Senate Legislative and General Purpose Standing Committees
The First 20 Years 1970 - 1990

Table of Contents


The Committee and its Predecessors


Current Membership

The membership of the Senate Standing Committee on Transport, Communications and Infrastructure in December 1990 was as follows:

A full listing of membership and Committee Chairpersons on the Senate Standing Committee on Transport, Communications and Infrastructure other related committees are listed in an attachment to this section. Other attachments to this section include lists of committee secretaries and reports tabled by the committees.


The Work of the Committees

The Committee was established in September 1987. Unlike the other seven Standing Committees it did not have any predecessors. Prior to September 1987 matters relating to this Committee were covered by the other Standing or Select Committees (e.g. The Proposed Takeover of Ansett Transport Industries Ltd by Thomas Nationwide Transport Ltd, by the Standing Committee on Industry and Trade in 1972). In addition to conducting its inquiries the Committee in November 1987 was given the role, together with its counterpart committee in the House of Representatives, of oversighting the work of the Joint Sub-Committee on Variations to the Plan of Layout of the City of Canberra and its Environs. In April 1988 when the Joint Sub-Committee on the Canberra Leasehold System was established it too came under the same oversighting arrangement.


Aviation Matters

Coastwatch Inquiry

In November 1987 the Committee commenced its first inquiry, the examination of the tendering procedures for the coastwatch contract. By February 1988 the coastwatch contract had become the subject of litigation and as the matter was sub-judice the Committee suspended its inquiry. The proceedings in court were protracted and the Committee decided in May 1990 not to proceed with its inquiry as the issues involved were no longer relevant.

Sydney Airport Inquiry

The Committee commenced in June 1988 an inquiry into the adequacy of the international terminal building and aircraft handling facilities at Sydney Airport. It conducted an inspection of the facilities and held public hearings in Sydney and Canberra. A contentious issue during the inquiry was whether an additional runway should be built at the airport. In its report in December 1988 the Committee concluded that because work on a second airport was to be accelerated the construction of an additional runway, at the same time, would be uneconomic but the option should not be dismissed completely. The Opposition members of the Committee in a dissenting report called for the immediate building of an additional runway. In its response to the report in August 1990 the Government stated that subject to an environmental impact study the option for an additional runway for Sydney Airport would be considered.

Federal Airports Corporation and Civil Aviation Authority Inquiry

The next inquiry commenced in May 1989 and the Committee investigated the organisation and operations of the Federal Airports Corporation and the Civil Aviation Authority. For this inquiry an additional four members were appointed to the Committee. In the course of the inquiry the Committee held nine public hearings and inspected seven airports. The Committee's report in December 1989 recommended that both organisations should improve their organisational structures, staff recruitment practices, their consultative processes with their clients and they should review the appropriateness of their regulatory procedures. One member of the Committee added a dissenting report which in essence stated that to have the two organisations is wasteful since they are providing complementary services.

The Government responded to the report in August 1990 agreeing with the thrust of the Committee's recommendations but not supporting the views expressed in the dissenting report.


Rail Transport

Very Fast Train Inquiry

Currently the Committee is conducting an inquiry into aspects of the proposal for a Very Fast Train (VFT). After the 1990 elections the Committee tabled an interim report in May advising that it intended to continue with the inquiry. Public hearings have been held and further hearings are envisaged once the preferred VFT route has been announced. The Committee reported early in 1991.


Annual Reports

In May 1990 the Committee tabled its first report on the examination of the annual reports of departments and statutory authorities, referred to it by the Senate for report. The Committee examined the annual reports of two departments, eighteen statutory authorities and three companies. In December 1990 the Committee tabled its second report on annual reports in which it examined 12 reports received by the end of November 1990.


Legislation Reports

On 24 August 1990 the Committee had referred to it the Airlines Agreement (Termination) Bill 1990. The Committee did not receive or propose any amendments to the Bill and in its report of 13 September 1990 recommended to the Senate that consideration of the Bill should proceed without amendment.


Sub-Committee Activities

The Joint Sub-Committee on Variations to the Plan of Layout of the City of Canberra and its Environs existed from November 1987 to May 1989. Its role was to report on intended modifications or variations to the plan of layout of Canberra. It held public hearings and conducted inspections of the proposed modifications. In total the Sub-Committee presented four reports between September 1988 and April 1989 and there were no Government responses required to be made to the reports.

The Sub-Committee on the Canberra Leasehold System was appointed in April 1988. It held two public hearings and reported to the Senate in November 1988 stating among its recommendations that the Commonwealth should retain the ownership of land in the Territory. One Sub-Committee member, in a dissenting report, called for land tenure to be based on the principle of freehold. The Government responded to the report in November 1990.