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Standing Orders - Senate Standing Committee - Reports of the Fifty-ninth Session - First


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The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia

SENATE STANDING ORDERS COMMI'ITEE

First Report for 59th Session, 1978

Mareh 1978

Brought up and ordered to be printed 2 March 1978

ParliameDtary Paper No. 27/W/8

Parliamentary Paper No. 27/1978

The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia

SENATE STANDING ORDERS COMMITTEE

First Report for 59th Session, 1978

March 1978

The Commonwealth Government Printer Canberra 1978

© Commonwealth of Australia 1978

Printed by Authority by the Commonwealth Government Printer

MEMBERS OF THE COMMITTEE

The President (Senator the Honourable Condor L. Laucke) The Chairman of Committees (Senator the Honourable T. C. Drake-Brockman, D.F.C.) Senator W. W. C. Brown

Senator F. M. Chaney Senator the Honourable Sir Magnus Cormack, K.B.E. Senator the Honourable Sir Robert Cotton, K.C.M.G. Senator R. E. McAuliffe

Senator the Honourable Douglas McClelland Senator Justin O'Byrne Senator the Honourable J. J. Webster Senator the Right Honourable R. G. Withers

Senator the Honourable K. S. Wriedt

(iii)

CONTENTS

Item !-Standing Order 64: Motion to debate matter of urgency Item 2-Petitions-conformity with Standing Orders Item 3-Standing Order 364: tabling of quoted documents . Item 4--Procedure in relation to taking note of Papers

Item 5-Estimates Committees: Functions and staff assistance Item 6-Televising of public hearings of Legislative and General Standing Committees Item 7-General

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STANDING ORDERS COMMITTEE FffiST REPORT FOR 59TH SESSION 1978

The Standing Orders Committee makes the following report to the Senate.

Item 1. Standing Order 64: Motion to debate matter of urgency

Standing Order 64 reads:

-(1.) A Motion without Notice, "That in the opinion of the Senate the following is a matter of urgency: [here specify the matter of urgency]", can only be made after Petitions have been presented and Notices given, and before the Business of the Day is proceeded with.

(2.) The Senator so moving must make in writing, and hand in to the President at least 90 minutes before the time fixed for the meeting of the Senate, a statement of the matter of urgency.

(3.) Such Motion must be supported by four Senators rising in their places as indicating their approval thereof.

(4.) Not more than one such Motion can be made during a sitting of the Senate, and the Motion may not be amended.

(5.) In speaking to such Motion, the mover and the Senator next speaking shall not exceed 30 minutes each, and any other Senator or the mover in reply shall not exceed 15 minutes, and every Senator shall confine himself to the one subject in respect of which the :Motion has been made: Provided that the whole discussion on the subject shall not exceed three hours.

The Committee proposes the following amendments for the consideration of the Senate: (1) The procedure for moving a motion to debate a matter of urgency be discontinued and replaced by a provision that a Senator may propose to the

President that a matter of public importance be submitted to the Senate for discussion. (2) The Senator proposing the matter shall present to the President at least 90 minutes before the time fixed for the meeting of the Senate, and on that day

only, a written statement of the matter proposed to be discussed.

(3) When presented to the President, the statement of the matter proposed to be discussed must be supported by the signatures of at least four Senators, in addition to the Senator proposing the matter, as indicating their approval of the discussion. (4) In the event of more than one matter being presented for the same day,

priority shall be given to the matter which, in the opinion of the President, is the most urgent and important, and no other proposed matter shall be read to the Senate that day. (5) At any time during the discussion, a motion may be made by any Senator,

but not so as to interrupt a Senator who is addressing the Senate, "That the business of the day be called on", and such motion shall be put forthwith and decided without amendment or debate, and, if agreed to, the business of the day shall be proceeded with immediately.

If the foregoing proposals be agreed to, with or without amendment, it is recom­ mended that the new procedure be adopted on a trial basis.

The new Standing Order, to operate as a Sessional Order for 1978, would read:

Standing Order 64

Matter of Public Importance

64. (1) A Senator may propose to the President that a matter of public importance be submitted to the Senate for discussion.

(2) The Senator proposing the matter shall hand in to the President at least 90 minutes before the time fixed for the meeting of the Senate, and on that day only, a written statement, supported by the signatures of at least four other Senators, of the matter proposed to be discussed that day.

