Chapter 5 - Standing and Select Committees

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General committee provisions

38    Reports

  1. The chairman of a committee shall prepare a draft report and submit it to the committee.

  2. After a draft report has been considered and agreed to by a committee, with or without amendment, a minority or dissenting report may be added to the report by any member or group of members, and any member or participating member may attach to the report relevant conclusions and recommendations of that member.

  3. If any senator other than the chairman submits a draft report to a committee, the committee shall first decide upon which report it will proceed.

  4. After a draft report has been considered the whole or any part of it may be reconsidered and amended.

  5. A report of a committee shall be signed and presented to the Senate by the chairman.

  6. By order of the Senate a committee may report from time to time its proceedings or evidence.

  7. If the Senate is not sitting when a committee has prepared a report for presentation, the committee may provide the report to the President or, if the President is unable to act, to the Deputy President, or, if the Deputy President is unavailable, to any one of the Temporary Chairmen of Committees, and, on the provision of the report:

    1. the report shall be deemed to have been presented to the Senate;

    2. the publication of the report is authorised by this standing order;

    3. the President, the Deputy President, or the Temporary Chairman of Committees, as the case may be, may give directions for the printing and circulation of the report; and

    4. the President shall lay the report upon the table at the next sitting of the Senate.

Amendment history

Adopted: 19 August 1903 as SOs 301 to 305 (corresponding to paragraphs (6) and (1) to (4), respectively) and SOs 306 and 307 (corresponding to paragraph (5)) but renumbered as SOs 297 to 303 for the first printed edition.

Amended:

  • [23 August 1990, J.237 (paragraph (7) initially adopted as a sessional order allowing the presentation of committee reports when the Senate is not sitting; readopted on 23 January 1991, J.707; adopted as an order of continuing effect on 13 February 1991, J.738)]
  • 24 August 1994, J. 2053 (to take effect 10 October 1994) (paragraph (2) amended to provide that any member or group of members could add minority or dissenting reports and members or participating members could attach relevant conclusions and recommendations)
  • 13 February 1997, J. 1447 (to take effect 24 February 1997) (order of continuing effect incorporated as paragraph (7))

1989 revision: Old SOs 309 to 315 combined into one, structured as six paragraphs and renumbered as SO 38; repositioned from old chapter XXII on select committees; expression updated and streamlined; in particular, paragraph (2) rephrased to remove unnecessarily prescriptive detail about the process for considering draft reports.

Commentary

  Example of a dissenting report
 

Dissenting reports are normally presented along with the majority report

For the most part, the proposed standing orders relating to select committee reports were adopted in 1903 without amendment or debate. The exception was the precursor to paragraph (2), adopted as SO 303, which set out detailed procedures for deliberating on a draft report and concluded with a prohibition on adding protests or dissents to a report. In proposing the standing order in this form, the Standing Orders Committee had cited models from standing orders in South Australia, NSW and Victoria, and the prohibition was understood to be universal. This assumption was challenged by Senator Drake (Prot, Qld) and during debate on an amendment to allow dissents or protests to be added, he was able to produce standing orders from the Queensland Legislative Assembly and cite the practice of the Queensland Legislative Council to support his argument against prohibition. While some senators argued that the views of dissenters would be adequately reflected in the minutes of a committee’s deliberations on a report, which would be tabled with the report, Senator Drake’s views carried the day and original SO 303 thus embraced a highly significant right for individual senators serving as members of committees to have dissenting reports attached to the majority report.[1]

While the 1989 revision resulted principally in changes of structure and organisation, the one substantive change was to remove from the predecessor to paragraph (2) the prescriptive detail on the process for deliberating on draft reports, including the questions to be put.[2] Like the changes to SOs 35 and 182 which removed prescriptive detail on the examination of witnesses, the revisions to paragraph (2) left committees with much greater autonomy to determine their methods of proceeding.

Paragraph (2) was the subject of further amendment in conjunction with the restructuring of the committee system in 1994 when it was rewritten to amplify the right of members or groups of members to attach minority or dissenting reports, and to make reference to the new category of participating members and their right to attach relevant conclusions and recommendations to a report.

Finally, a long-standing practice of providing for committees to present reports when the Senate was not sitting was incorporated into the 1997 consolidation. This practice, which has also been extended to other categories of documents (see SO 166), provides a flexible arrangement, with the full protection of parliamentary privilege, because the standing order authorises the publication of the report once it has been presented to the President, Deputy President or any of the temporary chairs of committees. Provisions of this type had frequently been agreed to on a case by case basis for individual reports since 1984. The regularisation of this procedure had been suggested by the Privileges Committee in its 20th Report as a way of protecting against unauthorised disclosures of draft reports (also see SO 37).[3] The concept was endorsed by the Procedure Committee in its First Report of 1990 and adopted by the Senate, initially as a sessional order on 23 August 1990[4] and later as an order of continuing effect on 13 February 1991 on the adoption of the Procedure Committee’s Second Report of 1990.[5]

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