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Appendix A – Agreement for a Better Parliament: Parliamentary Reform

AGREEMENT FOR A BETTER PARLIAMENT


PARLIAMENTARY REFORM


Preamble


There are 150 local MP’s that have recently been elected by the communities of Australia to the
House of Representatives. This document is a combined effort to increase the authority and
opportunities for participation for all MP’s, regardless of their political party or their status of
office.

The principles behind this document are twofold; to confirm 150 local MP’s (and by extension
their communities) as the foundation blocks of our Australian system of democracy, and
increasing the authority of the Parliament in its relationship with the Executive.

For these improvements to work, it will take a commitment by all MP’s to respect the cultural
change that these changes bring. While the community demands a ‘fiesty’ and ‘testing’
parliamentary floor, there will be a need for recognition by all to allow more MP’s to be involved
in various roles and debates, to allow more community issues to be tested through private
members voting, and to allow a Speaker (in particular) to rule with a firm hand as debate tests
the boundaries of the Standing Orders on the floor.

The Executive will also need to show a commitment to the cultural change that this moment
brings, and will need to be more flexible, more consultative, and more engaged with all MP’s if
these new arrangements are to work.

This document has been produced through engagement with many people, including former
Speakers and Clerks, MP’s, party “elders”, and members of the community. This broad
engagement has been done in an endeavour to achieve improvements that are sustainable
beyond the current three year‐term, and improvements that work for all. All are thanked for
their considered involvement.


1. ENHANCING THE PARTICIPATION OF ALL MEMBERS IN THE MANAGEMENT OF THE HOUSE OF
REPRESENTATIVES


An expanded Selection Committee will be established, including aligned and non‐aligned Members.

The Committee will be Chaired by the Speaker.

All Members will receive the same rights for the purposes of facilitating their full participation in all
processes of the House. For the purposes of Standing Order 41A, Question Time and participation in
all other debates, all Members interests would be guaranteed by the Selection Committee.

2. INDEPENDENT SPEAKER

2.1 Independence

The role of the Speaker will be independent of Government.
If the Speaker is drawn from a political party then the Deputy Speaker will be drawn from an
alternate political party and both the Speaker and Deputy Speaker will:
If the Speaker is non‐aligned, then the same pairing arrangements will apply.

The Speaker and Deputy Speaker can participate in Private Members’ Business but cannot
vote.

Members of the Speakers Panel will be temporarily paired when occupying the chair during
votes.

2.2 Power of the Speaker


The Speaker will rigorously enforce the Standing Orders of his or her own motion.
3. ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF COUNTRY

At the beginning of each sitting day, prior to prayers, the Speaker will make an acknowledgement of
country.

4. QUESTION TIME

4.1 Time Limits for Questions and Answers

Questions during Question Time be limited to forty five seconds and answers to four
minutes.
It is noted that a Member may ask leave of the House for an extension of time.

4.2 Supplementary Question

The Leader of the Opposition or their delegate has the option of asking one supplementary
question during each Question Time.

4.3 Duration of Question

Question Time will conclude no later than 3.30pm, enabling 20 questions each day in the
normal course of events.

4.4 Questions

The Speaker shall give due regard to Standing Order 100 dealing with the material that
questions may contain but not in such a way that would inhibit the ability of the Opposition
to hold the Government to account.

4.5 “Relevance” Standing Order

The Standing Orders be amended so that answers must be “directly relevant to the
question”, with the Speaker to lead on enforcement of the relevance test.
The Government and Opposition will support the Speaker in taking a strong stance on this
issue.

4.6 Proportionate Share

A proportionate share of the Questions be allocated to non‐aligned members, including the
order in which those questions are asked during Question Time.

4.7 Points of Order

The Standing Orders be principally raised and enforced by the Speaker.
The point of order on relevance can only be once per question.

