Adoption of Privilege Resolutions on the rights of witnesses appearing at committee hearings
Examination of the annual reports
The consideration of proposed legislation by committees was envisaged as an essential part of the committee system established by the Senate in 1970. In practice this was carried out only occasionally. Referring bills on a more regular basis was regarded as ‘the next step in the development of the committee system’.
The introduction of the Selection of Bills Committee resulted in the percentage of bills referred to committees rising from an average of 1.3 per cent in 1970–89 to 27 per cent in 1990–2001. In recent years, around 40 per cent of bills have been referred. While the Selection of Bills Committee does not have formal criteria for deciding which bills should be referred, senators are less likely to refer non-controversial or ‘machinery’ bills that raise no major issues.
Sending bills to committees is now a routine and accepted part of the Senate’s consideration of legislation.
The Selection of Bills Committee in June 2013. Clockwise around table from top: Senators Helen Kroger [Opposition Whip], Mitch Fifield, Rachel Siewert [Australian Greens Whip] (obscured), Carol Brown and Anne McEwen [Chair; Government Whip] (back to camera), Maureen Weeks [Secretary], Senators Jacinta Collins and John Williams [The Nationals Whip].
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John Vander Wyk and Angie Lilley, ‘Reference of Bills to Australian Senate Committees’, Papers on Parliament, no. 43, June 2005