Chapter 5 - Standing and Select Committees

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Standing Committees

25    Legislative and general purpose

  1. At the commencement of each Parliament, legislative and general purpose standing committees shall be appointed, as follows:

    Community Affairs

    Legislation Committee
    References Committee

    Economics

    Legislation Committee
    References Committee

    Education, Employment and Workplace Relations

    Legislation Committee
    References Committee

    Environment, Communications and the Arts

    Legislation Committee
    References Committee

    Finance and Public Administration

    Legislation Committee
    References Committee

    Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade

    Legislation Committee
    References Committee

    Legal and Constitutional Affairs

    Legislation Committee
    References Committee

    Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport

    Legislation Committee
    References Committee

    1. The legislation committees shall inquire into and report upon estimates of expenditure in accordance with standing order 26, bills or draft bills referred to them by the Senate, annual reports in accordance with paragraph (20), and the performance of departments and agencies allocated to them.

    2. The references committees shall inquire into and report upon other matters referred to them by the Senate.

  2. References concerning departments and agencies shall be allocated to the committees in accordance with a resolution of the Senate allocating departments and agencies to the committees.

  3. The committees shall inquire into and report upon matters referred to their predecessor committees appointed under this standing order and not disposed of by those committees, and in considering those matters may consider the evidence and records of those committees relating to those matters.

    1. Each legislation committee shall consist of 6 senators, 3 nominated by the Leader of the Government in the Senate, 2 nominated by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate and one nominated by minority groups and independent senators.

    2. Each references committee shall consist of 6 senators, 2 nominated by the Leader of the Government in the Senate, 3 nominated by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate and one nominated by minority groups and independent senators.

    1. The committees to which minority groups and independent senators make nominations shall be determined by agreement between the minority groups and independent senators, and, in the absence of agreement duly notified to the President, any question of the representation on a committee shall be determined by the Senate.

    2. The allocation of places on the committees amongst minority groups and independent senators shall be as nearly as practicable proportional to the numbers of those minority groups and independent senators in the Senate.

    1. Senators may be appointed to the committees as substitutes for members of the committees in respect of particular matters before the committees.

    2. On the nominations of the Leader of the Government in the Senate, the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate and minority groups and independent senators, participating members may be appointed to the committees.

    3. Participating members may participate in hearings of evidence and deliberations of the committees, and have all the rights of members of committees, but may not vote on any questions before the committees.

    4. A participating member shall be taken to be a member of a committee for the purpose of forming a quorum of the committee if a majority of members of the committee is not present.

    5. If a member of a committee is unable to attend a meeting of the committee, that member may in writing to the chair of the committee appoint a participating member to act as a substitute member of the committee at that meeting. If the member is incapacitated or unavailable, a letter to the chair of a committee appointing a participating member to act as a substitute member of the committee may be signed on behalf of the member by the leader of the party or group on whose nomination the member was appointed to the committee.

  4. A committee may appoint sub-committees consisting of 3 or more of its members, and refer to any such sub-committee any of the matters which the committee is empowered to consider.

    1. Each legislation committee shall elect as its chair a member nominated by the Leader of the Government in the Senate, and as its deputy chair a member nominated by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate or by a minority group or independent senator.

    2. Each references committee shall elect as its chair a member nominated by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate or a member of a minority group in the Senate, and as its deputy chair a member nominated by the Leader of the Government in the Senate.

    3. The chairs and deputy chairs to which members nominated by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate and members of minority groups and independent senators are elected shall be determined by agreement between the opposition and minority groups and independent senators, and, in the absence of agreement duly notified to the President, any question of the allocation of chairs and deputy chairs shall be determined by the Senate.

    4. The deputy chair shall act as the chair of the committee when the member elected as chair is absent from a meeting of the committee or the position of chair is temporarily vacant.

    5. When votes on a question before a committee are equally divided, the chair, or the deputy chair when acting as chair, shall have a casting vote.

