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Wednesday, 19 June 2013
Page: 3432


Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (16:53): The report of the Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills has been tabled and, as always, I urge all senators to have a look at it. The report goes through most of the bills that come before the parliament and highlights those aspects of the various pieces of legislation with which the Senate deals that come within the ambit of the terms of reference of the Scrutiny of Bills Committee—that is, the committee alerts the Senate to particular aspects of bills that offend against the provisions that are important in the bills that we deal with. The committee looks at those aspects of bills that either by express words or otherwise trespass unduly on personal rights and liberties; make rights, liberties or obligations unduly dependent upon insufficiently defined administrative powers; make rights, liberties or obligations unduly dependent upon non-reviewable decisions; inappropriately delegate legislative powers; or insufficiently subject the exercise of legislative power to parliamentary scrutiny. These reports that are tabled regularly each sitting highlight where bills do offend against those particular provisions. As always, I urge senators to have a look at the work done by the committee that does highlight where those bills do offend against those provisions.

Today's report is, for example, contains very detailed provisions in quite a lengthy document totalling not quite 237 pages. The work that the Scrutiny of Bills Committee does is, I have always thought, undervalued by the Senate and by most senators. One of the reasons is that it is a fairly difficult document to read, it is a lengthy document on many occasions, and it does go into things in some detail. So the committee thought that it would be a good idea if we could provide a summary document to let senators know in a much more succinct way what is in the committee's reports and to highlight to individual senators why these bills need to be looked at. I emphasise, as always with the Scrutiny of Bills Committee from time immemorial, it is not a committee that deals with the partisan political aspects of bills. It simply points out to senators who might be debating the bills where those bills offend against those principles that I previously spoke about.

The committee, in wanting to make a more readable form available to senators, has decided to issue a document which is called Scrutiny News. It is a one-page document that very briefly highlights particular bills that senators might like to refer to in considering whether these principles have been followed or, if not followed, the reason they have not been followed. I know senators get lots of paper and really do not have the opportunity to fully scrutinise all of the paper they get, but I would urge senators to have a look at this one-page document called Scrutiny Newsthat is coming out. It is brand new. No-one would have seen it before, and it will be starting in operation tomorrow. When the red and the Notice Paper are delivered to senators' offices tomorrow, on a once-only basis, Scrutiny News will also be delivered so senators can have a quick look at it and see what this Scrutiny News, this summary document, does. Subsequently, Scrutiny News will be distributed electronically to all senators, usually on the Wednesday afternoon or Thursday after the Scrutiny of Bills Committee reports.

It is an attempt to let all senators have easy access to some of the aspects of the work of the Scrutiny of Bills Committee so that, in debating these issues in the parliament, all senators will have an easy reference to where bills before the parliament have conditions that trespass unduly on personal rights and liberties et cetera. It will allow senators to more usefully and more intelligently debate some of these bills where concerns have been raised about these principles of personal rights and liberties, reviewable delegated legislated, insufficient scrutiny of legislative power—all of those things that we all hold dear in Australia and, indeed, in the Australian parliament. Of course, that is the purpose for which the Scrutiny of Bills Committee was established. So starting tomorrow the Scrutiny News, a one-page summary, will be issued to all senators. Tomorrow it is coming in a hardcopy with your red and Notice Paper, but it will come to you every week. It will allow senators an easy way to have a quick glance through any particular bills that offend against those principles, which will allow senators then to make further investigations and to debate these bills fully when they come before the chamber.

Question agreed to.