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Tuesday, 17 September 1974
Page: 1136


Senator GIETZELT (New South Wales) - I believe that the committee system which is now operating in the Senate and which has been extended to the House of Representatives has certainly enriched the work of the Parliament. It is a tribute to the Senate that it was able some years ago to see the need to exercise its power to review, in the form of a committee system, Government policy and legislation. I think that a great deal has been learned as a result of those experiences. I do not doubt that the innovative concepts of the early committees have created in the public mind the value of the Senate as a House not only concerned with reviewing legislation, but also reviewing the effects of legislation and anticipating what may ultimately become legislation. In that sense I think that the Senate has placed itself much higher in the minds of the public and fulfilled a more useful role.

However, having established the value of the Senate and the committee system firmly in the public mind we have now seen an extension of the principle to the House of Representatives. The House of Representatives has now seen fit to introduce a committee system in the belief that the effectiveness of the committee system will be enhanced by the 2 chambers working together- in other words the establishment of joint committees. This makes it hard to understand, therefore, why the Opposition in only one area is seeking to amend the system. It seeks to move outside the joint parliamentary system, which I believe is an extension of the pioneering work done by the Senate, and to have a Senate system as well as a joint parliamentary system operating to deal with the same subjects. As one who has been fortunate to be a member of both the Senate Standing Committee and the Joint Committee and for a period of time a chairman of each of those committees, I can say that there are real difficulties involved, first of all, in personnel from both Houses being able to participate in the working of the committee as well as the ability of the committee to have applied to it the resources which are necessary to enable the correct functioning of the committee. In making those statements I make no criticism of the members of the Senate who in the past have found difficulty in participating in the joint committees as well as the committees of the Senate. We have the ludicrous position that a joint parliamentary committee dealing with one aspect of parliamentary work can find itself in conflict with the work of a similar committee appointed by the Senate.

Senator Murphy'smotion, which has been on the Notice Paper for several months, seeks to reestablish the committees and largely to base them on the experiences of the last several parliaments. I think it would be a great mistake if the Senate were persuaded to support a dual system of parliamentary committees in one specific area. That is what the amendment seeks to do. I wonder why that specific area has been picked to be the area in which there shall be a joint parliamentary committee and a Senate standing committee. If it is possible to persuade the House of Representatives to establish a committee to deal with any aspect of the Parliament's work or the Government's policies, it renders redundant the work of the Senate committee. We should give our time, energy and resources to the joint committee and not seek to put ourselves in a position of having a dual system.

Senator Murphyhas sought the establishment of the old committee system which worked reasonably well- in some cases very well. A subsequent notice of motion which Senator Murphy has placed on the Notice Paper seeks the establishment of a joint committee of the 2 Houses of Parliament to see how best we may rationalise the resources that are essential for the proper functioning of the committee system. I wonder why those honourable senators who see some difficulties in these areas are pressing their point of view so strongly? Surely they should have no doubt that if they have an interest in foreign affairs and defence matters they will be appointed to the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. There is no reason why they cannot become members of that Committee. The purpose of a further notice of motion that will be discussed is to carry out an investigation into the committee system with a view to rationalising it and strengthening it, not weakening it as has been suggested by those honourable senators opposite who have participated in this debate. I urge the Senate to consider the motion that has been moved by Senator Murphy because I think that it accords with the best principles of the Senate as well as with the parliamentary system.







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