighths of the width of the flag. The amendment cut it to three-tenths. But axing the amendment won't increase the size of the star. The Flags Act 1953 has already been amended. Axing the by-now-redundant amendment changes nothing.

Newsagents, dry cleaners, bakers and butchers will find life no easier, nor any harder.

We are by now used to the idea that 50 cent coins are made of copper and nickel rather than ''four-fifths fine silver''. The 1969 Currency Act amended an earlier act to permit the change. It will go, but it has done its job. Our coins are not going to return to being silver again any time soon.

What benefit can there be from axing laws whose axing will have no effect? Answering their own rhetorical question on Wednesday, government MPs said it would become easier for researchers to sort through government legislation. Fair enough, it's probably worth doing. But not worth overselling.

And then there's the wording of acts. It's hard to believe but spelling mistakes sometimes slip through. The word ''the'' is often doubled. Abbott's changes fix decades of mistakes and ensure the word ''fax'' is consistently used instead of ''facsimile'' - a clarification that might have come a little late given many of the machines live in recycling.

Some of the changes will matter. And they are not popular. It's hard to imagine dry cleaners and bakers being overjoyed about a change that means their financial planners are no longer required to act in their best interests.