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Thursday, 5 December 1985
Page: 3037


Senator MISSEN(3.41) —by leave-I move:

That the Senate take note of the paper.

I think we should always so move on these occasions. One of the excellent practices that have been followed in this chamber in the last few years is that of presenting an assessment at the end of each session of what has happened to committee reports. On this occasion, Mr Deputy President, you have presented a report which, if my calculations are correct, deals with 35 committee reports. In no case has there been a final response from the Government. There have, of course, been a number of interim reponses. I have not had the opportunity of looking at the responses which relate to other committees, but I can say with regard to the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs, for example in respect of the report entitled `Burden of Proof in Criminal Proceedings', that there are four interim responses but that the matter is far from finalised in any way, and that the Government's policy is not at all clear to the Committee. We, like all the other committees, have no final response from the Government.

It is worth pointing out that the previous Government undertook to respond to reports within six months and that this Government, when it came to office, undertook to respond within three months. In fact, some of these reports were tabled as long ago as 1982 or 1983 and most of them were tabled prior to this year. In practically all cases one may say that the Government is technically in default. I think this is a serious matter and one which the Senate must look at when it has more leisure. Nothing is more frustrating to Senate committees than to find that their reports are neglected or the Government's responses to them are not finalised and they have become out of date, and to have someone suggest that the inquiries should be undertaken again.

I think it is an alarming trend on the part of the Government that it is not responding finally to committee reports. It has adopted the habit in a number of cases of giving interim responses, which very often just say `We have a department looking into it', and telling us nothing about the substantive part of the report. Consequently, I think we should all look to our committees during the recess to see where the Government has not responded and where we should press on to get immediate responses from the Government. If this practice goes on one can see the decline and fall of the Senate system.

Question resolved in the affirmative.