Ms TIERNEY (Western Victoria) — Firstly, I might create a world first by saying I agree with Mrs Peulich in terms of this motion not being riveting. The fact is it is not meant to be a riveting motion; it is a straight up and down, black and white request for a particular committee that has been established by this Parliament to do some work. I do not think that is a really hard ask at all. The committee we are dealing with this morning is the Standing Committee on Environment and Planning, a legislation committee. It was formed approximately four months ago. Whilst it has met, there has been very little substance to the meetings because, quite frankly, it does not have a work plan.
Without wanting to divulge any documents or internal discussions or anything like that, you can tell that the pile of reference committee documents on my table this morning is this thick — —
Mrs Peulich — On a point of order, Acting President, I would hate Ms Tierney to inadvertently mislead the house by saying that the legislation committee has no work plan. Indeed this matter has been addressed by the committee — —
The ACTING PRESIDENT (Mr Tarlamis) — Order! That is not a point of order.
Ms TIERNEY — As evidenced by the files on my desk here, this is the reference committee, and by searching really hard you can find a very slim volume called the legislation committee. We on this side of the chamber believe the standing orders that created the new committee structure really need to be looked at and enforced. As Ms Pennicuik has outlined, there are a number of areas at which the legislation committee could and should be looking, whether that be in terms of budget papers or in terms of departmental annual reports that come before this chamber. As a natural way of ensuring that the work gets done, there is plenty for this committee to do in between dealing with particular issues that are referred to it by this chamber.
This morning we are simply seeking a direction from this chamber that the committee develop and implement a work plan now and not await the results of the inquiry that is currently being conducted by the reference committee. We on this side of the chamber really are committed to the new committee structure, and we want it to work.
We believe the cross-party working party that developed the new committee structure really never envisaged that the work of one of the committees would override the work plan or work level of the other committee. I would also assert that I do not believe either the government or the chair of one committee could override the decisions or the chair of the other committee in terms of the work level. However, it is true that, because we have the same membership on both committees, we have to attend to and hold some practical deliberations over the work balance of the committees. Again, without wanting to imply too much, all of that requires cooperation, and that is also what we are seeking here — that is, not just a work plan and a schedule that can be developed and implemented now, without waiting until several months down the track, we also want cooperation, because we are committed to getting the committee system to work.
What we are seeking, then, is simple: we want a work plan that is not held in abeyance, waiting for the conclusion of the inquiry that is being conducted by the reference committee. We on this side are ready to roll up our sleeves and get on with the work that needs to be done, and the question we put to the house this morning is: what are the government members prepared to do? Quite frankly, so far we have had no indication of what this might be. We on this side of the chamber who are members of the legislation committee want the committee to work; we want a work schedule. This committee really does need some work put before it in a systematic way, so that we can not only organise our own individual schedules but can also organise the schedules of our support staff and the proper allocation of support resources, such as Hansard, that need to be organised.
Essentially the argument put — and we have heard this argument before — is that because we have the more specific electoral boundaries of members in this place, compared with those of senators, we are somehow off the hook when it comes to doing committee work. I think this view is an absolute travesty. If that were the case, then that should have been the view contemplated by the government members, who were then opposition members, on the cross-party working party at the time of formulation of this new system. It would have brought new air to the whole proposition of the committee structures, because it does raise a question about the degree to which we are or are not committed to the new committee system.
My view on this matter this morning is that essentially Victorian taxpayers deserve a lot better.
If we are going to rely on another committee having another work plan and work schedule, and that somehow because we are upper house members and not senators it means we do not have to roll up our sleeves and get down to business and get some work done, then I am sorely disappointed, and I think Victorian taxpayers would be too. I will leave my contribution at that, and I support Mr Tee’s motion.