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Tuesday, 17 September 1974
Page: 1135

Senator STEELE HALL (South AustraliaLeader of the Liberal Movement) - As a newcomer to this place I would say that the Senate committee system has enhanced the reputation of the Senate for those who have looked at it from outside. However, I am confused by Senator Withers' statement that to vote against the amendment will destroy the committee system, because it appears to me from simply looking at the proposition that we are arguing as to whether we will have 5 committees or 7 committees. I must admit that I did miss some of Senator Withers' argument. If I missed some explanation, that is my fault and of course not his. But as I understand the argument so far we are talking about five or seven.

Senator Baume - Methods of reference to committees also.

Senator STEELE HALL -Yes, methods of reference.

Senator Withers - New references or no more references; that is the second leg.

Senator STEELE HALL - I appreciate being furnished with the information that I have missed. That means, of course, that one's consideration of Senator Withers' amendment might be in separate parts. It would certainly seem sensible to me if the Senate were to refer matters to the committees by a majority vote. I agree with Senator Withers on that point.

I refer again to the numbers of committees. I understand that there is a Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. I remember that some years ago Senator Murphy's Party refused to have anything to do with it. But in any case, are we duplicating, or tending to duplicate, by having a Senate committee on foreign affairs as well as a Joint Committee? If we are, I must say that, whilst I am generally in favour of committees, not all committees produce on every occasion worthwhile work. One must look at the efficiency of the system. Certainly it does not appear to a newcomer, Mr Deputy President, efficient to have 2 committees of this Parliament inquiring into the same subject.

Senator Rae - They have different functions.

Senator STEELE HALL - Well, perhaps. That had not been explained to me. This is die subject of the debate and I hope that someone will explain it. But on the surface of the matter I am inclined to vote for the major part of Senator Withers' amendment and exclude the foreign affairs committee because of the existence of a joint committee. I am now a little further ahead with my knowledge because of this inquiry, but I cannot see how a rejection of that part of the amendment would destroy the system. I think that that is still an over-use of the term.

I refer to one very minor point in the motion. It uses the word 'Independents'. That is a contradictory term in relation to a description of myself in other measures before the Senate in which I am not included as an Independent. The matter is too footling to move an amendment, but I remind Senator Murphy that I do not regard myself as an Independent for the purpose of this motion.

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