Page 2693 - Week 09 - Thursday, 8 August 2013
membership of the Assembly that was voted in in October last year. Government members will continue to approach committee work with diligence and with a willingness to collaborate and cooperate with other members on the committee.
The government will not support this motion. If other issues arise that we have to look at in the operations of committees because it cannot just be drilled down to membership, if other reviews need to be done perhaps into the standing orders to clarify and enable committee work to go on and to be as efficient and effective as possible, the government is open to further discussions on that.
MR RATTENBURY (Molonglo) (10.52): The companion to the Assembly standing orders at page 278 indicates that the purpose or the accepted practice in Australian parliaments that has evolved around the role of committees sets out three primary roles: to scrutinise proposed legislation, to monitor the activities of the executive and to examine public policy issues in a more detailed way but at the same time in a less formal atmosphere than is possible in a parliamentary chamber. They are really the three key functions that are outlined there for the committees.
I think the key question that we need to think about in the context of this discussion is: can the committees perform these tasks? I certainly think that that is not a function necessarily of the numbers but a function of how the committees organise themselves, how they operate and the attitude members take into them. At the moment under the current arrangement with four-member committees, there is nothing to stop committees looking at issues, questioning witnesses and preparing reports. And I think we have just seen that with the estimates report that has been provided.
There is no doubt that Mr Hanson was able to produce exactly the report he wanted, through the estimates process. That goes to the question: if those are the roles that the committees are asked to perform and that is the practice that has evolved in Australia, is there anything in the current permutation that is preventing those steps taking place? And I would argue that it appears not.
When we debated this matter last November, I did put the view that it is possible for the committees to operate effectively with four members. I think that we do find ourselves in an unusual permutation in this Assembly. The 8-8-1 scenario is unprecedented in the Assembly, and that requires us to have a think about what is the best way to operate a number of different functions, including the issue that seems to particularly vex Mr Hanson, which is that I have chosen to play a role in the executive government.
If we look to the standing orders, we note that standing order 221 states:
Overall membership of committees shall comprise representatives of all groups and parties in the Assembly as nearly as practicable proportional to their representation in the Assembly.
With eight members of the Labor Party and eight members of the Liberal Party in this Assembly, that certainly points to the sorts of proportions we should be looking at. I think it is possible for four-member committees to work and to carry out the functions