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Senate Procedural Bulletin

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No. 81


27 January 1994


for the sitting period 6 to 21 December 1993






The Senate exempted two bills from the deadline for receipt of bills from the House of Representatives (see Bulletin No. 77, pp. 1-2) . The two bills, however, were major new pieces of legislation: the Industrial Relations Reform Bill 1993 and the Native Title Bill 1993 (the "Mabo Bill"). Dealing with these bills led to a significant extension of the sitting period. The Senate again resorted to the device of suspending a sitting over several calendar days, the sitting of 16 December being suspended over five days in this case. As on the last occasion, this could be justified on the basis that no further sitting days were scheduled after the day of the suspended sitting, and therefore no normal business or scheduled sitting days were lost. Departments were again advised to treat the five days as separate sitting days for the purpose of tabling delegated legislation (see Bulletin No. 74, pp. 5-6) . The same interpretation is to be applied to sitting days remaining for resolving notices of motion for disallowance.


The Industrial Relations Reform Bill was the subject of protracted proceedings and 42 amendments. The Bill was also the subject of examination and report by the Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Training.


It was the Native Title Bill, however, which occupied most of the Senate's time during the extended sittings. The Bill was considered for about 52 hours, surpassing the previous records set by bills such as the Communist Party Dissolution Bill 1950 and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission Bill 1989. Amendments made to the Bill totalled 119, and 29 were moved but not agreed to. The Bill was also the subject of examination and report by the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, which reported on 9 December recommending amendments to the Bill. An Opposition motion to refer the Bill to a select committee was not accepted on the same day.


All of the amendments made by the Senate to these bills were agreed to by the House of Representatives, the House returning at the end of the sittings for that purpose.




Two bills were rejected outright by the Senate on 16  December, the first bills so treated in this Parliament. The bills, the Diesel Fuel (Excise Duty Rebate) Administration Charge Bill 1993 and the Diesel Fuel (Customs Duty Rebate) Administration Charge Bill 1993, related to the scheme announced by the government in the budget to impose a charge on diesel fuel rebates, and were rejected at the third reading. Related bills in a package were amended.


Other bills were substantially amended during the period, and clauses of bills were negatived. At the end of the sittings the Senate resolved to insist upon amendments to which the House of Representatives had disagreed in relation to two bills, the Veterans' Affairs Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1993 and the States Grants (Primary and Secondary Education Assistance) Amendment Bill 1993. The House of Representatives had not dealt with the Senate's messages insisting on the amendments at the end of the sittings.




Previous Bulletins have referred to the increasing use by the Senate of orders for the production of documents. In most cases the government has complied with the orders, but an instance of refusal occurred on 16 December. The Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Evans, was ordered on the motion of Senator Chamarette to produce a letter by the Minister for the Environment, Sports and Territories (Mrs Kelly) relating to woodchip export licences. Senator Evans declined to produce the letter on grounds of confidentiality, and later on the same day was censured for this refusal. The Senate did not take any further action against the minister at that stage, but again called upon him to table the document.




The Privileges Committee presented its 43rd and 44th Reports on 15 December. The 43rd Report dealt with the Eros Foundation case, in which actions by principals of that organisation could have been interpreted as threats directed against Senators generally and against the Select Committee on Community Standards Relevant to the Supply of Services Utilising Electronic Technologies or its members. The Privileges Committee found that the persons concerned did not intend to utter a threat against the committee or its members, and their statements did not have the effect or tendency of substantially obstructing Senators in the performance of their functions, and therefore did not find that a contempt had been committed. The 44th Report dealt with an advertisement placed by the Watchdog Association Incorporated which could have been regarded as an interference with the proceedings of the Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs and a false or misleading report of the proceedings of that committee. The Privileges Committee found that the Association and its officers did not have any intention to interfere with or misrepresent the proceedings of the committee, and therefore did not find that a contempt was committed.