    6. The chair, or the deputy chair when acting as chair, may appoint another member of a committee to act as chair during the temporary absence of both the chair and deputy chair at a meeting of the committee.

  5. The chairs of the committees, together with the chairs of any select committees appointed by the Senate, shall constitute the Chairs’ Committee, which may meet with the Deputy President in the chair, and may consider and report to the Senate on any matter relating to the operations of the committees.

  6. Except as otherwise provided by the standing orders, the reference of a matter to a committee shall be on motion after notice, and such notice of motion may be given:

    1. in the usual manner when notices are given; or

    2. at any other time by a senator:

      1. stating its terms to the Senate, when no other business is before the chair, or

      2. delivering a copy to the Clerk, who shall report it to the Senate at the first opportunity;

      and shall be placed on the Notice Paper for the next sitting day as business of the Senate and, as such, shall take precedence of government and general business set down for that day.

  7. Matters referred to the committees should relate to subjects which can be dealt with expeditiously.

  8. A committee shall take care not to inquire into any matters which are being examined by a select committee of the Senate appointed to inquire into such matters and any question arising in this connection may be referred to the Senate for determination.

  9. A committee and any sub-committee shall have power to send for persons and documents, to move from place to place, and to meet and transact business in public or private session and notwithstanding any prorogation of the Parliament or dissolution of the House of Representatives.

  10. All documents received by a committee during an inquiry shall remain in the custody of the Senate after the completion of that inquiry.

  11. A committee shall be empowered to print from day to day any of its documents and evidence. A daily Hansard shall be published of public proceedings of a committee.

  12. A committee shall be provided with all necessary staff, facilities and resources and shall be empowered to appoint persons with specialist knowledge for the purposes of the committee, with the approval of the President.

  13. A committee may report from time to time its proceedings and evidence taken and any recommendations, and shall make regular reports on the progress of its proceedings.

  14. A committee may authorise the broadcasting of its public hearings, under such rules as the Senate provides.

  15. Annual reports of departments and agencies shall stand referred to the legislation committees in accordance with an allocation of departments and agencies in a resolution of the Senate. Each committee shall:

    1. Examine each annual report referred to it and report to the Senate whether the report is apparently satisfactory.

    2. Consider in more detail, and report to the Senate on, each annual report which is not apparently satisfactory, and on the other annual reports which it selects for more detailed consideration.

    3. Investigate and report to the Senate on any lateness in the presentation of annual reports.

    4. In considering an annual report, take into account any relevant remarks about the report made in debate in the Senate.

    5. If the committee so determines, consider annual reports of departments and budget-related agencies in conjunction with examination of estimates.

    6. Report on annual reports tabled by 31 October each year by the tenth sitting day of the following year, and on annual reports tabled by 30 April each year by the tenth sitting day after 30 June of that year.

    7. Draw to the attention of the Senate any significant matters relating to the operations and performance of the bodies furnishing the annual reports.

    8. Report to the Senate each year whether there are any bodies which do not present annual reports to the Senate and which should present such reports.

Amendment history

Adopted:

  • [seven committees established 11 June 1970, J.187–90, by resolution; membership formula and other provisions contained in a separate resolution, 19 August 1970, J.254–55]
  • [re-appointed 14 March 1973, J.47–49; 14 March 1974, J.56–57; 16 August 1974, J.178 and 17 September 1974, J.189–91, 192; 2 March 1976, J.45–47]
  • 16 March 1977, J.26–27, as SO36AA

Amended:

