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Wednesday, 8 February 2017
Page: 356

Senator POLLEY (Tasmania) (17:30): I present the Scrutiny Digest No. 1 of 2017 of the Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills.

Ordered that the report be printed.

Senator POLLEY: I move:

That the Senate take note of the report.

I rise to speak to the tabling of the Scrutiny of Bills Committee's Scrutiny Digest No. 1 of 2017. As senators would be aware, the Scrutiny of Bills Committee has, for the past 35 years, been examining bills against a set of accountability standards that focus on the effect of proposed legislation on individual rights, liberties and obligations and on parliamentary scrutiny.

In doing so the committee has traditionally tabled two documents, an Alert Digest and a report. The AlertDigest sets out the committee's initial scrutiny of the bills introduced in the previous sitting week. When concerns are raised in the digest, the committee writes to the minister responsible for the bill inviting the minister to respond to the scrutiny concerns. The committee has then traditionally tabled a report, which sets out the minister's response and any further comments the committee may wish to make.

The committee has resolved that from 2017 it will table one document, the Scrutiny Digest, which will replace the committee's Alert Digest and report. The Scrutiny Digest will continue to contain the committee's initial scrutiny of recently introduced bills, as well as the committee's comments on any responses received on bills previously considered by the committee.

Another new development for the committee in 2017 is the temporary amendment to standing order 24, relating to ministerial responsiveness, which came into operation this week. As senators know, the committee works to ensure, wherever possible, that its comments on bills are available to senators prior to the passage of the bill. As such, where the committee writes to a minister, it expects a response to be received in time to be considered by the committee and reported on while the bill is still before the parliament. While the majority of ministers and departments do work hard to provide timely responses to the committee; unfortunately, there are occasions when responses have not been provided in the time frame requested by the committee.

It is on this basis that the Senate voted last year to temporarily amend the standing orders to give senators the right to ask the responsible minister why the Scrutiny of Bills Committee has not received a response. The committee's website sets out the bills for which responses have been requested and those which are outstanding. This is an important new approach by which senators can obtain information from ministers regarding their responsiveness to the committee's important work.

The Scrutiny Digest tabled today includes the committee's consideration of a number of bills scheduled for upcoming debate in the Senate, and I encourage my fellow senators and others to examine the digest and consider the scrutiny concerns raised by the committee.

I commend the committee's Scrutiny Digest No. 1 of 2017 to the Senate.

Question agreed to.


Consideration by Estimates Committees