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Thursday, 1 March 1984
Page: 281


Senator DOUGLAS McCLELLAND(10.21) —I rise to speak as the Chairman of the Senate Standing Orders Committee in order to defend the reputation of all members of the Standing Orders Committee. I assure Senator Crichton-Browne that it is not a Government committee. The Standing Orders Committee is a committee of the Senate, representing all points of political view that exist within the Senate. I think it is fair to say that all members of the Senate Standing Orders Committee who were at the meeting heard Senator Missen address the meeting. He was given complete liberty to say anything he might wish to say in support of the claim by the Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills. After he had spoken he was asked a number of questions. After he left the meeting the Committee considered the matter and all members of the Committee, I think without any demur, agreed to the recommendation of the Standing Orders Committee.

Also, there was expressed at the meeting the highest respect and laudation of the work of the Scrutiny of Bills Committee. Indeed, I think everyone knows that Senator Missen and Senator Tate were sent by the former President of the Senate- it was subsequently supported by me-to Canada last year to the Second Commonwealth Conference on Delegated Legislation to talk about the work of the Scrutiny of Bills Committee. That is what the Senate thinks of the work of that Committee. At a meeting of the Commonwealth Presiding Officers in Wellington last January I spoke highly of the work of the Scrutiny of Bills Committee and suggested to those Presiding Officers that they should recommmend to their parliaments that they introduce a form of scrutiny of legislation, as we have in the Senate. I mention that to indicate to all who have spoken in support of Senator Missen's proposition that, as far as the meeting of the Standing Orders Committee was concerned, there was no hostility towards the work that the Committee carried out.

The case of the Standing Orders Committee briefly is set out in paragraph (7). The history of the Committee indicates that it was intended to operate, and has in fact operated, in a manner similar to the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances, which works by deliberating in private upon the legislation which stands referred to it by corresponding with responsible Ministers and by reporting to the Senate. This method of operation has been instrumental in ensuring the success and acceptance of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee during the 50 years of its existence and of the Scrutiny of Bills Committee during the brief period of its existence.

If one then turns to page 2808 of today's Notice Paper, one will see that there is a difference between the titles of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee and the Scrutiny of Bills Committee, and the legislative and general purpose standing committees. The two committees to which I refer, the Regulations and Ordinances Committee and the Scrutiny of Bills Committee, are specifically referred to as legislative scrutiny standing committees. The Regulations and Ordinances Committee is world acclaimed for the excellent work that it has carried out during its 50 years of existence. Never once has it had to have a public meeting; never once has it had to have a daily record taken of its proceedings; never once has it asked that its deliberations be televised, or anything of that nature. All of its deliberations have been conducted privately. It has become the watchdog in this Parliament of the rights of individual members of the Australian community.

The Scrutiny of Bills Committee, in the short time that it has been in existence, has joined in the excellent work of the Regulations and Ordinance Committee. We have genuinely believed that those two committees should continue to operate in that fashion and, as Senator Button has said, the Standing Orders Committee says that, should it appear in the future that the Scrutiny of Bills Committee requires any or all of the provisions in question, it may be appropriate for the Senate to consider the matter again. I firmly support the recommendations of the Standing Orders Committee because I believe that it is in the interests of the Senate that that attitude be adopted by this Committee.