JOINT SELECT COMMITTEE ON PARLIAMENTARY PROCEDURE
Establishment and Membership
The Hon. TONY KELLY
(Minister for Planning, Minister for Infrastructure, and Minister for Lands) [2.50 p.m.]: I move:
The Hon. Catherine Cusack:
1. That this House agrees to a resolution in the Legislative Assembly's Message of Wednesday 22 September 2010 relating to the appointment of a Select Committee on Parliamentary Procedure, with the following amendments, in which amendments of the concurrence of the Legislative Assembly is requested:
1. In paragraph (4) omit "nine members" and insert instead "12 members".
2. Omit paragraph (4) (b) and insert instead
(b) Six members of the Legislative Council of whom:
3. In paragraph (6) omit "Chair of the committee" and insert instead "be a Joint Chair of the committee".
(i) one must be a Government member,
(ii) two must be Opposition members,
(iii) two must be cross-bench members, and
(iv) one must be the President, who is to be an ex officio member.
4. Insert after paragraph (6):
(7) That the President be a Joint Chair of the committee.
2. That notwithstanding anything contained in the resolution, the time and place of the first meeting of the committee be determined by the Joint Chairs.
The Hon. Don Harwin:
The Hon. Christine Robertson:
The Hon. TONY KELLY:
Yes: Hear! Hear! Examination of the procedures of the House is an important move forward. The amendment I moved, which was discussed with most members of this House beforehand, will ensure that this House has equal standing with the other place.
Reverend the Hon. FRED NILE
[2.51 p.m.]: The amendment improves the proposition emanating from the Legislative Assembly. I state for the record my concern about establishing a Joint Select Committee on Parliamentary Procedure as proposed in the message from the Legislative Assembly. Section 3 of the Constitution Act 1902 defines the Legislature as:
The Legislature means His Majesty the King with the advice and consent of the Legislative Council and Legislative Assembly.
The reference to His Majesty the King should be read as Her Majesty the Queen. According to the Constitution Act the Legislative Council and Legislative Assembly are established as two separate and distinct Houses of Parliament. The two Houses have equal powers in the making of laws, save in respect of certain money bills. Members would be aware that since the reconstitution of the Legislative Council in 1978 the Legislative Council has been elected on a very different basis from that on which the other place is elected, and that this House does not have a government majority. It has not had a government majority since 1988. As such, the practices of this House are very different from those of the Legislative Assembly. A notable difference is that this House devotes considerably more time to the consideration of private members' business than does the other place. In relation to the processes of the House, section 15 of the Constitution provides:
(1) The Legislative Council and Legislative Assembly shall, as there may be occasion, prepare and adopt respectively Standing Rules and Orders regulating:
(a) the orderly conduct of such Council and Assembly respectively—
Under this section of the Constitution it is for the two Houses of the Parliament to establish their own practices and procedures independently and without reference to those of the other House. Given these observations, the establishment of a Joint Select Committee on Parliamentary Procedure is to my mind inappropriate for the following reasons—the amendments have addressed some of these reasons. Members of the other place should not be on a committee that may make findings and recommendations about the standing orders and procedures of this House. I note further that members of the other place would have an absolute majority on the proposed committee.
Equally, the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, as the proposed chair of the committee, should not be in a position to chair a committee considering the operation of the Legislative Council. I note that that proposal has now been amended. Similar considerations have arisen before in this House. In 1994 amendments were made to the Independent Commission Against Corruption Act to, amongst other things, establish an ethics committee of each House. Ultimately the Privileges Committee was designated to perform the function in this House. However, the 1994 amendments initially proposed a joint ethics committee which was to consist of the members of the Committee on the Independent Commission Against Corruption plus five community members. The Council rejected that proposed structure.
During debate on the amendments during the second reading in the House it was argued that it would not be appropriate to give jurisdiction over the conduct of Council members to a committee such as the Committee on the Independent Commission Against Corruption, which has a majority of members of the other place. The same arguments apply equally in the current circumstances. To my mind, the preferable approach to this matter is for the House to establish a committee of its own to look at the practices and procedures of the House, with reference, if necessary, to the procedures proposed by the other place and the procedures being implemented by the Commonwealth Parliament. Alternatively, the House could refer the matter to the Procedure Committee, which is the appropriate standing committee of the House for dealing with the procedures of the House.
The Hon. DON HARWIN
[2.55 p.m.]: The House is debating a message from the Legislative Assembly which was supported by Government, Opposition and crossbench members of the Legislative Assembly. Therefore, the Opposition has indicated that it is supporting a joint select committee on parliamentary procedure. Some of the points made by Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile have validity, but I make this point: Regardless of the recommendations of the joint select committee, they will not bind this House, they cannot bind this House, and this House will have to consider them separately after the joint select committee has concluded. If it is thought appropriate, the Procedure Committee, which is chaired by you, Madam President, will perhaps want to look at the recommendations before we act in our House.
Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile rightly put on the record that a large amount of what will come within the purview of the committee have been practices and procedures in our House for some time. In conclusion, I indicate that the amendment moved by the Leader of the House, on behalf of the House, is appropriate. There were substantial discussions between Opposition, Government and crossbench members, the President and the Clerk of the Parliaments before this motion came before the House. I think all members wanted the Leader of the House to take that position, and I am pleased that he has done so. So the motion as amended by the Leader of the House will have the support of Opposition members.
The Hon. ROBERT BROWN
[2.58 p.m.]: The Shooters and Fishers Party will not oppose the amended motion, but I put on record my disappointment that the Government sought to consult with other crossbench members about these matters but not with the Shooters and Fishers Party. The Government is happy to come knocking on our doors when it wants something, but unfortunately on this occasion we are not considered to be worthy of consultation. I support the comments of Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile. This issue flies in the face of the way these places were constructed to operate. I concede that the amendments moved by the Leader of the Government will put some balance back into committee deliberations on the procedures in this House. I acknowledge the comments of the Hon. Don Harwin that such deliberations would not necessarily be binding and that the Procedure Committee will have an opportunity to consider them. But this is setting a dangerous precedent.
Prior to my coming into this place in 2006 my colleague John Tingle warned me about continual and long-term attempts by governments of both colours to hobble or knobble this House, or indeed get rid of this House. He was a staunch supporter of our method of government. I know that people in the Legislative Assembly sometimes view the Legislative Council as a bit of a pestilence to the running—
The Hon. Christine Robertson:
That is putting a nice word in place.
The Hon. ROBERT BROWN:
Okay, a humbug, shall I say, to the rapid and efficient running of the State by Executive Government. This Chamber has a function which it performs very well. When I look at the amount of work that we get through in our shortened week—
The Hon. Tony Kelly:
In less time.
The Hon. ROBERT BROWN:
In less time, albeit sometimes late nights which I grizzle about on occasions, I think we do a damn good job. Whilst the Shooters and Fishers Party will support the amended motion, I put in Hansard
that we do not think this is a very good idea.
Question—That the motion be agreed to—put and resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Message forwarded to the Legislative Assembly advising it of the resolution.