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Tuesday, 28 August 1973
Page: 448

Mr LLOYD (Murray) - This debate on the parliamentary committee system probably represents the only time that the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) is sorry that he is not a member of the Opposition because 1 believe that he would dearly love to send up the proposition we are debating. He even had to reassure himself that he was serious. He had to say: 'lt is in all good faith that I submit the motion to the House.' if W. S. Gilbert was alive today 'Iolanthe' would be vastly improved by the example of the present Labor Government. One of the sub-titles to 'Iolanthe' is 'The Peer and the Peri'. I think that today W. S. Gilbert would substitute for that sub-title The Commissar and the Committees'. In speaking to his motion the Leader of the House stated:

Sittings of the House interfere with committee meetings.

That is something the same as saying that work interferes with leisure. One should consider what has the most important function - the House or all the appendages of the House. The Minister also talked about the possibility of altering procedure for calls for quorums, calls for divisions, etc., so that committees may meet while Parliament is in session. In Act II of 'Iolanthe', when Private Willis was on sentry duty outside Parliament House at Westminster, W. S. Gilbert had him sing:

When in that House M.P.'s divide,

If they've a brain and cerebellum, too,

They/ve got to leave that brain outside,

And vote just as their leaders tell 'em to.

Perhaps if W. S. Gilbert were alive today he would write:

When in that House M.P.'s divide,

If there are any not on a committee,

There will be insufficient to decide

What they debate. Ah, what a pity.

According to the estimate of the Leader of the House there are 14 House of Representatives committees and 24 Senate committees at the present time. It is agreed by all that these committees have insufficient time to do their committee work properly. There is no need for a special committee to be set up to find that out. There is also no need for a committee to establish what we all know, that is that as a result of the extended times introduced by the Leader of the House the effective time for committees has been substantially reduced. I think it is rather naive to say that perhaps some of the present sitting time of the Parliament could be used for committees because if that were the case why would the Leader of the House be so eager to have extended sitting times and also be eager to move the gag as we proceed with debates?

If the extended sitting times have been introduced to allow adequate time for debate - and I would question this in view of the way the House is operating - then this surely :s contradictory to the proposal to set up this committee. Now more than ever if committees are going to be allowed to meet while the House is in session - and it has been suggested that this is possibly one of the recommendations this committee will make - then members of committees will be more ignorant than ever of what is actually going on in the House and of the way to vote when they return to the House, if they do return.

I think W. S. Gilbert would also delight in the actions of the Attorney-General {Senator Murphy) in the present Government who when in Opposition was a most vociferous supporter of the worth of the committee system but who when he became AttorneyGeneral did not bother to wait for reports from the committee on wildlife and the committee on divorce regulations before introducing alterations in these fields. He was the one who was saying that we should always have these reports before us. I think also that Northcote Parkinson would be smiling at what is happening. He would be smiling at the proliferation of committees, of which this proposal obviously would be a suitable crowning achievement in that this proposed committee will even be able to set up subcommittees. He would also smile at the compound growth rate of the personal staff attached to various Ministers, of all the task forces being created and of the growth of the Public Service generally.

I believe it is time to say to this Government: Stop hiding behind the reports of task forces and special committees that have been set up with the one aim or one role of recommending Labor policy, and stop using these committees and task forces to create the fictions that the Government is only implementing the neutral, disinterested and expert views or recommendations of these groups. The Country Party does not oppose this proposal but it believes that the Leader of the House and the Government generally can do far more for the committee system and for Parliament by allowing adequate time for those committees which are at present constituted.

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