4.8 Notes

It is the preference in Question‐Time for both questioners and Ministers to use best
endeavours not to use notes. It is understood there are times when notes should be used to
assist in providing the House with the best possible information in the most accurate and
timely way possible. However, at all other times, the preference is no notes.
This will be reviewed at the end of the first session to see if further restrictions on use of
notes in Question Time can and should be applied.
5. MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE
5.1 Length

The maximum length of discussion on Matters of Public Importance be extended to 1 hour
and thirty minutes. That the proposer and the next speaker be allowed to speak for up to 15
minutes and that other speakers be allowed to speak for up to 10 minutes.

5.2 Greater Prominence

The Matter of Public Importance debate will immediately follow Question Time.

5.3 Proportionate Share

A proportionate share of Matters of Public Importance be allocated to all non‐Government
Members.
6. PRIVATE MEMBERS BUSINESS AND PRIVATE MEMBERS BILLS
6.1 Voting on Private Members’ Bills

The Speaker, the Leader of the House, and the Selection committee, will ensure time is
allocated for votes on Private Members’ Bills during Government Business time in the Main
Chamber.

6.2 Priority given for Private Members Business on Mondays

The Standing Orders will be amended to provide for:

7. ADJOURNMENT

The Adjournment Debate shall be one hour on Monday and Tuesdays, and 30 minutes on
Wednesdays and Thursdays.

8. 90 SECOND STATEMENTS

15 minutes will be allocated prior to Question time for Members to make 90 Second Statements on
constituency issues.

9. MINISTERIAL STATEMENTS

9.1 Time Limits
Ministerial statements and response be limited to 10 minutes, except in circumstances
agreed to by the Speaker or for Prime Ministerial statements.

9.2 Proportionate Opportunities to Respond to Ministerial Statements
The Speaker will ensure that opportunities to respond are provided to non‐Government
Members.
10. THE COMMITTEE SYSTEM

10.1 Numbers of Committees

The number of general purpose standing committees be reduced to nine, comprising
standing committees on:
10.2 Committee Membership

Membership of committees will ideally be seven. Committee membership will fully reflect
membership of the House, including the crossbench.

The maximum number of supplementary members for each general purpose standing
committee inquiry be increased to four; with supplementary members having full
participatory rights, other than voting rights.

10.3 Powers of Committees

The powers of Committees be referred immediately to the Committee of Chairs as soon as
established to ensure the most authority possible for Committees within allocated
resources.

10.4 Chair of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Public Accounts and Audit

The Chairman of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Public Accounts and Audit be drawn
from a member of a non‐Government party or a non‐aligned Member.

10.5 Pre‐Legislative Scrutiny of Bills

All Bills to be introduced into the House be referred immediately to the Selection
Committee.

All Bills regarded as controversial or requiring further consultation or debate be immediately
referred to the relevant Standing or Joint Committee to allow a period of discussion and
public consultation on introduction. One member objecting in the Selection Committee will
be sufficient to declare a Bill controversial.

Non‐controversial Bills will be authorised for immediate introduction into the House.
This mechanism will be reviewed to ensure it does not cause unnecessary delays to the
House legislative processes, and is indeed a mechanism to speed up the legislative agenda.

10.6 Responses to Committee Reports

Within six months of a House or Joint committee report being presented in the House, a
government response will be tabled in the House. If no such response has been received
within six months of such a report being presented in the House, a statement signed by the
relevant Minister (or Minister representing the Minister) must be tabled stating the reasons
why the response could not be prepared in time.

The Minister (or Minister representing the Minister) must also make themselves available to
appear before the relevant Committee at the next reasonably available opportunity to
answer questions on that statement.

Following this, issues of dispute between a Parliamentary Committee and an Executive will
be referred to the Auditor‐General for further follow‐up, clarification, and attempted
resolution.

A timely response to Committee Reports will be included as a Key Performance Indicator in
the employment arrangements of Agency Heads.

The Clerks will ensure a report on the status of responses to Committee Reports in included
in the Notice Paper on a monthly basis online.

10.7 Statements during Private Members Business by Committee Chairs

Standing orders will be amended to provide for committee Chairs to make short statements
during private Members’ business time, informing the House of new inquiries being
undertaken by the committee.
11. CONSIDERATION OF BILLS
11.1 Speaking Times

The time limit allocated for all Members speaking on Bills will be reduced from 20 to 15
minutes.

