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Tuesday, 2 May 1989
Page: 1548

Senator COLLINS —by leave-It gives me great pleasure to report to the Senate on the Second Conference of Australian Delegated Legislation Committees, held in Parliament House from Wednesday, 26 April, to Friday, 28 April 1989. The conference was opened by His Excellency the Governor-General, who was introduced to the delegates by the President. This was in fact the first occasion that the Governor-General, in his capacity as Governor-General, conducted a function in this Parliament House.

The conference was attended by some 50 delegates from the Commonwealth, the Northern Territory and all States except Tasmania, whose delegates had to withdraw because of the State election. Overseas delegates attended from Botswana, the British Virgin Islands and New Zealand. The conference was, I believe, an outstanding success. Major papers were delivered by the Legal Adviser to the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances, Emeritus Professor Douglas Whalan; the Commonwealth Ombudsman, Professor Dennis Pearce; the President of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, His Honour Justice Trevor Hartigan; the chairmen of two State delegated legislation committees, Ken Jasper, MLA, from Victoria and Bob Hetherington, MLC, from Western Australia; a former Chairman of the Senate Committee, Senator Austin Lewis; and me. The various working sessions of the conference were chaired by me; by the Deputy Chair of the Senate Committee, Bronwyn Bishop, and by the other members of the Senate Committee.

For me the atmosphere of the conference is best illustrated by the contributions from Senator Austin Lewis which, I might say, was outstanding, and from Bob Hetherington, MLC. The conference heard these two speakers, one from the Commonwealth and one from a State-one from the Liberal Party and one from the Australian Labor Party-present impassioned cases for the continued bipartisan scrutiny of delegated legislation by parliamentary committees. Their obvious strong commitment to the best ideals of parliamentarianism, coming as I have said from both sides of the political fence, was an inspiration to all of the delegates at the conference.

Perhaps the most important result of the conference was a resolution, unanimously supported, that all committees investigate quasi-legislative instruments, particularly those which are not subject to parliamentary control and which represent a developing trend towards informal executive law-making. Such trends mean that the law becomes more obscure and more difficult of access and parliamentary scrutiny powers are removed. Both Commonwealth and State delegations from all sides of the political spectrum expressed concern about such trends.

The conference also resolved that it would accept the offer of the Western Australian Delegated Legislation Committee to host the Third Conference of Australian Committees in Perth in 1991. The Senate Committee, on behalf of the other delegated legislation committees, is grateful for this generous offer. I should also like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Queensland Committee of Subordinate Legislation, which organised the First Conference in 1986 and thereby established this important forum to enable Australian scrutiny committees to exchange views. Proceedings of the conference were recorded by Hansard and will be produced in a convenient form and tabled for the information of honourable senators before the end of this financial year.