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Monday, 29 October 2012
Page: 12193


Mr PERRETT (Moreton) (11:59): On behalf of the Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs, I seek leave to make a statement on the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Serious Drugs, Identity Crime and Other Measures) Bill 2012 and the Freedom of Information Amendment (Parliamentary Budget Office) Bill 2012, in discharge of the committee's requirement to provide an advisory report on the bills, and to present a copy of my statement.

Leave granted.

Mr PERRETT: The Social Policy and Legal Affairs Committee considers it has made a valuable contribution in examining several bills over the course of this parliament. The committee supports the opportunity for House committees to scrutinise bills and on several previous occasions has made comment aiming to improve the process of referral and opportunities for committees to add value to bill scrutiny. Accordingly, the committee takes the opportunity to register its concern regarding the appropriateness of the committees to which certain bills have been referred. If the aim of a referral is to ensure that genuine and effective scrutiny is given to a bill then this committee respectfully suggests that the process of determining the most appropriate committee to scrutinise a bill lacks rigour and sufficient understanding of the various committees and their functions.

The committee is anxious to ensure that the process of bills referrals operates effectively and that the Selection Committee has the most accurate advice to hand when determining the appropriate committee to which to refer a bill for scrutiny. Regretfully, this does not appear to be the case at all times, as demonstrated by the referral of these two bills to the Social Policy and Legal Affairs Committee—namely, the Freedom of Information Amendment (Parliamentary Budget Office) Bill 2012 and the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Serious Drugs, Identity Crime and Other Measures) Bill 2012.

The Freedom of Information Amendment (Parliamentary Budget Office) Bill 2012 seeks to confirm that documents and requests of the Parliamentary Budget Office, the PBO, which may be held elsewhere are exempt from the Freedom of Information Act in line with the exemptions already provided to the PBO. The PBO was incorporated in legislation through a recent amendment to the Parliamentary Services Act 1999, which designates the Joint Standing Committee of Public Accounts and Audit as the oversight body. This oversight role of the public accounts committee includes considering the operations and resources of the PBO in reporting to parliament on relevant matters relating to the PBO. As such, the Social Policy and Legal Affairs Committee considers that it is more appropriate for the designated oversight public accounts committee to inquire into this bill which affects the operation of the PBO in relation to freedom of information.

Similarly, the areas referred for scrutiny in the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Serious Drugs, Identity Crime and Other Measures) Bill 2012 are within the oversight of another committee. The Selection Committee referral for this bill specifically requests scrutiny of the creation of new offences in the bill. These new offences are outlined in schedule 2 of the bill as the use of the internet or mobile phones to procure identity information or book travel under false identities.

The Joint Select Committee on Cyber-Safety was established in the 43rd Parliament by a resolution of appointment tasking it with inquiring into and reporting on cybersafety threats, including identity theft and Australian and international safeguards and responses. The cybersafety committee was formed in this parliament specifically in order to inquire into issues around cybersafety, including identity crime. I know that because I am on that committee. Accordingly, it is the view of the Social Policy and Legal Affairs Committee that the cybersafety committee would be better placed to conduct an inquiry into this bill given its expertise in this area.

In addition, the committee notes that both bills have been referred to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee, which is due to report on 19 November. Should the House seek further scrutiny of the bills, it is suggested that they be referred to the committees with oversight of these matters.