The Selection Committee is able to determine, where a Bill is not controversial, that time
limits for speaking on that Bill be reduced to 5 or 10 minutes.
Where a large number of Members wish to speak on a particular Bill, the Selection
Committee can, by agreement, place limits on speaking times to facilitate as many Members
as possible speaking on the Bill.

The Speaker, with the Selection Committee, is to consider and potentially trial 5 minutes of
questions (30 second question with two minute answers) at the end of all MP’s speeches, so
as to encourage “smarter debate”.

11.2 Consideration in Detail

The Leader of the House in consultation with the Selection Committee will ensure that;

12. RECOMMITAL OF VOTES

The Standing Orders be amended so that there may be a recommital of a vote on the same sitting
day when a Member is inadvertently absent following a successful suspension of standing orders
after debate.

13. APPROPRIATION BILLS


The Senate resolution on appropriation bills which contain matters which should have been the
subject of separate legislation is noted. To prevent this occurring, the parties and non‐aligned
Members agree to developing a mechanism to resolve this issue prior to the next appropriation bills
being introduced.

14. ASSENT TO LEGISLATION

A mechanism be established to ensure a commencement date be included in all legislation.

15. SITTING DAYS

That more sitting weeks each year be considered depending on Government and Private Members
Business.

16. RESOURCES OF THE PARLIAMENT

16.1 Parliamentary Budget Office

A Parliamentary Budget Office be established, based in the Parliamentary Library, to provide
independent costings, fiscal analysis and research to all members of parliament, especially
non‐government members.
The structure, resourcing and protocols for such an Office be the subject of a decision by a
special committee of the Parliament which is truly representative of the Parliament.

16.2 External review of staffing levels within the Department of the House of
Representatives committee Office


The Speaker will arrange for an external review of staffing levels within the Department of
the House of Representatives Committee Office and the Parliamentary Library.
This will incorporate a work analysis to determine the nature and level of secretariat support
necessary for the ongoing inquiry work of committees, to ensure that the House committee
system is supported by an adequate number of appropriately qualified staff.

16.3 Establishment of a representative House Committee on Appropriations and Staffing

A House Committee on Appropriations and Staffing be established, chaired by the Speaker,
to make recommendations to the House on:
16.4 Allocation of teleconferencing and videoconferencing facilities

The Leader of the House, with the Speaker will investigate the adequacy of teleconferencing
and videoconferencing facilities available to committees; and consideration of any upgrades
or additional facilities required to meet current and anticipated future demand from
committees.
17. PAIRING VOTES

17.1 Pairing arrangements for all Members

Additional mechanisms will be considered that responsibly deal with essential absences by
Members from the House, including ‘pairs’.

The Government and Opposition will guarantee a ‘pair’ to non‐aligned Members providing
there are reasonable grounds.

These arrangements may be similar to those that currently occur between the Whips in the
Senate.
18. PARLIAMENTARY INTEGRITY COMMISSIONER

This commissioner would be supervised by the privileges committee from both House and Senate to
provide advice, administration and reporting on parliamentary entitlements, investigate and make
recommendations to the Privileges Committees on individual investigations, provide advice to
parliamentarians on ethical issues and uphold the Parliamentary Code of Conduct and control and
maintain the Government’s Lobbyists register.

19. ESTABLISH A FORMAL CODE OF CONDUCT FOR MEMBERS AND SENATORS

A cross‐party working group and inquiry process will be established to draft a code of conduct for
members of the House and the Senate. Once established, this code will be overseen by the Privileges
committee.

20. REGISTER OF LOBBYISTS

Further enhancements to the Register of Lobbyists be examined, including to the online publication
of the Register and to place the register under the supervision of the Parliamentary Integrity
Commissioner.

21. REVIEW MECHANISM

A mechanism will be established to review all standing order and other procedural changes in this
agreement and will report following the first session of this Parliament.

22. OTHER “BETTER GOVERNMENT” IMPROVEMENTS;

It is expected, through the life of this Parliament, and with Private Members Bills now having the
ability to be voted on, that there will be further steps taken to improve Government in the following
way;

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