Monday, 24 June 2013
Procedure Committee; Report
On behalf of the Standing Committee on Procedure, I present the following reports together with the minutes of proceedings: Maintenance of the standing and sessional order and Electronic voting in the House of Representatives.
In accordance with standing order 39(f) the reports were made parliamentary papers.
by leave—The first report is a wide-ranging reference that successive Procedure Committees have adopted. It enables the committee to identify and exam minor irregularities and problems in the sessional and standing orders, which arise from time to time, and propose possible improvements. In this report we revisit a number of procedural changes that we recommended in previous reports on reforms of the 43rd Parliament. We consider that these proposals would improve efficiency and we hope that they will be taken up.
I must congratulate former Speaker, the member for Scullin, for being the first member to use sessional order 142A to ask a question of a member during a second reading debate. However, I must apologise: he made history on 19 June, which was after the report had gone to the printer and so the report does not acknowledge this fact. We also took the opportunity to acknowledge some minor and technical irregularities in the standing orders that had been brought to our attention. We hope that our suggestions, if implemented, will assist members in their use and their understanding of the standing orders.
The report also considers several procedural and policy matters proposed to the committee. We recognise that these issues go beyond the technical concerns of this inquiry, but we hope that members will consider that their possibilities and the possibilities they present. Overall, the amendments to the standing orders proposed in this report are intended to correct anomalies or inconsistencies to improve the efficiencies of proceedings and to better align the standing orders with House practice. At this late stage of the 43rd Parliament, the committee hopes the report provides a useful collection of comments and practical suggestions for preliminary consideration of the House now and in more detail in the next parliament.
The second report reconsiders electronic voting in the House of Representatives. Although the committee has conducted two previous inquiries into the conduct of divisions generally, it has never examined electronic voting in detail. Technological advances and generational change together with the close numbers in the 43rd Parliament provided us with compelling reasons to examine the issue. Although the inquiry has been shortened by the press of other committee business and a short time frame, we decided to prepare this short report to review existing evidence. We hope it will provide the basis for an in-depth inquiry if a future Procedure Committee wishes to examine the matter. Electronic voting could make a significant difference to the efficiency of the House. It seems many of the previous concerns regarding electronic voting systems, such as security of votes, may have been addressed. However, important procedural and other issues remain. Questions concerning availability of technology, cost and impact of electronic voting on the House deserve further consideration. Hopefully, a future Procedure Committee will be able to collect the evidence and address these issues.
In conclusion, I would like to thank my colleagues for their hard work on the Procedure Committee of the 43rd Parliament. I thank the committee members in general and the secretariat in particular. I also thank the inquiry secretary and the research officers.
I commend the report to the House.