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AGAINST – Documents — Legislation Committees; Order for the Production of Documents

Ross Cadell

At the request of Senator Hume, I move:

That—

(a) there be laid on the table by each chair of a Senate Legislation Committee, in respect of questions taken on notice in that committee during Budget estimates, supplementary estimates, or additional estimates hearings, a statement that provides:

(i) the number of questions taken on notice not answered at the previous round of estimates hearings by the due date set by the committee, and

(ii) an explanation of the action taken by the relevant chair to seek the answers to questions taken on notice not answered at the previous round of estimates hearings;

(b) the statement by the chair be laid on the table not later than 5 days following the due date set for the provision of answers to questions taken on notice;

(c) any senator may move to take note of the explanation required by paragraph (a); and

(d) any motion under paragraph (c) may be debated for no longer than 60 minutes, have precedence over all business until determined, and senators may speak to the motion for not more than 5 minutes each.

Anthony Chisholm

I seek leave to make a short statement.

Sue Lines

Leave is granted for one minute.

Anthony Chisholm

The government will not be supporting this motion moved by Senator Hume. Previously Senator Hume has written to committee chairs trying to put an onus for action onto them about unanswered questions on notice. This notice of motion would formalise that approach. However, the government accepts the onus for action is on ministers, and Senator Hume should accept this too.

The motion duplicates continuing order 21, agreed to by the Senate on the motion of Senator Wong in 2014, which provides that ministers must table the number of questions taken on notice at the previous round of estimates hearings, the number of answers provided to the committee by the date set by the committee for answers, and, of those answers not provided to the committee by the due date, the dates on which answers were provided to the approving minister's office. In addition, a number of committee secretariats have adopted the practice of indicating how many remain unanswered, when answers are circulated. Under standing order 75, senators can seek explanation of unanswered questions on notice, as a mechanism for enforcing compliance. Committees also report to the Senate with respect to consideration of estimates, and the opportunity exists.

David Pocock

I seek leave to make a short statement.

Sue Lines

Leave is granted for one minute.

David Pocock

Thanks, Senator Hume, for pursuing questions on notice, as I think it's a really important part of what we do here, and I've had frustrations about not getting questions on notice back in a timely manner. I am concerned, though, that this—on my reading—provides up to eight hours of debate, and, given how pressed for time we are here, at times, I don't think that's warranted. I would support one hour to debate all of it, but I won't be supporting this motion, given the amount of time it presents us to debate it.

Sue Lines

The question is that general business notice of motion No. 447, standing in the name of Senator Hume and moved by Senator Cadell, be agreed to.

Summary

Date and time: 4:50 PM on 2024-02-27
Senator Pocock's vote: No
Total number of "aye" votes: 28
Total number of "no" votes: 30
Total number of abstentions: 18

Adapted from information made available by theyvoteforyou.org.au