Procedural Information Bulletin No. 63

For the sitting period 8 to 17 October 1991


The AUSSAT Repeal Bill was the subject of a government amendment on 8 October to make it clear that AUSSAT is not an instrumentality or agency of the Crown. It was explained that potential purchasers had referred to doubts about the legal status of AUSSAT which could affect the application of taxation legislation. It will be recalled that the doctrine of the shield of the Crown is the subject of an inquiry by the Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs.

The Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology presented its final report on the fisheries package of legislation on 9 October and the bills were read a second time later on the same day. On the following day the bills were considered in committee and 80 amendments were made to them. This was done by means of the motion for the adoption of the committee's report, which recommended these extensive amendments. During the debate on the bills Senators referred to this occasion as providing further evidence of the great value of committee scrutiny of legislation.

An interesting amendment was made to the Carriage of Goods by Sea Bill on 10 October. The amendment inserted a provision in the bill to the effect that if a proclamation bringing certain parts of the bill into effect is not made within three years, those provisions commence automatically unless each House of the Parliament passes a resolution that they be repealed or that their commencement be reconsidered after a further period of three years. This was a government amendment which was moved as an alternative to the Opposition amendment, which would have provided that the relevant provisions be repealed at the end of the three‑year period unless the Houses pass a resolution to bring them into effect or to begin a further three‑year period. The relevant provisions relate to an international agreement which is yet to come into force.

The Electoral and Referendum Amendment Bill was amended on 10 October to remove certain provisions which had to do with the situation of persons falling into the constitutional category of holders of an "office of profit under the Crown" who stand for election. The view was taken that these provisions should not be passed until a more comprehensive solution to this problem is forthcoming.

An amendment was made to the Broadcasting Amendment Bill on 17 October to insert an unusual provision whereby the Broadcasting Tribunal may seek an order of the Federal Court delaying the purchase of an interest in a broadcasting station where a person has failed to produce information or documents relating to the purchase as required by the Tribunal. Two other amendments were made to the bill. The bill was the subject of a report by the Standing Committee on Transport, Communications and Infrastructure, and was proceeded with immediately after the committee had tabled its report.

The Arts, Sport, Environment, Tourism and Territories Legislation Amendment Bill was amended on 17 October, but the proceedings on the bill have not been completed.


Senator Watson's Income Tax Assessment (Valueless Shares) Amendment Bill was passed by the Senate on 17 October. Senator Watson is a member of the somewhat exclusive group of private Senators who have had more than one bill passed by the Senate. He has also succeeded in having another of his bills, also relating to taxation matters, find its way to the statute book, although this was not done directly but by the government adopting his proposal in a government bill. Senator Watson has distinguished himself over the years by drawing attention to difficulties in taxation legislation.


The deadline for the introduction of government bills has been set as 15 November. This was done on 14 October on the motion of Senator Bourne.


The Second Report of 1991 of the procedure Committee was considered on 14 October, and the following procedural changes were adopted:

  • a special order to provide for the broadcasting of Estimates Committee proceedings
  • an amendment of the standing orders relating to the resumption of consideration of bills which have been reported back from committees
  • an amendment of the standing order relating to the consideration of committee reports to provide for government responses to committee reports also to be considered under that standing order.

Another proposal of the Procedure Committee, to allow for a right of debate on the part of committee members, subject to time limits, when a committee report is presented, was referred back to the Procedure Committee for further consideration. Various observations by the Committee on other matters were noted.


The President announced on the first sitting day of the period that the Senate (Quorum) Bill 1991 had received the Royal Assent, and that the quorum of the Senate was thereby reduced from 26 to 19 Senators.


An interesting discussion on unparliamentary language took place on 14 and 15 October. In response to questions about a ruling he had made, the Deputy-President explained that, while a statement that a senator had misled the Senate was not necessarily unparliamentary, because it did not necessarily imply that a senator had wilfully or deliberately misled the Senate, as with all expressions regard must be had to the context of the use of it. Other words uttered by a senator had led him to conclude that such an implication was being made. This assessment of the significance of the senator's words was subsequently disputed. The distinction between saying that a senator has misled the Senate and saying that a senator has deliberately misled the Senate is similar in principle to the distinction between saying that a senator's statements are not correct and saying that they are lies.


The 6th edition of Australian Senate Practice, by J.R. Odgers, published by the Royal Australian Institute of Public Administration, was tabled in the Senate by Senator Durack on 15 October. Speaking to a motion to take note of the document, Senators Durack and Harradine referred to its value to the Senate and to the public, and to the circumstances of its publication after the death of the author in 1985.


The Regulations and Ordinances Committee presented a special report on 16 October relating to its scrutiny of regulations made under the Sex Discrimination Act, indicating that it had taken the committee a considerable time to complete its dealings with the regulations. The Minister for Shipping and Aviation Support, Senator Collins, speaking to the motion to take note of the report, indicated that he well remembered dealing with the regulations when he was chairman of the committee.

Only two Estimates Committee reports were presented on the due date, 8 October, and the other committees had to obtain extensions of time to complete their reports. All of the reports raise substantial matters concerning the estimates, so that there is a large number of topics available for debate in committee of the whole on the appropriation bills. Proceedings on the bills in committee were commenced on 16 October, after the last committee to report, Estimates Committee A, had presented its report, but the estimates considered by Estimates Committee A were postponed.

The Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters presented a report on 8 October on the Aboriginal and Islander Electoral Information Service, and the report was immediately the subject of dispute, particularly relating to a minority report on that service.

The Finance and Public Administration Committee presented its report on the insurance package of legislation on 8 October.

Government responses to the reports of the Finance and Public Administration Committee on the Senior Executive Service and of the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee on unauthorised procurement and disclosure of information were presented on 10 October and were immediately debated. A government response to the report of the Joint Committee on the National Crime Authority on Operation Ark was the subject of somewhat heated debate on 15 October, particularly relating to the government's criticism of the minority report.

The Community Affairs Committee was given an extension of time on 8 October to report on pharmaceutical restructuring measures, and the Select Committee on Community Standards Relevant to the Supply of Services Utilising Telecommunication Technologies was also given an extension of time on the same day.