Annual Report - 2006
Members of the
Committee – 2006
Senator R. Webber (ALP) WA Chair
Senator R. Lightfoot (LP) WA Deputy
Senator L. Allison (AD) VIC
Senator M. Forshaw (ALP) NSW
Senator G. Humphries (LP) ACT
Senator L. Kirk (ALP) SA
Senator A. McEwen (ALP) SA
Senator F. Nash (NATS) NSW
Dr Rosemary Laing
Registrar of Senators’ Interests
Department of the Senate
CANBERRA ACT 2600
Telephone: (02) 6277 3360
Fax: (02) 6277 3199
Report — 2006
- Standing order 22A requires the
Committee of Senators’ Interests, as soon as practicable after 31 December
each year, to prepare and table a report on its operations during the year.
This report is the twelfth annual report of the committee.
- On 17 March 1994 the Senate adopted a resolution on the registration of
senators’ interests which requires that each senator provide a statement of
registrable interests within 28 days of making and subscribing an oath or
affirmation of allegiance as a senator. The senator is also required to provide
a statement of the registrable interests of which the senator is aware of the
senator’s spouse or partner and of any children who are wholly or mainly
dependent on the senator for support. The resolution, as amended on 10 August 2006, also requires any alterations in
these interests to be notified within 35 days of the alteration occurring and,
since September 2003, requires all senators to provide full statements once at
least in each Parliament.
- The statements of senators’
interests are kept on a public Register of Senators’ Interests. Statements of
the registrable interests of a senator’s spouse or partner and of any dependent
children remain confidential to the Committee of Senators’ Interests except
where the committee considers that a conflict of interest arises, at which time
the committee may table the declaration.
- The resolution provides that the
statements of registrable interests must accord with the resolution and must be
in a form determined by the Committee of Senators’ Interests. The resolution
also provides that the Register of Senators’ Interests shall be maintained by
the Registrar of Senators’ Interests in accordance with procedures, and in a
form, determined by the committee, and that the public register shall be
available for inspection by any person under conditions laid down by the
- Also on 17 March 1994 the Senate adopted standing order
22A which established the Committee of Senators’ Interests. The committee was
given the responsibility of overseeing and reporting on the registration
requirements. The committee met six times in 2006. There were no changes in the
membership of the committee during the year.
- The committee’s terms of
reference require it to report on a number of matters. The committee reports on
these matters as at 31
December 2006. All
documents referred to in the above paragraphs are available on the committee’s
website. Copies of the documents, which have been compiled into a booklet
tabled by the chair in the Senate in August 2005 and revised in October 2006, may
also be obtained from the Registrar of Senators’ Interests.
Arrangements for the compilation, maintenance and
accessibility of the Register of Senators’ Interests
- During the year, the committee
completed its review of arrangements for the compilation and maintenance of the
register and tabled its report on 6 April 2006. Having conducted a survey of
senators and considered a number of issues, the committee recommended that the
resolution be amended to extend the 28-day timeframe for notifying alterations
of interests to 35 days. There had been some consideration of an extended
timeframe for notifying alterations in respect of share trading only, but the
committee concluded that it was undesirable to have different timeframes
applying to different registrable interests and recommended that the extended
timeframe should apply to all alterations. The committee also revised the forms
in response to comments in the survey, particularly by including more examples
and guidance on the forms themselves. The explanatory notes were augmented to
include guidance on the declaration of share trading activities by self-managed
superannuation funds and to clarify that only those share trading activities
resulting in the acquisition of shares in a new company or the disposal of a
senator’s total holdings in a particular company are notifiable alterations.
Finally, the committee made some minor adjustments to the administrative
procedures for maintenance of the register, mostly in response to valuable
feedback received from the survey.
- On 10 August 2006 the Senate adopted the committee’s recommendation for
amending the timeframe for the notification of alterations of interests.
- Following amendment of the
resolution and changes to the forms, explanatory notes and administrative
procedures, the committee republished its information booklet, entitled Declarations
of Senators' Interests and Gifts to the Senate and the Parliament – resolutions, explanatory notes and related information, in September 2006.
Copies were mailed to all senators’ Parliament House and electorate offices. In
addition, the committee’s website contains all current information, including
Correspondence from Senator the Hon. Eric Abetz
- On 11 July
and 8 August 2006 Senator the Hon. Eric Abetz, Minister for Fisheries, Forestry
and Conservation wrote to the committee raising concerns about certain declarations
of interests by the Leader of the Australian Greens, Senator Bob Brown
involving a bank account operated by Senator Bob Brown to receive donations to
help finance legal action to stop logging in the Wielangta State Forest. Senator Abetz asked the Committee of Senators’
Interests to consider a number of matters, some of which were beyond the
committee’s terms of reference. The committee considered the correspondence
very carefully, including whether any of the identified concerns should be
raised as matters for inquiry by the Privileges Committee as possible
contempts. The committee decided against this course of action and instead
considered the correspondence as a submission made under standing order 22A(1)
in relation to the form and content of the register, and the registering of
interests more generally.
- Consideration of the correspondence led to
further amendments to the explanatory notes and a commitment to consider
further whether there should be an explicit requirement in the resolutions for
individual sources of gifts to be identified. The committee had commenced this
task by the end of the year.
- In the meantime, on 13 September 2006, the Chair made a statement to the Senate on behalf
of the committee, summarising the committee’s deliberations and conclusions,
and tabling all relevant correspondence, minutes and documents.
Unauthorised disclosure of a document submitted to the
- Unfortunately, details of Senator Abetz’s correspondence to the committee
appeared on 8 August
2006 in an article in
the Sydney Morning Herald, entitled 'Brown blip growing on coalition's
radar'. The correspondence had not yet been seen by members of the committee.
Subsequently, the committee resolved to follow the procedures for dealing with
possible unauthorised disclosures of committee proceedings, as set out in the
resolution of the Senate of 20 June 1996,
augmented by a sessional order agreed to on 6 October 2005. The Chair wrote to Senator Abetz and the committee secretary seeking
any explanation they or their staff could provide regarding the unauthorised
disclosure and Senator Abetz admitted that a temporary member of
his staff had been responsible, inadvertently, for the unauthorised disclosure.
After weighing up all the factors under the guidance of the sessional order,
the committee concluded that this unauthorised disclosure fell within the
category identified in the sessional order as not warranting raising as a
matter of privilege. All relevant documents on this matter were tabled by the
Chair on 13 September
2006, along with
documents relating to the committee’s consideration of the substantive
Definition of registrable gifts
- As noted in paragraph 11 above, the
committee has commenced its consideration of whether the definition of
registrable gifts should be amended to require that the source of such gifts be
identified by name.
of alterations of interests
- In accordance with the committee’s administrative
procedures, the Registrar of Senators’ Interests writes to each senator at
least twice a year about the need to notify changes to statements of interests.
The Registrar wrote to senators in June
and November 2006 and registers of alterations were tabled on 21 June and 6 December 2006.
for access to register
- The number of requests for access to the register
fell in comparison with 2005, a record year, but remained relatively high in
relation to the long-term trend. There were 33 requests made and granted during
2006, compared with 44 in 2005.
- Table 1 shows the trends in requests for access
to the register since the passage of the resolutions in 1994.
1 – Requests for access to the register 1994-2006
Register of Gifts to the Senate and the Parliament
- Under the Senate resolution of 26 August 1997, senators must declare receipt of
gifts received by them but intended by the donor for the parliamentary
institution. There were no declarations under this resolution during 2006.