The last post outlined significant changes to the committee system in the 57th Parliament. This post discusses the background to these changes, focusing on the process for establishing committees, determining their membership and appointing chairs and deputy chairs.
Types of committees
There are two key types of committees within the Legislative Council: standing committees and select committees.
Standing committees are typically established at the start of a new Parliament and exist for the life of each Parliament (four years). These include the Standing Committees on Law and Justice, Social Issues and State Development, Portfolio Committees, Public Works and Public Accountability Committees, Regulation Committee, Selection of Bills Committee, Privileges Committee and Procedure Committee.
Select committees can be established by the House at any time to inquire into particular ‘hot button’ issues. Previous select committees have inquired into human trafficking, off-protocol prescribing of chemotherapy and supply, demand and prices of electricity. Select committees cease to exist once an inquiry has been completed.
Membership of committees
The composition of each committee is determined by the House. The resolution establishing a committee will specify the number of positions to be allocated to the government, opposition and crossbench, and it is up to each grouping to determine how these positions are to be filled. In the case of disagreement among crossbench members as to the nominees, as sometimes occurs, the President informs the House and a ballot is held to determine which nominated crossbench member(s) will fill the positon(s).
Although it is less common, the resolution establishing a committee can name particular members to sit on a committee. This is most likely for select committees.
Appointment of chairs and deputy chairs
Chairs and deputy chairs can be appointed via various means. Chairs and deputy chairs can be appointed by the House when a committee is established, as is common for select committees. Chairs and deputy chairs can also be nominated by either the Leader of the Government or Opposition, as is the case for the subject standing committees.
The chair or deputy chair can also be elected by the committee members themselves at their first meeting. If more than one member is nominated for the role of chair or deputy chair, a ballot is held, similar to that in the House to appoint the President. The chairs and deputy chairs of the seven Portfolio Committees will be elected in coming weeks – although as of this year, only non-government members can be elected chair.
Watch our website in coming weeks as members are nominated to serve on Upper House committees in the 57th Parliament, and as chairs and deputy chairs are appointed.