Proposal to Reform the Senate Committee System

The Government's Senate Leadership has announced that two new Senate committees would be established and unnecessary duplication between paired committees would be removed, in a sweeping reform of the Senate committee system.

Current structure

Under the current structure, which was established in 1994, Senate committees cover 8 portfolio areas, with each portfolio area having two paired committees – a legislation committee and a references committee.

The Government believes there is no longer any good reason for this duplication because the paired committees share the same policy portfolios, the same secretariats and many of the same members.

Paired committees to merge

The Government said merging the paired committees will:
* allow an expansion of the portfolios covered from 8 to 10 portfolios and
*will result in greater attention being paid to the issues that matter to the Australian people.

The Government proposes that Education, Science and Training, and Environment and Heritage, become stand alone committees, but will consult with Senators and Senate parties on the final portfolio split.

Revised structure resembles pre-1994 system

The Government said this proposal reflects the pre-1994 Senate Committee structure, but with additional committees for a more specific focus on certain subject areas.

The membership of the committees will also be expanded and the Government will ask the Remuneration Tribunal to consider the payment of Deputy Chairs, in recognition of the increased workload under the new merged system.

Government 'supports' Senate's house of review role

The Government claims:
* it still continues to support the Senate's role as the house of review and insists that since 01/072005, it has supported referral of 14 issues and 71 Bills to Senate committees
*
proposal would not affect the number of bills and issues referred to Senate committees;
* operation of Senate Estimates will remain unchanged; and
* membership and chairmanship of the committees will reflect the composition of the Senate.

22 June, 2006

Findlaw

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