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Procedure - Senate Standing Committee - Report - 1994 - 1st - Senate committee system, June 1994

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June 1994





June 1994

© Comm onwealth of Au stralia 1994

This docume nt was produced from camera-ready copy prepared by the Office of the C lerk of the Senate and printed by the Senate Printing Unit, Parliament House, Canberra


President of the Senate Senator the Hon Michael E Beahan, Chairman

Deputy President and Chairman of Committees Senator N A Crichton-Browne

Leader of the Government in the Senate Senator the Hon G J Evans, QC

Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Senator R Hill

Senator V W Bourne

Senator J Coates

Senator the Hon J P Faulkner

Senator the Hon R F Ray

Senator M E Reid

Senator B C Teague


hm/pro/2560 ( CBd ) 8/6/94




The Procedure Committee reports to the Senate on the matter relating to lh committee system referred to the Committee by the Senate.


On 2 February 1994 the Senate referred the following matter to the Proc dur Committee for inquiry and report by 2 March 1994:

Ways in which the Senate committee system could be mad e mor responsi ve to the composition of the Senate, w ith particular reference to:

(a) the number of committees required;

(b) the responsibilities , functions and subject area coverage of commi ttees;

(c) the structure of committees, including party representation and numbers of members; and

(d) arrangements for chairing committees including the proposals put forward in General Business notice of motion no. 23 standing in the name of the Leader of the Opp osition in the Senate (Senator Hill). [This notice related to the sharing of chairs of committees among the parties.]

The following scheme for a proposed refurbishment of the Senate committee system is based on suggestions made to the Procedure Comm ittee in the course of its consideration of the reference from the Senate.

The Procedure Comm ittee considers that this proposal would achieve the aim alated in the Senate's resolution of making the committee system more responsive to the composition of the Senate, and would provide the Senate w ith a more efficient committee structure . In particular, the proposal would make it mu ch less likely that the Senate would resort to the appointment of select com m ittees to inquire into

particular ma tters, but would use the system of standing committees, as it was originally intended to be used, for most inquiries required by the Senate.

The Procedure Co mmittee suggests that the Senate endorse this scheme by adopting this report, and that the required changes to the standing orders be presented in the next period of sittings . The new system could then commence at a specified subsequent date.

(1) Estimates committees amalgamated with standing committees

The estimates committees, and the functions they perform, would be subsumed into the new structure of legislative and general purpose standing committees.

(2) Legislative and general purpose standing committees

(a) Structure

There would be eight pairs of legislative and general purpose standing committees, as follows:

Community Affairs References Committee Legislation Committee

Economics References Committee Legislation Committee

Employm ent, Education and Training References Committee Legislation Committee

Environm ent, Recreation, Communications and the Arts References Committee Legislation Committee

Finance and Public Administration R eferences Committee Legislation Committee

Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee Legislation Committee


Legal and Constitutional References Comm ittee Legislation Committee

Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee Legislation Committee.

These could be the actual titles of the committees, ie., Legal and Con titutional References Committee, Legal and Constitutional Legislation Commi t , nol Standing Committee on etc.

The references committees would conduct inquiries into m atters of public policy and other matters referred to them by the Senate. The legislation committe s would consider estimates in the same way as the estimates committees and legislation referred to the committees, scrutinise annual reports and mo nitor the performanc of departments and agencies.

The subject coverage and portfolio allocation of the commi ttees would b as shown in appendix 1.

The pairs of committees would be empowered to meet together by mutual agre m nl to coordinate their work where necessary.

The committees would have the same powers as the current legislative and g n ral purpose committees, except that when considering the estimates the legislation committees would have only the powers of the current estim ates commi ttees, bul could meet outside Canberra.

(b) Membership

The related pairs of committees would have overlapping but not necessarily identical memberships, and a regular system of permanent and participating m emb ers, to allow senators to participate in particular inquiries in which they are inter es d. Participating members would have all the rights of member s and the ability to participate in hearings and deliberations, but would not vote except when substituting for permanent members for particular matters.

Membership of the committees would be as follows:


the references committees would have 8 members, 3 government, 4 Opposition and 1 Democrat, Green or Independent, and the non " government chair would have a casting vote

the legislation committees would have 6 members, 3 government, 2 Opposition and 1 Democrat, Green or Independent, and the government chair would have a casting vote.

The allocation of places reserved for the Democrats, Greens or Independent would be as nearly as practicable proportional to their numbers in the Senate.

(See (7), below, for quorums of all committees.)

These numbers would approximately reflect party numbers in the Senate (see (10) below ).

(c) Chairs

Government senators would chair the legislation committees, and the chairs of the references com mittees would be allocated amongst the non-government senators as follow s: 6 Opposition, 2 Democrats.

Where the chair is a government senator a non-government senator would be the deputy chair, and vice versa.

(See (10), below, for overall allocation of chairs of all committees.)

(d) StafTrng

Each pair of committees would be staffed by a single staffing unit. This would ensure coordination of meetings and programs. Any select committees would be staffed by the staffing unit most closely related to the subject matter of the select committee's inquiry, with reallocation of staff between units to meet variations in w ork load.

