Jul 29, 2012

Notes on Queensland’s Parliamentary Committee System

Items that deserve immediate attention

At present, a few technical, political and socio-economic changes are moving in directions that provide Queensland’s surveying and mapping practitioners with some reasons for optimism about the near future.  However, there are also countervailing reasons for some pessimism about global economic conditions; and the difficulties of maintaining respect for parliamentary and democratic institutions.

The Liberal National Party (LNP) gained a clear mandate to govern from results of the state election held on 24 March 2012.  The new government inherited a system of parliamentary committees that followed an extensive review by the Legislative Assembly under the Bligh Government; and the system was accepted for the most part on a bipartisan basis. Much of this is a response to a new phase of microeconomic reform that follows reports on regulation by Australia’s Productivity Commission . Key points related to this aspect of microeconomic reform are summarised in Reducing regulatory burdens for Queensland’s agriculture and resource industries, Paper No.1 July 2012.

Naming of New Committees on 17 May 2012

The State Governor opened the 54th Parliament on 16 May 2012. Her address to Parliament gave a preliminary account of the new government's legislative programme. 

The government introduced the Parliament of Queensland and Other Acts Amendment Bill 2012 - refer also to Explanatory Notes - and it passed through its first, second and third readings in a single day. The urgency of these actions indicates the importance of a workable committee system to the way the Newman Government intends to operate. The Bill took effect as Act No.6 of 2012 on 18 May 2012 - the date of the Bill's assent.

Some aspects of the approach to be taken by the Newman Government are summarised in Subordinate legislation tabled on 17 May 2012,  Report No. 5, State Development, Infrastructure and Industry Committee, July 2012 as follows:
Role of the Committee 
The State Development, Infrastructure and Industry Committee (the committee) is a portfolio committee established by the  Parliament of Queensland Act 2001  and the Standing Orders of the Legislative Assembly on 17 May 2012. 
It consists of government and non-government members.  The committee’s primary areas of responsibility are: State Development, Infrastructure and Planning, Energy and Water Supply, Tourism, Major Events, Small Business, and the Commonwealth Games. 
Section 93(1) of the  Parliament of Queensland Act 2001  provides that a portfolio committee is
responsible for examining each Bill and item of subordinate legislation in its portfolio area to
consider – 

a) the policy to be given effect by the legislation; b) the application of fundamental legislative principles to the legislation; and c) for subordinate legislation – its lawfulness

Parliaments referrals to Committees on 6 June 2012

At pp.679-681 of Hansard of 6 June 2012, Parliament made a number of references of particular issues to its committees. These take a general form in specifying:
  • particular issues for dealing by particular committees; and 
  • a requirement for committees to take public submissions and consult with key industry groups, industry participants and relevant experts:
  • a requirement to report findings to the Legislative Assembly by a due date.
The following provide further detail:
  • To the Finance and Administration Committee to inquire into operation of Queensland’s worker’s compensation arrangements and report by 28 February 2013.
  • To the Health and Community Services Committee to inquire into some urgent health issues) and report by 28 February 2013.
  • To the State Development, Infrastructure and Industry Committee to inquire into Queensland’s land tenure system and report by 30 November 2012 – closing date for submissions on 3 August 2012.
  • To the Agriculture, Resources and Environment Committee to inquire into regulatory requirements impacting on agriculture and resource industries and report by 30 November 2012 – closing date for submissions on 17 August 2012.
The closing dates of 3 August and 17 August 2012 for submissions to the last two of these Committee referrals will require statements from interested organisations and individuals by the due dates. Some inferences can be drawn from this kind of approach by the Queensland Parliament and the growing amounts of material disseminated through on-line communication channels. 

The invitation to make submissions carries with it some responsibilities in being prepared to respond quickly on the issues that are the subject of a Committee's inquiry. Being able to respond quickly and competently depends on the human and organisational capital that results from learning. While it is possible through these public discussions to establish credibility and confidence, it is also a way in which the uninitiated can reveal their ignorance. The ability to learn quickly and respond quickly depends on new kinds of professionals who must try to be ready as practicable for anything that might occur.

The cycle of life is that we work so we can live - and we live so we can work and also enjoy life. It is easier if learning and working can be seen as a source of enjoyment.

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