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Tuesday, 28 August 1973
Page: 445


Mr DRURY (Ryan) - The Opposition supports the motion for the appointment of a joint committee on the parliamentary committee system as moved by the Leader of the House (Mr Daly). We give our support in the expectation that the Senate will also support the motion. If the Senate does not support the proposal then we would, of course, want to have a fresh look at it in the light of the Senate's reaction. Like the Government, we recognise that there are a number of matters which need to be appraised in the interests of the Parliament and of the nation. The new sitting hours have seriously affected the committee system that exists at the present time and a fresh approach is clearly needed.

The Leader of the House in his speech on this motion referred to the committee systems which now operate in the United States of America, Great Britain and Canada. We in the Opposition, are of course, aware of the differing roles of these committee systems, especially with respect to the process of legislative review. But both in Australia and elsewhere parliamentary committees are an integral part of the machinery of Parliament. In moving this motion the Leader of the House said:

An extension of the committee system might well provide longer hours for debate, better presentation of debates in this Parliament and more information and in many ways might not only speed up processes of Parliament but make it possible for us to make better informed decisions.

What this means, of course, is that the Leader of the House envisages the prior scrutiny of legislative proposals by committees so that debate might be expedited when Bills come before the House. The Opposition has no objection in principle to giving this matter consideration and it would agree with the

Government that this is perhaps ideally undertaken by the proposed joint committee on the parliamentary committee system.

However, I want to make it clear on behalf of the Opposition that the efficient operation of the Parliament is largely dependent on a degree of legislative planning and organisation which, of course, is primarily a Government responsibility. The present Government proposes to bring forward a record number of Bills in this session and to this we have no inherent objection. But the Government cannot expect the processes of the Parliament to accommodate the program it has in mind unless it undertakes adequate planning practices itself. It would be reasonable in these new circumstances for the Government to make available to the Opposition parties a draft legislative program detailing the business of the House and the nature of the proposed legislation for a period of, say, 6 weeks ahead. We believe this suggestion is practicable and would enable the Opposition parties and individual members of the House to be adequately prepared for debates and so mak. for a more efficient and more effective working of the House and of the Parliament. No one can deny that there is room for improvement in this direction.

At the present time the Government either is not prepared or is not able to indicate to the Opposition parties the nature of any legislation or in fact even an outline of the parliamentary program more than a few days in advance. This is not very satisfactory. If the proposed joint committee is able to come up with satisfactory recommendations for a balanced system of committees, the better integration of the committee system into the procedures of the Parliament and suitable arrangements for committee meetings then it will have achieved something very worth while.







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