Wondering what it’s like for Legislative Council team members working behind the scenes on parliamentary inquiries? Read on for a quick peek into our Committee Office, and feel free to share if you know someone who’d be a great fit – because we’re hiring now!
Variety is the spice of life
Inquiry managers are busy people! On any given day, they could be engaged in establishing and promoting a new inquiry, reviewing submissions from organisations or community members, or briefing witnesses ahead of a vital public hearing. They might be setting up one of those hearings, accompanying members on an evidence-gathering site visit in regional NSW, or writing a report that conveys a committee’s recommendations to the government.
There’s a large variety of work but most importantly, everything our Committee Office does is to support the members of the Legislative Council and the committees they sit on, which are incredibly active. In 2021, our committees launched 45 new inquiries, published 43 reports full of findings and recommendations, reviewed thousands of submissions and held some 160 virtual or in-person hearings! You can find details of these on our website here.
By nature of their role, inquiry managers work directly with members of Parliament and get to have a close-up view of policy development and holding the government to account through the scrutiny process.
A closer look
The committees team provides support across the inquiry lifecycle, from the moment a committee decides (or is asked) to start a new inquiry. This might involve working with the Chair or another member of the committee to draft the terms of reference, which set the overarching purpose, aims and requirements of the inquiry. After the first meeting, where a committee agrees to adopt the terms of reference and progress the inquiry, the committee team then works to communicate the inquiry as widely as possible, to encourage members of the community and organisations to make submissions – you may have seen our calls for submissions on the Legislative Council’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, and can see all inquiries with open submissions at the bottom of our webpage here.
Once submissions close, inquiry managers review each and every one and provide them to committee members for consideration. An important part of the inquiry manager’s role here is to see whether each submission can be made public on the Parliament’s website, which involves noting the submission-maker’s request for their evidence to be public or confidential, and also carefully reviewing the submission for details that might need to be redacted, such as sensitive and identifying information when a submission-maker has asked for their name to be withheld, or instances of what we call ‘adverse mention’, such as defamatory comments.
Next, it’s time to organise hearings. Inquiry managers work closely with the Committee Chair to develop the Chair’s proposed witness list, taking into account which stakeholders have made high quality submissions and trying to present a balance of views. The Chair’s list is then sent to the committee for agreement.
Hearings are one of the most important parts of an inquiry. A lot of behind-the-scenes work goes into preparing for each day, to ensure that the hearing runs smoothly from an administrative point of view, but also to make sure the committee gets the evidence it needs to produce the best possible report. The inquiry manager briefs each person who is going to appear as a witness, to let them know what to expect on the day, and to advise on parliamentary procedure.
As well as gathering evidence through hearings, a committee might also make site visits in Sydney or anywhere across the state. Members value site visits as they’re a chance to get out and talk to people directly affected by an issue, visit a particular place, or see a piece of infrastructure in person. Past site visits have been to schools, hospitals, prisons, road projects, train stations, coal seam gas sites, dams, koala habitat, national parks and more.
Once the committee finishes gathering evidence, it’s time to draft the inquiry’s report. Here, the Council’s committee team works closely with the Chair to decide on the report outline and draw out the conclusions that have been reached during the inquiry. The report brings together all the evidence from submissions, hearings and site visits, outlining the key findings. Most importantly, the report sets out the committee’s views and makes recommendations to the government for policy change or other action.
Finally, when the report is published, the inquiry manager works with the Chair to communicate the findings to the public and those who have participated along the way.
Positions available (apply by 21 AUGUST)
Does the work of the Committee Office interest you? We have multiple positions available for inquiry managers (also known as Principal Council Officers, Clerk Grade 9/10), closing on 21 August 2022. Click here for more information and to apply.