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Thursday, 1 March 2012
Page: 2451

Ms OWENS (Parramatta) (09:44): On behalf of the Standing Committee on Procedure I present the committee's report entitled Interim Report No. 3: Monitoring and review of procedural changes implemented in the 43rd Parliament—The effectiveness of reforms to the House committee system, together with the minutes of proceedings. In accordance with standing order 39(f) the report was made a parliamentary paper.

Ms OWENS: by leave—This short report by the Procedure Committee examines the first year of operation of reforms to House and joint committees and captures some of the features, opportunities and challenges associated with their implementation. As members are aware, some of the changes to the House committee system in the 43rd Parliament include a rationalisation of the number of general purpose standing committees, and a reduction in their membership; an increase in the number of supplementary members able to participate in a committee inquiry; the ability for chairs and deputy chairs to make statements in the House about inquiries, not simply speak about inquiries at their conclusion when the report is presented; a requirement for ministerial explanations if government responses are not received within a six-month time frame; and, the referral of bills requiring additional scrutiny, as determined by the Selection Committee to House and joint committees.

Feedback to the committee suggests that reforms have generally been embraced enthusiastically by members, though there are some aspects we have highlighted as warranting further consideration. While committee chairs and members have commented favourably on the increased opportunities for House and joint committees to examine legislation, the increased workload of many committees has had some ramifications, including on the time of members.

The Procedure Committee also notes the emerging trend for committees to conclude inquiries into bills referred to them by the Selection Committee by having their chair make a statement in the House in discharge of the requirement to present an advisory report. This has occurred where committees have determined that a formal report was unnecessary or not possible. Some committees have indicated that it would be helpful if a statement of reasons were provided by the Selection Committee when referring a bill to committees, as was recommended by the Procedure Committee in its report in July last year. The provision for additional supplementary members to be appointed to committees for specific inquires and the provision for chairs and deputy chairs to update the House on the progress of their committee inquiries have been used consistently throughout the parliament.

The Procedure Committee will continue to monitor the impact of the reforms on the ability of members to perform their committee roles as effectively as they would wish. The committee thanks members and committees for their ongoing feedback to the committee, and I thank my colleagues on the committee and the secretariat for their work on this matter. I commend the report to the House.