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Monday, 22 September 2014
Page: 10064

Federation Chamber: 20th Anniversary


The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. BC Scott ) (10:30): Before I invite honourable members to make constituency statements, I wish to make a statement to record the fact that this year we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the operation of this chamber. The occasion is being acknowledged with some physical enhancements to the Federation Chamber, commencing with the new screens which have been installed on the side walls, adjacent to the television lights. These screens display the current item of business and the question before the chair. The trial arrangement which was in place prior to this meeting was met with general approval from members, so this more formal installation of screens has now taken place.

I foreshadow that members will notice in the coming weeks further enhancements to the Federation Chamber to improve the facility and the authority of the Federation Chamber. Further enhancements will include improved signage at the chamber entrance, a central table in front of the Deputy Speaker's chair to accommodate chamber documents, new lecterns, a new coat of arms, some artwork and a redesigned front desk for the Deputy Speaker and the clerks, in addition to some general maintenance.

In marking this important milestone, I will make a few points in relation to the 20 years of operation of this Federation Chamber, which was renamed in 2012 from the original Main Committee. I would like to note that it was Madam Speaker Bishop's suggestion way back—I think 10 years ago—that the name could change from the Main Committee to the Federation Chamber. That has now been achieved.

It was at 10 am on Wednesday, 8 June 1994 that the then Deputy Speaker, Harry Jenkins, the former member for Scullin, took the chair for the inaugural meeting of the second debating chamber of the House of Representatives, then called the Main Committee. Following from the 1993 report of the House Standing Committee on Procedure About time: bills, questions and working hours, this second debating chamber was established so that the House could deal more effectively with the high legislative workload without sacrificing opportunity for members to speak to bills and without increasing the number of sitting days or hours. The Federation Chamber has achieved that objective and more.

The Federation Chamber began, and remains, a body that is subordinate to the House. Its business is referred by the House, effectively, and its decisions are reported to and confirmed by the House. Cooperation has been the foundation of its success, especially noting the need for unanimity on decisions made in the Federation Chamber.

In its inaugural year, the Main Committee began with a modest workload, meeting for some 61 hours. Over the following years, the meeting hours grew, reaching a peak of some 377 hours in 2011. This total reflects the level of work for the House during the period of minority government, which brought about a surge in opportunities for private members to speak and propose debate on subjects of their own choosing in addition to debating time for scrutinising government bills.

For many years the Federation Chamber has been the venue where committee reports have been debated and significant motions that began their life in the House have been considered further. It has been a significant factor in the House's ability to respond in a timely manner in dealing with the myriad changing issues that affect parliaments in these times.

The Federation Chamber has enabled the House to undertake experiments in terms of procedure and equipment, with permanent changes occurring only after innovations have been tried and tested. From today, as members might have noticed, screens now have been placed in the chamber itself following on the success of the trial arrangements in the Federation Chamber. I believe this process of innovation, review and incremental change has been integral to the success of the Federation Chamber in its own right as well as its value to the House.

In noting the success, I acknowledge the contribution of my predecessors, including the current member for Chisholm, and I thank members of the Speaker's panel who preside here as Deputy Speaker, the whips and all members of staff for their support in the successful operation of the Federation Chamber. I look forward to its continuing success.