Parliamentary Committee Update (October 2014)
The major reforms to the Queensland Parliament’s committee system and legislative process that were implemented in August 2011, have now been in operation for over three years. During that time, Queensland’s new system of portfolio committees completed examinations of over 225 Bills following their introduction to the Parliament and completed a further 16 inquiries into matters of community importance.
Each of the Parliament’s seven portfolio committees oversees specific areas of government responsibility. These committees then have the following powers to examine each Bill that the Parliament refers to them:
(a) calling for and receiving submissions about the Bill
(b) holding hearings and taking evidence from witnesses
(c) engaging expert or technical assistance and advice
(d) seeking the opinion of other committees.
For the past three years, committees have had a focus on engaging with Queenslanders during their examinations of Bills. This has included receiving and considering over 2,000 written submissions per year and receiving evidence from around 1,000 people per year during public hearings.
Following their consultations, the portfolio committees must report to the House on each Bill with their reports then available to all Members of Parliament before the Bill is debated and considered in the Parliament. These reports contain recommendations on whether the committee believes that the Bill should be passed and also whether the committee believes that amendments should be made to improve the Bill.
Over the past three years, these committee reports have contained 287 recommendations that legislative amendments be made to the Bills that have been examined. Of these, the Parliament voted to approve 134 (47%) of these amendments.
As well as these 287 recommended legislative amendments, committee reports on Bills have also contained 259 other (non-legislative) recommendations. The government accepted 182 (70%) of these recommendations.
Below are Bills that parliamentary committees are currently examining (listed by each relevant portfolio committee):
Agriculture, Resources and Environment Committee
- Environmental Protection and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2014
- Water Reform and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2014
Education and Innovation Committee
- Education and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2014
Health and Community Services Committee
- Health Legislation Amendment Bill 2014
Legal Affairs and Community Safety Committee
- Weapons (Digital 3D and Printed Firearms) Amendment Bill 2014
- Domestic and Family Violence Protection and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2014
State Development, Infrastructure and Industry Committee
- Major Events Bill 2014
- Liquid Fuel (Ethanol) Amendment Bill 2014
Transport, Housing and Local Government Committee
- Queensland Heritage and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2014.
In addition, the following issued-based inquiries are currently being undertaken by committees:
- the Transport, Housing and Local Government Committee is holding an inquiry into Coastal Sea Freight
- the Legal Affairs and Community Safety Committee is holding an inquiry on strategies to prevent and reduce criminal activity in Queensland.
- The Education and Innovation Committee is reviewing school attendance rates
- The Finance and Administration Committee is inquiring into the legislative arrangements assuring the Queensland Auditor-General’s independence.
Anyone with an interest in any of these Bills or issues can follow the progress of these committee inquiries and get involved. Please check the Parliament’s website to see the status of each inquiry, including dates for public submissions to be received and upcoming hearing details. Individuals, groups and organisations are encouraged to make submissions and have their opinions heard.
The Parliament’s website address is www.parliament.qld.gov.au.
On the website’s front page, select the ‘Work of Committees’ tab to find all information relevant to each committee and their current and past inquiries. Copies of all committee reports are available on the Queensland Parliament’s website. Committee public hearings are often broadcast live on the Parliament’s website and then available to watch on replay afterwards.
 Figures are from the commencement of the 54th Parliament to 30 June 2014.
Get Involved With Queensland's Parliamentary Committees
The introduction of a portfolio-based parliamentary committee system in 2011 was one of the most significant and important reforms to the Queensland Parliament since its establishment in 1860. There are now seven committees that are each aligned to specific government departments and have responsibilities to examine and scrutinise the activities, budgets and proposed legislative changes of these departments.
For example, the Education and Innovation Committee is responsible for overseeing the Departments of Education, Training and Employment and Science, Information Technology, Innovation and the Arts. A full list of all Committees and the Departments that they oversee are published on the parliament's website - http://www.parliament.qld.gov.au/work-of-committees/whats-new
The new portfolio committees have powers to examine Bills (proposed legislation) before they are debated in Parliament. The committees may hold public hearings into the Bills, consult persons and groups likely to be affected by the new laws and engage expert opinion.
This built-in consultative process is aimed at providing greater public input into new laws and increased scrutiny of what is being proposed. Following each committee examination, a report is tabled in Parliament with recommendations on whether the Bill should be passed and proposals for how the Bill can be improved. Debate on the Bill then commences in Parliament with Members of Parliament informed by the findings of the committee's examination.
The aim is for the Parliament to be better informed about Bills before they are debated and for better laws to be passed. Outcomes from the new committee system's first six months of operation support this with the Parliament having agreed to accept 59% of legislative amendments to Bills that were proposed by committees and 97% of other non-legislative recommendations.
With the commencement of the new parliament following our recent election, new Bills and other matters will be forwarded to the relevant portfolio committees with inquiry processes then to commence. Details of these inquiries will all be published on the Parliament's web site under the ‘Work of Committees' section. Individuals and stakeholder groups wishing to have their say will be encouraged to do so by way of making submissions and giving evidence at committee hearings.
These committee hearings are overwhelmingly open for the public to attend and are also broadcast live on the Parliament's web site. During parliamentary sitting weeks, all committees hold their meeting and hearings on a Wednesday morning. Up to three hearings will now be broadcast live simultaneously online with those interested able to select which of these hearings they may wish to watch. The footage from these hearings is then able to be replayed afterwards on the Parliament's web site.
Details of committee hearings that are to be broadcast live and how to access this footage will be published on the front page of the Parliament's web site. I encourage you to get involved with these parliamentary committees and have your say. By making submissions and keeping informed about committee inquiries, you are contributing to Queensland's democratic process and shaping its direction.