Page 2097 - Week 06 - Thursday, 26 June 2008
While the timeframes for Senate estimates are very different, generally speaking committees allow members one week to submit and approximately 6-7 weeks for responses, depending on the committee. Typically reports are tabled in August, following the May hearings.
You can see the hearing process that we went through in this Assembly is quite different. The report also states:
… members and non-members are able to put questions on notice subsequent to the relevant estimates hearing. Given the volume and complexity of the questions on notice currently being submitted the Committee considers that some assessment of the questions on notice process is appropriate.
I note the government’s response is positive in this regard. The report also states:
All members of the Committee understand that the estimates process is a unique process constrained by the short timeframe available to complete the work ...
There were 13 public meetings, 13 private, a total of 116 hours and 18 minutes of time—88 hours 40 minutes of public hearings and 27 hours 38 minutes of private hearings—and 205 witnesses were heard from. The report also states:
Members submit questions on notice to the Committee Office within a specified time after the Minister’s appearance at public hearing, usually two or three days depending on the circumstances. Currently, the Committee requests that Ministers submit answers to questions on notice within five full business days … There are very few rules placed around the content and scope of the questions.
… that the Legislative Assembly amend the Standing Orders to provide specifically for the establishment each year of a select committee on estimates and which also provides for rules for the conduct of the inquiry and for the questions on notice—
as I said before. I take the point that this is not necessarily something that the government has much control over, but it is something for the whole Assembly. When provision for the establishment each year of the Select Committee on Estimates is looked at within the standing orders, I hope that serious consideration would also be given to clarifying the position of visitors to the committee, as those members not on the select committee—some of them by choice, as we have heard before—appear to misunderstand their rights. Even after being reminded that their questions to the witnesses were only allowed by agreement of the committee and only after the committee members have finished asking questions, time after time visiting members, both in the public hearings and in the media, complained that they did not have a chance to ask their questions. As you see by the stats I read out before, they in fact did.
There was room on the committee for a crossbench member. This was declined. The opposition selected their members to sit on the committee, though time and time again non-members of the committee from the opposition demanded that they had to