  • [7 November 1973, J.462 (first version of the resolution referring annual reports to legislative and general purpose standing committees; renewed 28 April 1976, J.149, 22 March 1977, J.40, 1 March 1978, J.41, 26 November 1980, J.24, 22 April 1983, J.35, 22 February 1985, J.40, and 15 September 1987, J.39)]
  • 16 August 1978, J.302–03 (membership formula adjusted to restore references to minority groups as well as independent senators)
  • [22 September 1987, J.96–98, by sessional order (eight committees appointed and re-named, empowered to meet as joint committees with similar House of Representatives committees if authorised by the Senate; departments allocated to each committee)]
  • [14 December 1989, J.2377–78 (procedure for consideration of annual reports by legislative and general purpose standing committees adopted as an order of continuing effect)]
  • 4 September 1991, J.1464 (a ninth committee, Rural and Regional Affairs, established)
  • 13 May 1993, J.148–49, 150–51 (Industry, Science and Technology Committee combined with Transport, Communications and Infrastructure Committee, number of members on some committees varied)
  • 24 August 1994, J.2049–51 (to take effect 10 October 1994) (system restructured; eight pairs of legislation and references committees appointed, provision for terms of reference, transitional arrangements, membership formula, substitute and participating membership, joint meetings to coordinate work, government legislation committee chairs and non-government references committee chairs and reverse arrangements for deputy chairs, Chairs’ Committee, quorum provisions removed to general standing order)
  • 13 February 1997, J.1447 (to take effect 24 February 1997) (referral of annual reports to legislation committees incorporated from continuing order of 14 December 1989)
  • 11 November 1998, J.55–56 (changes to two committee names to reflect changes in administrative arrangements)
  • 3 December 1998, J.262 (references committee membership reduced from eight to six)
  • 13 February 2002, J.63 (change to one committee name to reflect changes in administrative arrangements)
  • 19 November 2002, J.1145 (participating member able to be counted towards a quorum, provision for appointment of acting chair to cover temporary absences of chair and deputy chair)
  • 14 August 2006, J.2474–76 (to take effect 11 September 2006) (system restructured; paired committees recombined with government chairs and non-government deputy chairs, transitional arrangements, membership formula, Chairs’ Committee to include deputy chairs) [(temporary order also adopted providing a mechanism, when the Senate is not sitting, to appoint substitute members to committees for specific meetings)]
  • 13 February 2008, J.97 (changes to two committee names)
  • 18 September 2008, J.880, 883–84 (minor drafting clarification to remove potential overlap between subparagraphs (9)(b) and (d))
  • 10 March 2009, J.1657–58 (subparagraph (7)(e) adopted from temporary order of 14 August 2006, providing a mechanism, when the Senate is not sitting, to appoint substitute members to committees for specific meetings)
  • 13 May 2009, J.1942–46 (to take effect 14 May 2009) (pre–2006 committee structure restored with paired legislation and references committees and sharing of chairs)

1989 revision: Old SO36AA renumbered as SO 25. 1987 sessional order incorporated, allocation of departments removed from standing order and provided for by resolution, a committee name change previously effected by resolution incorporated, language simplified and superfluous expressions and provisions removed

Commentary

  Report on the United States Senate by J.R. Odgers
 

The report of J.R. Odgers on his study visit to the United States Congress, which sowed the seeds for a Senate committee system

Legislative and general purpose standing committees are the centrepiece of the Senate’s committee system. For an account of their establishment, including references to significant commentary, see Papers on Parliament No. 51 (pages 108-113).

The initial resolution establishing the committees on 11 June 1970 was minimalist. It included provisions to:

  • appoint seven named committees;

  • describe their general terms of reference;

  • set the quorum;

  • allow senators who were not members to participate in public hearings;

  • specify the committees’ powers which were broad;

  • allow members of the public and press to attend public meetings, with the latter permitted to record and report proceedings;

  • ensure committees were appropriately resourced, that they undertook inquiries that could be expeditiously dealt with and avoided matters being examined by select committees; and

  • enable committees to report from time to time.

