PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEES AMENDMENT BILL 2019
Mr J BULL (Sunbury) (12:54:04): Clearly the opposition knows far more than the government does about its own processes. Ms Spence interjected. Mr J BULL: That is right. They certainly know how to pick talent, member for Yuroke. I am very pleased to have the opportunity to speak on the Parliamentary Committees Amendment Bill 2019. Victorians, people across this country and right across the globe deserve governments, parliaments and democracies that place them at the centre of policymaking and lawmaking decisions. They deserve laws that are drafted with sound analysis, thorough research and that are based on evidence and science. One of the ways the government, indeed the Parliament, can make its best decisions and therefore be at its most democratic is through the parliamentary committee process, a very important process. We have just heard some comments about that process. I am going to come back to the lead speaker from the opposition a little later in my contribution. I am sure that all members on both sides of the house would agree that some of the work we are able to do on committees is very important work. Some of the research, the analysis and the time to review and look into matters that you may not otherwise get a sound analysis or sound piece of reflection on, if you like, would not happen without the work of parliamentary committees. Last term I had the opportunity to serve on the Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee, with you, Acting Speaker Kilkenny; and the house committee. I also chaired the Environment, Natural Resources and Regional Development Committee. These committees provide great opportunities for that research and analysis and to investigate issues that are required to be looked at by the Parliament. What is important though is that these committees are constantly reviewed and that we reflect on the way they operate and how responsive they are to the needs of local communities, in the city, in the suburbs, in the regions and right across our state. This bill is important because it looks at the way in which the parliamentary committees operate and many of those important issues that have already been canvassed. The primary purpose of this bill is to update and modernise the structure and duplication of committees. There is no doubt that there are issues that get referred to various committees across both sides of Parliament that do need that sound analysis, but what we need to be careful of is ensuring that a lot of this work is not duplicated. This bill will amend the Parliamentary Committees Act 2003 by abolishing four policy‑focused joint house committees, reducing the number of joint house committees from nine to five. Three new standing committees of the Legislative Assembly will be established through amendments to the standing orders. The bill will amend the Parliamentary Salaries and Superannuation Act 1968. We know that there are important measures to ensure that the process, the dynamics and the way that the Parliament deals with our committee process are looked at. This bill is an important bill for the government. It is an important bill because we want to ensure that the best system of committees is in place. We know that some of the joint house committees will be abolished. The Economic, Education, Jobs and Skills, Environment Committee, the Natural Resources Committee and Regional Development Committee, the Family and Community Development Committee and the Law Reform and the Road and Community Safety Committee will go. There will be the establishment of the Standing Committee on the Economy and Infrastructure, the Standing Committee on the Environment and Planning and the Standing Committee on Legal and Social Issues. We know that the new standing committees will have the power to inquire into and report on any proposal and any matter or thing connected with the department or their related agencies. There is nothing in this legislation that prohibits a matter from going to a committee in the first place with a referral. I take the point from those opposite around ensuring that the balance of committees is right, but it is my view and the government’s view that this balance is right. I want to take the opportunity in the limited time that I have available to thank the hardworking parliamentary staff who support members of Parliament on parliamentary committees. Certainly I am sure you will agree that the volume of work that is undertaken by our parliamentary staff—our research officers, those that support the library—is an extensive amount of work. The sheer volume of data and research and the time that it takes for matters to come to a committee is extraordinarily large. I want to note that work, acknowledge that work and thank all those staff for the work that has been done. I would not want to be getting the wind‑up on this very important piece of legislation, but I am very pleased to commend this bill to the house. Sitting suspended 1.00 p.m. until 2.01 p.m.