Photo of Roxanne Missingham, Parliamentary Librarian

The federal election of 2010 produced the first hung parliament since 1940. The Gillard Labor Government retained power by the smallest possible majority with the support of three independents and the Australian Greens. To secure a governing coalition, the Australian Labor Party committed to a series of wide-ranging parliamentary reforms with the Australian Greens and the Coalition including new procedures for Question Time in the House of Representatives, enhancing the authority of the Speaker, strengthening the role of committees, increasing the prominence of private members’ business and establishing a Parliamentary Budget Office and Parliamentary Integrity Commissioner.

Key challenges before this unique parliament will include implementing those reforms, making them work and dealing with their likely consequences, while continuing to address important national legislative and policy issues. Such issues include climate change, population pressures, regional development, economic prosperity, reforming social services and meeting environmental and energy needs. At this stage it appears that the proposed procedures will enable backbenchers and committees to play a greater role in shaping the agenda of the parliament. This might mean that an even greater variety of issues will be brought before the new parliament.

This Briefing Book has been written to assist senators and members to prepare for significant issues that are expected to arise in the early months of the 43rd Parliament. It presents a brief introduction to areas of key public policy concern, outlines the context for those concerns and discusses possible new policy and legislative directions.

The issues are presented in summary form. Senators and members are encouraged to contact the Parliamentary Library researchers identified against each contribution for further assistance with confidential oral or written briefing, analysis or information. In addition, individual senators and members can request research on any parliamentary and policy issue by contacting the Parliamentary Library. Requests can be made through:

  • the Library’s Central Enquiry Point (extension 2500), or
  • the contacts in the Parliamentary Library’s online Guide to Services at http://library.

The Briefing Book is available in hard copy to senators and members. It is also available online through the Senators’ and Members’ Services Portal, the Parliamentary Library’s intranet and the Parliament’s web site. For copyright reasons, some of the linked sources in the electronic version of the document may not be accessible through the Internet.

I am confident that the Briefing Book will be a valuable resource for all senators and members. I and all my staff look forward to supporting the work of the 43rd Parliament throughout its term.

Roxanne Missingham
Parliamentary Librarian

16 September 2010