(3) If the President deems the matter proposed for discussion to be in order, he shall read it to the Senate after petitions have been presented, notices given, and Questions seeking information have been asked, and before other business of the day is proceeded with.

(4) In the event of more than one matter being presented for the same day, priority shall be given to the matter which, in the opinion of the President, is the most urgent and important, and no other proposed matter shall be read to the Senate that day.

(5) Unless otherwise ordered, the Senator proposing the matter and the Senator nex t speaking shall not speak for more than 30 minutes each, and any other Senator shall not speak for more than 15 minutes, and every Senator shall confine himself to the one subject which has been proposed as the matter of public importance: Provided that

the whole discussion on the subject shall not exceed three hours.

(6) At any time during the discussion, a motion may be made by any Senator, but not so as to interrupt another Senator addressing the Senate-That the business of the day be called on. No amendment, adjournment or debate shall be allowed on such motion, which shall be put immediately by the President; if agreed to, the business of the day shall be proceeded with immediately.

Item 2. Petitions-conformity with Standing Orders

Standing Order 76 reads: Every Petition shall be lodged with the Clerk at least three hours previous to the meeting of the Senate at which it is proposed to present the same; and when presented must bear the Clerk's certificate that it is in conformity with the Standing Orders.'

In September 1977 the Clerk declined to give a certificate that a petition was in conformity with the Standing Orders because he was of the opinion that the petition was not temperate and contained language disrespectful to an honourable Senator. ·Notice of motion was then given for the suspension of Standing Order 76 to enable

the Senator to present the petition and, in giving such notice, the Senator proceeded to read the text of the petition. A point of order was taken on the content of the petition and the President was asked to rule whether he considered it appropriate for the actions of an individual to be singled out in a petition in the manner proposed, as it would be setting a precedent for personal attacks against individuals to be made

by this method in the future. A further objection to the procedure being followed was that it in effect enabled a petition, which did not have the Clerk's certificate that it was in conformity with the Standing Orders, not only to be read and broadcast in the giving of the notice, but also to be recorded in full on the Notice Paper each day

until the motion was disposed of. A contrary view was put that a Senator has the right to put down a notke of motion, provided it is couched in proper Parliamentary language and in sufficient particulanty for the Senate to be able to decide whether to

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agree with the motion or reject it. The President ruled that the notice of motion was in order and that it was then within the province of the Senate to determine whether suspension of the Standing Orders would be granted. The notice of motion lapsed at the termination of the session of Parliament.

The Committee considers that the provision in Standing Order 76-that a petition when presented must bear the Clerk's certificate that it is in conformity with the Standing Orders-should continue. Further consideration will be given to other aspects of the content of petitions and possible consequential notices of motion.

Item 3. Standing Order 364: tabling of quoted documents

Standing Order 364 reads: A Document quoted from by a Senator not a Minister of the Crown may be ordered by the Senate to be laid upon the Table; such Order may be made without Notice immed­ iately upon the conclusion of the speech of the Senator who has quoted therefrom.

On 7 September 1977 the President ruled that an Order to table a document pursuant to Standing Order 364 means the whole document which a Senator has in his possession and from which he bas quoted. He further ruled that any documents forming part of a file from which a Senator has quoted, but which have not been

quoted from and are not relevant to the document from which a Senator has quoted, are not required to be tabled. If a question arises whether any documents are in fact related to the document quoted from, the statement of the Senator concerned should be accepted.

The Committee considered the matter and reports agreement with the President's ruling.

It appears that the interpretation and application of Standing Order 364 has consistently been that the rule applies to the quoting of documents then in the possession, in the Senate, of the Senator quoting therefrom. The Committee recognises that in certain circumstances a Senator may not be in possession of the whole document from which he quotes and in some cases the whole document may not be available

in any case. Whether a formal rule is desirable or practicable in relation to partial extracts of documents not in a Senator's possession in the Senate requires further careful consideration. However, without any formal rule, it is in the best tradition of Senate debate that partial extracts should not be such as to mislead the Senate or

to prejudice the making of correct judgments.

Item 4. Procedure in relation to taking note of Papers

The following is an extract from the Second Report of the Standing Orders Committee (Session 1976-77), presented to the Senate on 22 February 1977: The Committee notes the growing practice of Senators being granted leave to move motions to take note of tabled Papers and then seeking leave to continue their remarks.