The membership of the committees was left to a subsequent resolution. Finally, a catch-all declaration was included to give effect to the terms of the resolution despite any inconsistency with the standing orders. Provisions of this nature are now considered superfluous and are generally not included in resolutions of the Senate unless there is some reason for them. They are effectively a restatement of the Senate’s power under s.50 of the Constitution to make its own rules and are therefore redundant in most resolutions.[1]

The subsequent resolution, agreed to on 19 August 1970,[2] as well as setting out a membership formula tailored to the composition of the Senate at that time, provided for the committees to be established gradually, beginning with the first two, on Health and Welfare, and Primary and Secondary Industry and Trade. Other matters covered included provision for a government chair with a casting vote and for the appointment of a deputy chair from time to time, a prohibition on meetings during sittings of the Senate and permission to operate notwithstanding vacancies in membership. An important addition set out a procedure for dealing with notices of motion to refer matters to committees as business of the Senate (and therefore having precedence over government and general business) and for notice of such motions to be given at any time. Maximum flexibility was provided for senators to propose new inquiries, and the classification of such proposals as business of the Senate was intended to ensure that they would be dealt with expeditiously and not languish on the Notice Paper in a queue of general business (but see SO 58).

The committees were regarded as having comprehensive inquiry powers, which included power to send for and examine persons and documents, form subcommittees, move from place to place, meet in public or private, publish evidence and continue to transact business notwithstanding any prorogation of the Parliament. These powers would enable the committees to carry out their purpose of standing ready to inquire into matters referred to them by the Senate, and to operate as fact-finding and advisory bodies. They had no powers to take action of their own, such as to punish recalcitrant witnesses or amend bills referred to them. These were matters for the Senate.

The provision for committee staff and resources, and the capacity for committees to appoint specialist advisers, heralded a new era in committee operations for the Senate. Until this time, with some exceptions, committees were usually supported by procedural staff who did committee work in addition to their procedural work. Although there had been several select committees established during the 1960s, no specific provision had been made for staffing them.[3] Henceforth, the Senate Department would include a sizeable number of professional research and secretariat staff whose exclusive focus was on committees.[4]

When the committees came to be re-appointed at the beginning of the next Parliament in 1973, there were some further refinements. A significant new declaration was the power of committees to meet notwithstanding any dissolution of the House of Representatives. This was in addition to the previous declaration that committees had power to meet notwithstanding any prorogation of the Parliament.[5] Other matters covered included power to inquire into uncompleted matters from the previous Parliament and access to records and evidence for that purpose, a requirement for records of completed inquiries to remain in the custody of the Senate, and authorisation for public hearings to be televised.[6]

While ever the committees were re-established by resolution, rather than being appointed pursuant to standing orders, transitional provisions were required. These allowed the committees to pick up uncompleted inquiries from the equivalent committees established in the previous Parliament or session, and to have access to the records and evidence of those committees for that purpose. Any adjustments to the membership formula or chairing arrangements could also be included in the resolution of re-appointment. Such resolutions were agreed to on a number of occasions, including for the re-establishment of single committees or groups of committees, until the legislative and general purpose standing committees were incorporated into the standing orders in 1977.[7]

In September 1974, however, following the simultaneous dissolution earlier that year, the government attempted to cut the number of committees by two and to limit their inquiries to unfinished business from the previous sessions. Provision for new inquiries was not made and the usual general provision broadly describing the committees’ functions was missing. Opposition amendments restored the status quo and a new provision allowed a quorum of members to request that a meeting of the committee be convened. The six members of the committee were divided equally between government and non-government members so with the quorum set at three members, this new provision allowed either grouping to insist on a meeting.[8]

  Failed goals from reports by Joint Committees
 

Reports of the Joint Committee on the Parliamentary Committee System which failed to achieve the government's goal of a system of joint committees

Senator the Hon. Lionel Murphy  

Senator the Hon. Lionel Murphy who, as Opposition Leader in the Senate, championed the establishment of a committee system (Source: National Library of Australia)

 

