Thursday, 7 December 2017
Procedure Committee; Report
Ordered that the report be printed.
That the Senate adopt the recommendations in the report.
I seek leave to incorporate the statement into the Hansard.
The statement read as follows—
Acting Deputy President, as is common for the Procedure Committee, this report deals with a number of matters. The motion I have moved would provide for the Senate to adopt two recommendations.
The first deals with some proposed changes to the Senate's hours of meeting and routine of business. Earlier in the year, the former President and I convened a working group on procedural matters, with representation from the main parties in the Senate and crossbench senators. One of the drivers for that group was a desire from crossbench senators to increase their opportunities to participate in different types of debates. To a large degree, discussions on those matters have not yet concluded, and the working group will reconvene next year to continue its work.
In the meantime, though, the Procedure Committee has agreed to what I think is a useful set of changes to the Senate's routine of business. These changes:
Adoption of recommendation 1 will see those changes in place as temporary orders for the first half of 2018, and the committee will review them during that time.
The second recommendation proposes a continuing order of the Senate to help track responses to public interest immunity claims made in respect of Senate orders for documents. In its second report of 2015 the committee endorsed a set of principles to be followed when making PII claims against the disclosure of information sought by the Senate. There has been some improvement in the way such claims are made, but the committee also noted that rates of compliance with orders remains low. The proposed continuing order would require the government to table a report every six months providing an update on the PII claims it has made.
Again, the committee will keep a watching brief on the operation of that order. Three other matters are dealt with in the report.
First, the former President referred to the committee a request from Senator Reynolds that it consider the circumstances of a vote being taken again in June this year following a claim that a vote was missed due to misadventure the previous sitting day, some 4 weeks earlier. The committee has published and endorsed a short paper on the principles involved.
The next matter, also referred by the former President, asked the committee to consider whether the Senate should develop rules for the mode of dress of senators. The committee considers that current practice, which leaves the matter to the judgment of senators, should continue.
Finally, the Senate referred two matters to the committee on 6 September, on the motion of the Leader of the Australian Greens, Senator Di Natale. They dealt with a proposed code for Respecting Cultural Diversity and amendments to standing order 193, dealing with the rules of debate. The committee did not consider that these matters should be progressed through adoption of a Senate order in the form proposed, nor through amendment of the standing orders. However, I expect that there will be further discussions among senators and parties about different approaches to these matters.
Acting Deputy President, as I have said, the motion I have moved would adopt the recommendations relating to the hours and routine of business, and tracking public interest immunity claims, and I commend that motion to the Senate.
Question agreed to.