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Friday, 5 December 1986
Page: 3473

Senator KNOWLES(10.00) —I think it is a great tragedy to hear what some of the Government senators have said today not only about the committee system but also about some of the committee members. I think it would be an even greater tragedy if we did not all agree that a better examination of legislation is advantageous to the Parliament. As a member of the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts I am amazed at some of the remarks that Senator Colston made, especially about the Committee members. I think I would be remiss, especially considering that one of my colleagues, Senator Teague, is not present at the moment, if I did not make any comment.

It is quite clear that we, in the coalition, have provided about 90 per cent of the quorums for both public and private meetings since I have been on this Committee. Given that, only last week, when we yet again provided a quorum for a private meeting, a decision was made by us, with which the Chairman disagreed, he walked out of the meeting without formally adjourning it and called another meeting a couple of days later. There was absolutely no formal motion of adjournment of that meeting. According to the secretary of the Committee, who does an excellent job, the meeting was not formally adjourned. Yet only a couple of days later the Chairman rounded up his two colleagues, one of whom I cannot even remember the last time he attended a meeting, and overturned our decision which was made at a properly constituted meeting. That decision was in relation to the public hearing on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio broadcasting in Queensland. We felt that that matter had been sufficiently canvassed both by the Committee and also in this chamber, yet the Chairman sought to have yet another public hearing. I therefore found it amazing that this morning the Chairman talked about costs. We have already had public hearings and private meetings. We have already made sure that this-

Senator Colston —Did you attend the meeting?

Senator KNOWLES —I have attended all the private meetings, Senator Colston. This matter was raised yet again, and the decision that had been made at the properly constituted meeting earlier last week was overturned by the Chairman and his colleagues a couple of days later to make sure that another public hearing was going to be held on something on which we had already held one. Therefore I think the claim that cost is a factor is quite absurd. It is a real shame that we are not looking at the committee system to make better legislation. A typical example of how better scrutiny and better examination of Bills are beneficial is our reference on the copyright amendment legislation earlier this year, which proved to be most successful and most enlightening.

I think this is an important issue and one from which we should not run away and one which should not be denigrated into an attack on members of the Committee.