The problem – on this occasion, at least – was not that the government of the day wanted to shut down Senate committees in their infancy and avoid their scrutiny. After all, its Senate Leader, Senator Murphy (ALP, NSW), had been one of the driving forces behind their establishment. Rather, the government had an attraction to the idea of joint committees and the Senate was about to consider a message from the House of Representatives seeking the Senate’s agreement to establish a joint committee to make recommendations on a parliamentary committee system. Any new committee arrangements would be much simpler to implement if the business that had been before the Senate’s committees was wound up. The plan failed. The joint committee presented an interim report in October 1975 on its visits to Ottawa and Westminster and, after being re-established in the following Parliament, presented a final report in May 1976 with a hotch-potch of recommendations that nonetheless preserved the concept of each House maintaining its own separate subject area committees.[9] In the meantime, when the motion to re-establish seven legislative and general purpose standing committees was moved on 2 March 1976, an amendment to transform them into joint standing committees was defeated and the Senate committees got on with their business.[10] The following March, legislative and general purpose standing committees were incorporated into the standing orders as SO 36AA. The only change to previous resolutions establishing the committees was the addition of an eighth committee and a built-in facility for changing the number and names of the committees in future.[11]

While the legislative and general purpose standing committees were empowered to inquire into and report upon matters “referred to them by the Senate, including any Bills, Estimates or Statements of Expenditure, messages, petitions, inquiries or papers”, most committee work was in the nature of general inquiries. Few bills were examined and few petitions and papers referred. Nonetheless, the committees had earned a reputation for undertaking thorough and (mostly) bi-partisan inquiries and producing useful reports. The membership of the committees had always been intended to reflect the composition of the Senate but there was initially no reference to minority groups in SO 36AA because at the time of adoption in 1977 there were no senators representing non-government minority groups. When this situation changed a short time later, the membership formula was adjusted accordingly.[12]

Following the 1987 simultaneous dissolution, the idea of joint committees reappeared. Departments of state had been rearranged into super-portfolios and a system of standing committees was proposed for the House of Representatives. A government caucus committee developed a scheme for parallel standing committees in each House that would be empowered to meet as joint committees. Amendments moved in the Senate retained the term “legislative and general purpose standing committees” and joint meetings with similar committees of the House of Representatives could occur only in accordance with a resolution of the Senate. As a further compromise, the changes were agreed to as sessional orders, not as permanent changes to standing orders. There was also some debate on the number and names of the committees to be appointed under old SO 36AA but compromises on both sides led to a quick resolution.[13] In practice, these changes made little difference to the operations of the legislative and general purpose standing committees and were incorporated into the 1989 revision, now under SO 25.

As early as 1973, the legislative and general purpose standing committees began their scrutiny of annual reports of departments and agencies, now considered a hallmark of accountability and then part of the emerging focus on public administration.[14] In its earliest form, the resolution gave discretion to committees whether to pursue inquiries into the reports referred to them by the President and whether to present reports on them to the Senate. Between 1973 and the adoption of modified arrangements at the end of 1989, committees presented 40 reports on annual reports, often raising significant issues in relation to particular agencies. All of the committees except for those on Foreign Affairs and Defence, and Industry and Trade, were active in this area.[15] Resolutions in this form were first agreed to on 7 November 1973 and re-adopted on multiple occasions till 1987 (see amendment history).

In June 1989, the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations presented a report on the timeliness and quality of annual reports.[16] In December that year, Deputy President Hamer initiated an order of continuing effect requiring all of the legislative and general purpose standing committees to report once in each period of sittings (now twice a year) on the annual reports referred to them during that period, with an assessment of whether the reports were apparently satisfactory or not. With minor modifications, the order was incorporated into the standing orders as part of the 1997 consolidation.