During the period of sittings from 17 August to 10 December 1976, there were 174 motions to take note of Papers, and as many as 17 motions were moved on one day. On 10 December 1976 the Notice Paper contained 183 Orders of the Day for adjourned debates on motions to take note of Papers; of these, 163 were listed under General Business. During that period (August-December 1976), 9 motions to take note of Papers were debated and Opposition members made short statements, at the time of movin g,

to a further 20 motions. In addition, the Chairmen of the respective committees spoke to 9 motions to take note of reports from Parliamentary committees.

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The procedure of moving to take note of a Paper upon its presentation is a useful one. Nevertheless, it is felt that the procedure of moving to take note of Papers could be more selective. A statement of Government policy is an obvious example of a Paper which the Senate might wish to debate and, in such a case, it-is appropriate that the

Minister should move to take note and that the matter be listed on the Notice Paper as Government Business. Also, upon the presentation of a report from a Parliamentary committee, it is appropriate that motion be made to take note and that it be listed under General Business.

However, with respect to routine Departmental reports, we draw the attention of Senators to the forms of the Senate available to them. If, after having examined the report, it is considered by any Senator that it should be debated, the appropriate course is to give notice the next day or any other day that the Senate take note of the Paper. If this course were adopted, Senators' rights would in no way be abridged, more time would be available to Senators to consider the reports, and it would be less cumbersome procedurally than present practice.

On 15 March 1977 a motion was moved in the Senate, and agreed to, that the matter be noted. There was no debate on the item.

For the information of honourable Senators, the following are the statistics for 1977 in connection with motions to take note of Papers: From 15 February 1977 to 9 November 1977 there were 162 motions to take note of Papers, and as many as 8 motions were moved on one day. On 9 November 1977 the

Notice Paper contained 153 Orders of the Day for adjourned debate on motions to take note of Papers or Reports; of these 142 were listed under General Business. During the period February-November 1977, 22 motions to take note of Papers were debated and Senators made short statements at the time of moving to a further 3 motions. In addition, the Chairmen of the respective Committees spoke to 8 motions to take note of Reports from Parliamentary Committees.

The Standing Orders Committee again recommends that the procedure of moving to take note of Papers should be more selective. What has been happening is that in many instances Senators have moved to take note of Papers without fully knowing the content. It is felt that time would be saved, and it would be better procedure, if Senators, having examined a Paper after tabling and considered it should be debated, were to give notice the next day or on any other day that the Senate take note of the Paper.

The Standing Orders Committee seeks the co-operation of Senators in giving effect to this recommendation.

Item 5. Estimates Committees: Functions and staff assistance The following is an extract from the Second Report of the Standing Orders Committee (Session 1976-/7), presented to the Senate on 22 February 1977: The Senate Estimates Committees were first established in 1970 as part of the development

of the Senate committee system. As with the Legislative and General Purpose Standing Committees, the Estimates Committees were proceeded with on a policy of gradualism. The Committees were appointed by resolution from session to session, when the opportunity was taken to review performance and, as the need arose, modifications were made to the resolution of appointment.

The purpose of the Estimates Committees has been to enable proposed expenditure to be thoroughly examined. Senators are able to probe and obtain far more information from Ministers and departmental officers than was possible under the former Committee of the Whole procedure.

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Like the Legislative and General Purpose Standing Committees, the Estimates Com­ mittees are firmly established and, we consider, should have the status of Standing Orders. Again as with the Standing Committees, the drafting of the proposed new Standing Order allows for flexibility in the number and names of the Estimates Committees and

in the membership. In the course of its consideration of the powers and functions of the Estimates Committees, the Standing Orders Committee gave careful consideration to the Senate's resolution of 10 November 1976, moved by Senator Rae and agreed to during Committee of the Whole consideration of the Appropriation Bill-and subse­ quently adopted by the Senate the same day:

'That, after considering the Report of Estimates Committee F, the Committee is of the opinion-( a) That the effectiveness and scrutiny function of Estimates Committees could be enhanced by:

(i) providing Estimates Committees with both a full-time function and some full-time staff; (ii) empowering Estimates Committees, in addition to their examination of the annual Appropriation Bills, to engage in a total and continuing exam­

ination of Special Appropriations referred to them by the Senate; and (iii) empowering Estimates Committees to maintain a total and continuing examination of Government-funded authorities which are not Depart­ ments of State. (b) That the foregoing opinion be referred to the Standing Orders Committee for

consideration.' In the spirit of gradualism which has marked the development of the Senate's committee system, the Standing Orders Committee considered whether one committee, such as the proposed Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations, might, on a trial basis, undertake work of the nature proposed in the Senate's resolution of 10 Nov­ ember 1976, including follow-up work on matters arising from Estimates Committees

reports. One Committee, we suggest, would avoid any possibility of unevenness in performance among a number of committees. The Committee also reminds the Senate that there is considerable scope for examination of both Special Appropriations and Government-funded authorities within the framework of the Legislative and General Purpose Standing Committees.