On 17 December the Privileges Committee received another reference relating to possible interference with witnesses, after the Select Committee on Superannuation presented a report indicating that its witnesses may have been subjected to penalty or injury in respect of their evidence. The reference again underlines the fact that protection of witnesses has been the concern of most privilege cases in recent times.




The Procedure Committee presented its Third Report for 1993 on 15 December. The committee:


• recommended that petitions which do not conform with the rules contained in the standing orders not be presented by leave except in exceptional circumstances


• upheld advice that where there are substitute members appointed to a committee, that is, members appointed for the purpose of particular inquiries, those members should have voting rights only in relation to matters which are wholly part of such particular inquiries


• recommended against a suggestion of Estimates Committee F that notice of matters to be raised at supplementary hearings of estimates committees be allowed within three days of the actual hearings where those matters arise, on the grounds of the simplicity and clarity of the existing rule.




The President had occasion on 20 December to reiterate the rulings concerning repeated motions pursuant to contingent notices to suspend standing orders. He pointed out that the rulings had been unanimously upheld by the Procedure Committee. (See Bulletins No. 74, pp. 3-4; No. 78, p. 4 )




The Regulations and Ordinances Committee presented on 15 December its 97th Report, which is a case study of failures by a department to observe the procedures for making and tabling delegated legislation set out in the Acts Interpretation Act. The committee drew attention to the importance of those procedures in ensuring proper parliamentary control of delegated legislation.




On 6 December Estimates Committee D presented an extensive report on its supplementary hearing. Estimates committees are not obliged by the relevant order of the Senate to present reports after supplementary hearings, but the committees may do so if they think it is necessary to draw the attention of the Senate to matters arising at the supplementary hearings.




The Senate established another select committee on 9 December on the motion of the Opposition. The Select Committee on Certain Aspects of Foreign Ownership Decisions in Relation to the Print Media is required to inquire into the making of certain government decisions about the permissible percentage of foreign ownership of newspapers.


A new joint committee is established by the Native Title Bill (see above).




Committees were extremely active during the period, and many reports were presented towards the end of the sittings, as shown by the following list:












Estimates Committee D


Supplementary Meeting




Rural and Regional Affairs


Domestic Meat Premises Charge Bill 1993 and Export Inspection Charges Laws Amendment Bill 1993




Community Standards Relevant to the Supply of Services Utilising Electronic Technologies


0055 Reverse Phone Directory Service




Scrutiny of Bills


8th Report of 1993




Employment, Education and Training


Overseas Students Tuition Assurance Levy Bill 1993 and Education Services for Overseas Students (Registration of Providers and Financial Regulation) Amendment Bill 1993




Legal and Constitutional Affairs


Native Title Bill 1993




Community Affairs


Social Security (Budget and Other Measures) Legislation Amendment Bill 1993




Australian Loan Council


Functions, Powers and Operation of the Australian Loan Council - Select Committee - Third report






Third Report of 1993






Possible threats to Senate Select Committee or Senators (43rd Report)






Possible improper interference with or misleading reports of proceedings of Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee (44th Report)




Regulations and Ordinances


97th Report - Delegated Legislation and the Acts Interpretation Act 1901 : A case study




Scrutiny of Bills


9th Report of 1993






Tenth Report - Super Complaints Tribunal




Pay Television Tendering Processes


Second Report on terms of reference (1)(b)




Rural and Regional Affairs


Report on the examination of annual reports - No. 2 of 1993




Industry, Science, Technology, Transport, Communications and Infrastructure


Report on the examination of annual reports - No. 2 of 1993




Industry, Science, Technology, Transport, Communications and Infrastructure


Fisheries Reviewed




Environment, Recreation and the Arts


Water resources - Toxic algae






Eleventh Report - Privilege Matter Involving Mr Kevin Lindeberg and Mr Des O'Neill




Finance and Public Administration


Performance Pay (presented to the President on 22 December 1993)