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Thursday, 5 April 1973
Page: 1168

Mr N H Bowen (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Opposition will not oppose the motion to appoint the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital which will examine and report on all proposals for modifications or variations of the plan of the lay-out of the City of Canberra and its environs, which was published in 1925. The Committee also will report on such other matters relating to the Australian Capital Territory as may be referred to it either by the Minister for the

Capital Territory or by resolution of either House of the Parliament.

A parliamentary committee relating to the affairs in the Territory has existed for many years. The first such committee was appointed by the Senate and was purely a Senate committee. Later this committee became a joint committee of both Houses and this practice continued up to the dissolution of the last Parliament. When the committee became a joint committee of both Houses the practice adopted was that 5 senators and 4 members of this House made up the committee and that chairman of the committee was always a senator. The present proposal is for a joint committee of 9, but on this occasion with 4 members from the Senate and 5 from this House.

One further matter which needs to be mentioned is that paragraph 5 of the motion to set up the committee provides:

That the Prime Minister nominate one of the government members of the committee as Chairman.

I understand that an amendment will be moved in the Senate to substitute a new paragraph. Without having the precise words to give to the House, the amendment will be to the effect that the Committee elect its chairman and that the chairman should be one of the members nominated by the Labour Government in the Senate.

Mr Enderby - Does the honourable member intend to move the amendment in this place?

Mr N H Bowen (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) -I do not. I will not delay the proceedings by moving the amendment here. I foreshadow that this action will be taken in the Senate.

I think that because this amendment will be moved in the Senate I should make some comment on paragraph 5. The proposed amendment reflects 2 ideas. The first is that chairmen of House committees of this Parliament should be elected by the committees themselves and not, as it were, by the Executive. Secondly, following the precedent set in regard to earlier joint House committees relating to the Australian Capital Territory, the Opposition in the Senate will be seeking to continue the practice of having a senator as chairman of the proposed Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory. Let me make it clear that no objection is being taken to the Government having a majority of members on the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory. That being the case, it might be said that we are not opposing the notion that someone from the Government side will chair the committee. That is not the point. However, I do stress to the House the principle involved that joint House committees should elect their own chairman. This has been the practice in the past. I think there were 3 occasions in 1941 when the House in appointing committees purported to elect the chairmen because there was an equality of members from either side on those committees. But otherwise, speaking broadly, the practice has been that it is not left to the Executive to appoint the chairmen of committees. The committees which represent the Houses of Parliament should appoint their chairmen. I ask that when the Government in the future is seeking the approval of the House to establish House Committees it should bear in mind these observations. As I have said, the Opposition does not oppose the appointment of the committee.

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