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Thursday, 31 May 1984
Page: 2202

Senator HAMER(10.18) —I wish to speak briefly on the procedural point raised by Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle because it raises the issue of the deficiencies of our present Sessional Orders. There is a sessional order dealing with the reference of Bills to legislative and general purpose standing committees. Although this sessional order has been in force for nearly five years it has been used only once because it has clear deficiencies.

Senator Teague —Multicultural broadcasting.

Senator HAMER —Yes. The sessional order has been used only once in the five years it has been in force. The reason it has not been used is that it is deficient in a number of ways. Bills can only be referred, under the Sessional Orders, after the second reading stage. It is probably desirable to have this sort of material available before the second reading stage. The procedure in the committee has to be as nearly as practicable the same as the procedure in the Committee of the Whole. This limits the way in which a committee can conduct its deliberations. The point I wish to raise is that, because of the deficiencies of the sessional order, we have adopted the procedure, when we refer Bills to committees, of referring them to committees at large to conduct their inquiries in the way they choose. That seems to me entirely desirable and it should be done at any point in the cycle of consideration in the Senate that suits the wishes of the Senate. But one aspect that I think is relevant to this debate now is that a provision in the sessional order, clause (7), reads:

A report from a Legislative and General Purpose Standing Committee, relating to a Bill, shall be received by the Senate without debate and its consideration deferred until the reading of the Order of the Day for the further consideration of the Bill . . .

That seems to me entirely appropriate. Although we are adopting an ad hoc procedure in referring them at large to committees, I think when we get the Committee report back we should follow that procedure otherwise we will have two debates on the same subject. In other words, the consideration of this report should be deferred until we consider the Bill.