In the course of the 1989 revision, a number of provisions were dropped that were either covered in general provisions or were considered unnecessary. In the former category was the prohibition on meeting during sittings of the Senate, covered generically in SO 33. In the latter category were the power to transact business notwithstanding any vacancy on the committee, and clarification that members of the public and press could attend public meetings of a committee, both considered unnecessary. However, committees retain authority over the recording of their proceedings by the news media. A journalist, photographer or cameraman who wishes to take photographs or make audio or visual records of proceedings requires the committee’s permission first. Similarly, committees have control over their own records, subject to any order of the Senate, but custody of documents received by committees in relation to completed inquiries remains in the Senate.

Over the next few years there would be changes to the number of members on some committees,[17] and a ninth committee would be established to continue the work of the long-running Select Committee on Animal Welfare, but with broader terms of reference to cover rural and regional affairs generally.[18]

The procedures adopted at the end of 1989 for the referral of bills to committees had a significant impact on the workload of committees and a strong non-government majority in the Senate kept up the pressure for Senate committees to be a major means of holding governments to account. At the beginning of the 37th Parliament in May 1993, a government motion to reduce the number of committees by two was amended to combine two existing committees, resulting in a net reduction of one. The membership formula was also adjusted to provide for six members on some committees and eight on others, with representation according to the capacities and interests of the parties represented in the Senate at the time.[19]

By 1994, there were concerns that the existing committee structure was not delivering the optimal outcomes. Multiple select committees were being established to carry out particular inquiries, often with non-government chairs. There was pressure from the opposition for a share of the chairs of standing committees. All this resulted in the Procedure Committee being tasked with a major reference on the committee system in February 1994. The committee reported in June 1994 with a scheme to refurbish the committee system so that it would be more responsive to the composition of the Senate and provide a more efficient structure. The proposals were adopted by the Senate on 24 August 1994 with effect from 10 October 1994.[20]

The major features of the scheme, as far as they affected SO 25, were as follows:

  • paired legislation and references committees in eight subject areas to perform all functions previously carried out by the legislative and general purpose standing committees and estimates committees;

  • six member legislation committees, with government chairs, to undertake inquiries into bills, examine estimates of expenditure and annual reports of agencies, and, of their own motion, to monitor the performance of departments and agencies;

  • eight member references committees, with non-government chairs, to inquire into matters referred by the Senate;

  • existing powers of the committees to continue, along with the casting vote for the chair (or deputy chair when acting as chair) on equally divided votes;

  • legislation and references committees to be able to meet together to coordinate their work where necessary;

  • membership of the committees to be in accordance with a formula designed to reflect the composition of the Senate (as with previous membership formulae, any disputes to be resolved by the Senate);

  • a new category of participating membership to be created with participating members to have all the rights of members, including the right to participate in private and public meetings, question witnesses and contribute to reports, but not the right to vote;

  • senators to be able to substitute for members of a committee by resolution of the Senate;

  • deputy chairs to be allocated in reverse to the allocation of chairs, and non-government chairs and deputy chairs to be split between the opposition and largest minor party in the ratio of 6:2 (any disputes on the allocation of particular chairs or deputy chairs to be determined by the Senate);

  • a chairs’ group, chaired by the Deputy President, to consider committee issues, including coordination of work, to be established under the standing orders;

  • committee-specific quorum provisions to be omitted and provided for under the general standing order.

There were also transitional arrangements to enable the new committees to continue inquiries of the predecessor committees and to have access to their records and evidence. Because there were now no equivalent committees in the House of Representatives, the power to meet as joint committees was no longer applicable and was dropped. It had only ever been used rarely.[21] In any case, meetings with House of Representatives committees were otherwise provided for by SO 40.

Apart from the sharing of chairs and the resulting majorities of government or non-government senators on the various committees, the formalisation of the position of deputy chair and of the chairs’ committee were useful innovations. So too was the removal of most committee-specific quorum provisions, including that in SO 25, and their replacement with a general provision providing that a quorum of a committee or sub-committee was either a majority of its members or two members, as long as there was representation of both government and opposition present (see SO 29).

