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Tuesday, 17 September 1974
Page: 1155

Senator MURPHY (New South WalesLeader of the Government in the Senate) - by leave- No one else was seeking the call. I was purporting to close the debate. Let me say that it ought to be put on record, in case those who read Hansard may be misled, that Opposition senators are now supporting the full system as it was but their predecessors when they were in government voted against the proposal. All except one voted against it. I distinctly recall that the system was set up as a result of a combination of the Labor Party with Senator Turnbull and Senator Wood. That is my recollection of the establishment of the original system.

Senator Young - That is incorrect.

Senator MURPHY -I am talking about the committee system and the precise way in which those committees were established. Be that as it may, a committee system is not only good but also indispensable to the proper functioning of Parliament. There is no doubt whatever about that. I think that what has been said about the credit and the benefit which has come to the Senate, the Parliament and the nation through the operation of the committee system is indisputable. There is no doubt that this system has worked well. It has been of enormous benefit not only through the reports and the value which they have to the committee but also in the education of honourable senators themselves. Those who have sat on the committees, sometimes with fairly superficial knowledge or in some cases with no knowlege of the subject matter, have had the opportunity of listening to experts from every walk of life and every facet of a subject. They have became authorities on particular subjects, certainly in the legislative sense. I think that this has greatly enhanced the contribution which honourable senators can make. In this chamber there is now enormous expertise on various subjects which, I think, is not shared by any other institution or group throughout this nation. This is because of the operation of the committee system. Whatever my views, which some honourable senators have indicated here tonight, I am bitterly opposed to the disappearance of the committee system as such from Parliament because I do not think it could work effectively. The work of Parliament would be stultified if we were to do away with the committee system.

Sir Magnus Cormack - In the Senate?

Senator MURPHY - I said the committee system. There is a division of opinion here. The Government- that is the Parliamentary Labor Party- has taken the view that it is preferable to have a joint committee system. That is the simple issue here. Is there to be a transposition from a Senate system of committees to a joint committee system, to committees of the House of Representatives and of the Senate? I think it has been demonstrated that at least the case for a joint system in regard to foreign affairs and defence has been made out.

Senator Sim - Which will never work.

Senator MURPHY - It will work if it is given an opportunity under this new system and with it operating alone. I indicate that whatever is decided by the Senate there will have to be a committee system. If there is a joint committee system as the result of a vote here one hopes that all honourable senators will co-operate in the conduct of that system. If by decision of the Senate it is determined that there will be a Senate standing committee, either partially or wholly, then the Government will co-operate fully in carrying on that system. We want it to be recognised that whatever there might be it is essential that there be a proper committee system operating through the Parliament. We all know the value of the committee system. There is a difference in approach to this matter. Whatever the result of this vote be, I certainly urge everyone in this chamber to co-operate fully in carrying out the decision and ensuring that the undoubted benefits of the committee system which have been demonstrated here in the Senate should be able to continue in one form or another. There is no doubt at all that the fine way in which the Senate committee system has operated has been one of the reasons for the determination to carry the system over into the House of Representatives. By the philosophical approach which has been adopted on the part of the Government it is suggested that we have a joint system as far as is practical. Therefore I say that we ought to come to a speedy determination of the issue.

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