House of Representatives Committees

Standing Committee on Procedure


Tabling statement

From Hansard, 2 December 1996, page 7369

Mrs SULLIVAN (Moncrieff) (12.43 p.m.)—On behalf of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Procedure, I present the committee's report entitled Review of reports of previous Procedure Committees which have not received a government response, together with the minutes of proceedings.

Ordered that the report be printed.

Mrs SULLIVAN—The Procedure Committee has been established for nearly 12 years. In that time it has presented 25 reports, not including this one. Some of those reports have led to significant improvements in the way the House does its business—for example, the introduction of a dedicated time each week for private members business and, more recently, the institution of the Main Committee.

Unfortunately, for whatever reason, a number of the committee's reports have not received any response by the House or the government of the day. Included in a schedule of parliamentary committee reports tabled by the Speaker on 9 May this year to which the previous government had not responded were 10 Procedure Committee reports which covered the period 1988 to 1995. In order of their tabling in this House, they were:

When he responded on 27 June to the Speaker's schedule, the Leader of the House (Mr Reith) requested that the new Procedure Committee review the findings of those reports with due regard to contemporary circumstances and in the light of changes that had been made since they were first presented. So far this year the Procedure Committee has tabled three further reports: The operation of standing order 143: questions to members other than ministers (presented 16 September 1996), Bills Consideration in detail: review of the operation of standing order 226 (presented 28 October 1996), and The conduct of divisions (presented 18 November 1996)—consideration of which it gave precedence over the request by the Leader of the House. However, it has always been the committee's intention to take up his request before the end of this session. The report I am tabling today constitutes the Procedure Committee's response to the government's request.

The new Procedure Committee did not repeat the previous inquiries. It examined each report's recommendations primarily for relevance. However, in some cases the committee had reservations, and these are outlined in today's report. The committee requests that the new government respond to eight of the 10 reports, taking into account today's report's comments or suggested modifications. Specifically, the committee endorses, without qualification, the reports on The publication of tabled papers, Responses to petitions, A citizen's right of reply, Seconding of private members' notices of motion and the Application of modern technology to committee proceedings. The committee generally supports the reports on Disclosure of in camera evidence, The standing orders governing disorder and strangers and Procedures for the opening of Parliament, with some reservations or minor changes recommended for these reports.

The recommendations of the two remaining reports (which deal with parliamentary committees) have been largely superseded, and a response to them would serve no useful purpose at this stage. It is the Procedure Committee's present intention to review the present operations of parliamentary committees in 1997.

I should like to use this occasion to make a general comment about action on Procedure Committee reports. The reality of this House is that it looks to the government of the day to take the lead in initiating action to reform those procedures which require amendment to standing orders. Without the support of the government, attempts to improve procedures cannot succeed. Nevertheless, changes to the operations of this House affect all its members and are not just the concern of the government. We all have a responsibility to ensure that proposals get discussed so that private member's views are heard. It should also be mentioned that some Procedure Committee recommendations are matters to which the Speaker should respond, for example, when they deal with the application of standing orders for which there exists procedural precedents. I commend the report to the House.

In the few seconds that are left, I want to place on record my thanks to the secretariat of the committee and to other members of the House of Representatives Procedure Committee for the numerous meetings that the committee has entailed this year in order to get out four reports in a truncated year. I thank the committee for its hard work. I thank the secretariat—and, in particular, the secretary of the committee, Robyn Webber—for their willing and hard work. I hope that Procedure Committee reports receive a better response from the government in future. I move:

I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted.

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