The new category of participating membership was another important innovation. It replaced the previous arrangement where any senator could drop in to a hearing of a committee and ask questions, at the discretion of the committee,[22] with a more structured arrangement that provided participating senators with full access to committee records and evidence, including administrative communications such as advice of meetings, agendas and minutes, as well as the right to contribute to committee planning processes, witness selection and questioning, and reports. Originally conceived to facilitate participation in inquiries by independent and minority group senators without access to substitute membership arrangements, it became a practical solution to the increasing pressures on senators to be in many places at once and, along with the practice of substitute membership, provided a welcome degree of flexibility to committee operations, particularly for planning interstate and multiple hearings.

Those pressures were apparent in two subsequent changes: the reduction in references committee membership from eight to six at the end of 1998; and the decision in 2002 to allow participating members to count towards a quorum if a majority of the members of a committee was not present.[23] An associated change in 2002 allowed chairs (or deputy chairs when acting as chair) to appoint acting chairs to cover their own temporary absence without having to suspend a meeting or hearing. A chair may not appoint an acting chair if the deputy chair is present. The facility to appoint an acting chair applies only when both the chair and deputy chair are absent, and only for temporary absences such as part of a scheduled hearing. An acting chair cannot remain in the chair if either the chair or deputy chair return to the meeting.

The long-observed principle that committees should reflect the composition of the Senate was invoked in 2006 by the government of the day, which had unexpectedly secured a majority of seats in the Senate at the 2004 election, to restructure the references and legislation committees into single committees with government chairs. The restructure was opposed by non-government senators but the matter was referred to the Procedure Committee to work out what changes would be required to the standing orders. The Procedure Committee’s report was adopted on 14 August 2006, to take effect on 11 September that year. Principal features of the restructure were as follows:

  • the functions of the legislation and references committees were combined and would now be carried out by eight legislative and general purpose standing committees in the same subject areas;

  • transitional arrangements ensured that all existing functions and inquiries were transferred to the new committees;

  • all chairs would be government senators and deputy chairs would be non-government senators, with the existing split between opposition and minor party positions maintained in the ratio of 6:2;

  • committees would have eight members with four government senators, three opposition senators and one place for minority groups or independent senators;

  • the Chairs’ Committee would also include deputy chairs.

In all other respects, the previous arrangements remained in place. As was the case with the systems it replaced, the 2006 restructure provided for any disagreements on the allocation of deputy chairs or minority group places to be resolved by the Senate. When outlining the amendments required to restructure the committee system, the Procedure Committee also noted the Government’s intention to make a submission to the Remuneration Tribunal on allowances for deputy chairs of committees. A determination to this effect was subsequently issued.[24]

A minor clarification relating to deputy chairs was agreed to on 18 September 2008 on the recommendation of the Procedure Committee in its First Report of 2008:

Readers of the standing orders have occasionally been confused by the relationship between subparagraphs (b) and (d) of paragraph (9) of standing order 25 relating to the legislative and general purpose standing committees. Paragraph (9) provides for the chairs and deputy chairs of committees. Subparagraph (b) specifies who is to be elected as the deputy chair of each committee, while subparagraph (d) indicates that the deputy chair is to act as chair when the chair is absent or the position is vacant. Subparagraph (d), however, begins with a phrase to the effect that each committee is to elect a deputy chair and this is sometimes mistaken as the primary provision relating to the election of the deputy chair.[25]

At the beginning of 2009, the composition of the committees was again under consideration by the Procedure Committee.[26] As a result of the recurrence of circumstances prevailing in 1994 that led to the first restructure, the Procedure Committee recommended the readoption of the system of paired legislation and references committees, to come into effect on 14 May 2009.[27] In addition, a temporary order that had come into effect alongside the 2006 changes, to provide greater flexibility in the appointment of substitute members for specific meetings, was adopted as subparagraph (7)(e) on the recommendation of the Procedure Committee in its First Report of 2009.[28]

For an account of the operations of Senate committees, see Australian Senate Practice, 12th edition, especially Chapter 16.

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