(e) Subcommittees

The committees would be encouraged to use the current power to appoint subcommittees and hold hearings of evidence with subcommittees.


(3) Chairs' _group

There would be a formal chairs ' group, chaired by the Dep uty President, with a representative executive committee, to undertake coordinat ion work between th committees, and to consider particular committee issues.

( 4) Legislative scrutiny committees

The two legislative scrutiny committees (Regulations and Ordinances and Scrutiny of Bills) would remain as they are, but to balance the allocation of chairs (see (10) below) the chair of the Scrutiny of Bills Committee would be an O pposition senator .

(5) Select committees

Select committees and their chairs are appointed on an ad hoc basis, depending on the perceived requirements of particular inquiries. This would continue to be the case for any select committees appointed, but it is suggested that the Senate hav as a goal the existence of no more than two select commi ttees at any time.

(Currently there are four select committees: Community Standards, Print M dia Foreign Ownership, Superannuation, Whistleblowing .)

(6) Domestic committees: chairs

The Privileges and Senators' Interests Committees would be chaired by Opp osition senators .

The Appropriations and Staffing and Procedure Committees would be chaired by the President and the Deputy President, respectively.

The domestic committees which meet jointly with their House of Representatives equivalents, House, Library and Publications, would be chaired by the Deputy President, the President and a government senator, respectively .

The Selection of Bills Committee would continue as it is, chaired by the Government Whip, subject to any change to the procedures for referring bills to committees.

The membership of these committees would be unchanged.


(7) Quorums

The quorum for all committees would be either a majority of members or two mem bers where a government and an Opposition member are present .

(8) Meetings during sittings

All committees w ould be empowered to hold deliberative meetings during sittings of the Senate. The current requirement for all members of a committee to be present to make decisions would be supplemented by a provision that if not all m embers are present decision s may be made by unanimous consent of the members present provided that one government and one Opposition member are present. The current prohibiti on of hearing evidence during sittings of the Senate would remain.

(9) Reports of Committees

In addition to the current provisions for majority and minority or dissenting reports, members and participating members of committees would be able to attach their own conclusions and recommendations to the reports of committees. Government responses should respond to all parts of committee reports .

(10) O verall alloca tion of chairs

The allocation of chairs amongst the parties as proposed above would result in chairs being shared only approximately in proportion to party numbers in the Senate, but would be closer to proportionality than the existing system.

The party numb ers in the Senate are as follows:

Labor Liberal National Democrats Greens Independent

No. ofseats 30

30 6





%of seats 39.5 39.5 7.9

9.2 2.6 1.3

The allocation of chairs amongst the 16 legislative and general purpose slunding committees would be on this proposal:

Government Opposition Democrats

No. of chairs 8



%of chairs 50 37.5 12.5

Amongst the 26 standing committees (ie., including the 2 legislative scrutiny committees and the 8 domestic committees), the allocation of chairs w ould b

Government Opposition Democrats

No. of chairs 13

11 2

%of chairs 50

42.3 7.7

Including the 4 select committees (the chairs of which are divided 3 O pposition and 1 government), making 30 committees in all, the allocation of chairs w ould b

Government Opposition Democrats

(11) H.emuneration of chairs

No . of chairs 14 14 2

%of chairs 46.7 46.7 6.6

The Procedure Committee suggests that, until the Remuneration Tribunal m ak s a determination taking into account the new structure, the total amoun t of remuneration available to chairs be divided between the chairs in the new structur .

This would not increase the expenditure under the determinati on or result in any chair receiving more than the entitlement in the current determination. Pursuant to the order of the Senate adopting this report, the Tribunal could be asked to put this in place in a temporary determination .





COMMUNI TY AFFAIRS Human Services and Health

Social Security (The references committee would deal with most general inquiries on social issues, and so could cover the ethnic affairs aspects of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, and status of women, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, social justice and multicultural affairs aspects of the Prime Minister 's portfolio.)

ECONOMICS Treasurer's portfolio

Industry, Science and Technology Industrial Relations

EMPLOYMEN T, EDUCATION and Employment, Education and Training TRAINING

ENVIRO NMENT, RECREATION, Environment, Sport and Territories COMMUNIC ATIONS and THE Tourism

ARTS Communications and the Arts

FINANCE and PUBLIC Parliament


Finance including Administrative Services (The references committee would also cover the public sector aspects of Industrial Relations . General inquiries on electoral matters would be left to the Joint Committee.)

FOREIGN AFFAIRS, DEFENCE and Foreign Affairs and Trade TRADE Defence including Veterans' Affairs


Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (General inquiries on immigration matters would usually be left to the Joint Committee. General inquiries on ethnic affairs matters would usually be left to the Community Affairs Committee.)

RURAL and REGIONAL AFFAIRS Primacy Industries and Energy and TRANSPORT Housing and Regional Development


Wh en considering the estimates, the Finance and Public Administration, Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, Economics and Environment, Recreation, Communications and the Arts legislation committees would meet simultaneously, and the other four simultaneously.





ISSN 0727-418