For the foregoing reasons, the Standing Orders Committee recommends the adoption of the following new Standing Order, based upon the current resolution of appointment of the Estimates Committees: The recommendation of the Standing Orders Committee was agreed to by the Senate on 15 March 1977 and new Standing Order 36AB (Estimates Committees) was adopted.

In its Report presented to the Senate on 13 October 1977, Estimates Committee F reiterated the view expressed in its 197 6 Report, and in the Senate resolution, con­ cerning the provision of full-time staff and recommended that the matter be again considered by the Standing Orders Committee. Estimates Committee F added:

The Committee is, however, cognisant of possible constraints upon the immediate pro­ vision of a full-time secretariat to service the operations of Estimates Committees. It therefore suggests, as an interim measure only, that staff of the Senate Committee secre­ tariat might be seconded temporarily to Estimates Committees to examine the extensive

documentation provided by Departments, and to assist Committee members in prepara­ tion for the hearings, particularly in relation to the listing of matters arising in previous hearings and needing further examination. The Standing Orders Committee has considered the matters raised by Estimates Committee F, which are of considerable importance. The Committee is aware of the difficulties facing Senators in examining the extensive documentation provided by

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Departments, particularly having in mind that the documentation is not available unW shortly before the Estimates Committees begin their scrutiny of proposed appropriations. The Committee agrees that, to enable Estimates Committees to function most effectively, every possible assistance must be provided to honourable Senators. To that end, the Standing Orders Committee will keep this matter under examination and, in the meantime, it would be helpful to hear the views of Senators when this Report is debated.

Item 6. Televising of public hearings of Legislative and General Purpose Standing Committees

In the Second Report of the Standing Orders Committee for Session 1976-77, presented to the Senate on 22 February 1977, it was recommended that the Legis­ lative and General Purpose Standing Committees, being firmly established, should have the status of Standing Orders, both in regard to their existence and to aspects of their operation and procedure. The Committee therefore proposed the inclusion in Standing Orders of new Standing Order 36AA. With regard to televising, the new Standing Order recommended included a paragraph 36AA (21) which reads:

36AA (21). The Standing Committees may authorize the televising of public hearings of the Committees, at the discretion of each such Committee, and under such rules as the Senate may adopt. 1

The Report of the Standing Orders Committee was debated in the Senate on 15 March 1977 and the proposed new Standing Order 36AA was agreed to. As the televising of the public hearings of the Legislative and General Purpose Standing Committees is now provided for in the Standing Orders, it is incumbent upon the Senate to agree to rules under which such televising may take place.

The Committee has draft rules under consideration for early submission for the Senate's determination. Basic principles of the draft rules include-(a) A Legislative and General Purpose Standing Committee, by majority vote of the Committee, may authorise public hearings of the Committee to be

televised live, or reproduced, in whole or in part; (b) A television network or station shall not be required to televise Committee proceedings; (c) No witness appearing before a Committee shall be required against his will

to be photographed at any hearing or to give evidence while the recording of that hearing by television is being conducted; and (d) A telecast shall be presented without commercial sponsorship and no com­ mercial advertising may be juxtaposed with Parliamentary material. The Standing Orders Committee has not completed its consideration of the draft rules and of related technical matters but will make recommendations to the Senate as soon as possible.

Item 7. General In addition to the foregoing matters, the Standing Orders Committee proposes a review of procedure generally to see if the business of the Senate. and of its Com­ mittees can be more efficiently organised. As has happened in other legislatures, Committees are rapidly developing into the workshops of the Senate. Certainly the floor of the Senate must always be where final decisions are made, but no modern legislature can discharge its functions fully and effectively without the assistance of

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Committees. How best to integrate the work of the Senate and its Committees, and so further the effectiveness of the Senate ·s role in the Australian parliamentary system, is a pressing matter to which the Standing Orders Committee is giving continuing consideration. An early report to the Senate is proposed.

March 1978

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CONDOR L. LAUCKE

President of the Senate and Chairman of the Standing Orders Committee