Chapter 1 Introduction
At the beginning of the 43rd Parliament in September 2010, a
diverse range of reforms to the procedures of the House of Representatives was
ushered in. The catalyst was the Agreement for a Better Parliament:
Parliamentary Reform (the Agreement) that had been negotiated between the major
political parties and non-aligned Members after the inconclusive election result
of 21 August 2010. The changes were implemented formally— through amendments to
standing orders, a sessional order and a resolution of the House—and informally
through arrangements within the discretion of the Speaker and which were
notified to the House by the Speaker.
The Agreement was said to be based on two principles:
… to confirm 150 local MP’s (and by extension their
communities) as the foundation blocks of our Australian system of democracy,
and increas[e] the authority of the Parliament in its relationship with the
The Agreement noted that a review mechanism would be established to
allow the changes to procedure and practice to be monitored and evaluated after
the first session of the Parliament. When proposing the
initial amendments to standing orders, the Leader of the House, the Hon Anthony
Albanese, identified the Procedure Committee (the Committee) as the appropriate
body to informally monitor the changes, to consult and identify any necessary
refinements, and to report to the House formally after the ‘first year of
operation of the new arrangements’.
The Committee has presented three interim reports to the House on the
The first, presented in April 2011, briefly discussed the context of the
reforms, and analysed the reforms themselves, as well as making some
preliminary observations on their implementation.
The report examined the work of the House in the first five weeks of the 43rd
Parliament, documenting the early stages of implementation and capturing
initial reactions. The Committee suggested some fine-tuning and flagged some
emerging issues for further monitoring and evaluation.
The Government response to this report was presented on 1 November 2012.
In the second report, presented in June 2011, the Committee turned its
attention to the referral of bills to committees by the House Selection
Committee. The ability to make such referrals had been foreshadowed in the
Agreement and implemented by changes to the standing orders.
The Committee found that Members were enthusiastic about the increased
opportunities to review and comment on proposed legislation. However, it
expressed concern over the significant and sustained increases in workload
being experienced by some committees. The report contained one recommendation
which was supported by the Government in its response, presented on 1 November
The third report, presented in February 2012, considered the
effectiveness of the reforms of the House committee system.
The Committee concluded that, while the reforms had provided some extra
opportunities for Members, some aspects had not been as beneficial as expected.
In particular, the rationalisation of committees had not necessarily improved
the workability of the system for Members as it had been offset by an increase
in the number of joint select committees. There had not been a noticeable
improvement in the timeliness of Government responses to committee reports. The
Committee again noted the strain being placed on committee resources by the
bill referral process and, while it made no recommendations, suggested a number
Scope of the inquiry
At its first meeting in the 43rd Parliament, the Committee
adopted these terms of reference:
To monitor and report on procedural changes implemented in
the House of Representatives in the 43rd Parliament.
The three interim reports have documented the reforms and their initial
implementation. Several aspects of the reforms have been considered in detail.
This report will consider the reforms and their impact after almost two
years of operation. In doing so it will also consider whether the original
intent—to develop a more active and participatory House for all Members, regardless
of party affiliation, or status—has been realised. It will consider the
implementation process and the various adaptations that have been made and will
also revisit some of the issues identified previously.
Conduct of the inquiry
The Committee has received formal, written evidence to the inquiry
(listed in Appendix A), as well as informal feedback from Members and other
interested parties including in general correspondence. Additionally the
Committee has drawn on data collected by the Chamber Research Office and on
comments made publicly by Members: in the House or elsewhere.
Throughout this inquiry the Committee has ensured that Members were
given opportunities to provide feedback, including at informal roundtable
meetings to which all Members were invited (February and September 2011).
Evidence was also received during private meetings with the Speaker (November
2010 and October 2011), party Whips (February 2011 and May 2012), the Chair of
the Liaison Committee of Chairs and Deputy Chairs (May 2012), the Clerk
(November 2010, October 2011, and May 2012), the Leader of the House (September
2012) and the Manager of Opposition Business (September 2012).
Structure of the report
Chapter 2 presents an overview of the reform agenda, outlining the
objectives, individual reforms and the mechanisms supporting their
Chapter 3 considers in detail the reforms aimed at increasing the
participation of all Members and examines how these opportunities have been
Chapter 4 focusses on reforms to Question Time.
Chapter 5 examines the changes to the House committee system and a
number of other issues that have emerged during the inquiry.
The Appendices contain:
- A: A list of the
submissions and exhibits received;
- B: Text of the Agreement
for a Better Parliament: Parliamentary Reform;
- C: Recommendations of
the following reports, Standing Committee on Procedure, Interim Report:
Monitoring and review of procedural changes implemented in the 43rd
Parliament, April 2011, Standing Committee on Procedure, Interim Report
No. 2: Monitoring and review of procedural changes implemented in the 43rd
Parliament: Referral of bills to committees by the House Selection Committee,
June 2011, Standing Committee on Procedure, Interim Report No. 3: Monitoring
and review of procedural changes implemented in the 43rd Parliament:
The effectiveness of reforms to the House committee system, February 2012.