It’s been a spectacular week in the
Senate Estimates Committees. Rock ‘n’ roll. But with July 1 and
Government control of the Senate looming, has it been a farewell tour?
No – and you can be part of the show.

We’ve heard this week from
the Opposition and the Democrats about how they plan to use the wider
Senate Committee system to keep the Government under scrutiny and have
input into legislation and issues. We’ve also considered if the
Government’s impenetrable façade might crack, if – paradoxically –
control of the Senate means Government members may demonstrate more

But there’s more to Senate – and, indeed, all
Commonwealth Parliamentary Committees than politicians. The Parliament
House website makes it very clear “Public input is also important.
Through its committees Parliament is able to be better informed of
community problems and attitudes. Committees provide a public forum for
the presentation of the various views of individual citizens and
interest groups.”

The Senate Committee information brief makes it perfectly clear:

Committees inquiring into matters of general public
interest usually advertise their terms of reference to the public and
invite submissions. Persons or organisations with specialist knowledge
or representative views may be specifically invited to make a
submission… The committees examine the material which has been
submitted to them, sometimes with the assistance of expert advisers,
and then proceed to examine or test a selection of the submissions by
inviting witnesses to appear before the committee to answer questions
and comment further on their submissions.

Like Crikey. The Mayne Man has fronted up to talk about corporate law reform.

As well as hearing evidence in Canberra, committees
frequently travel to other cities and sites to see and hear evidence
“at the source”… The usual practice is for a committee to invite
persons or organisations to provide documents and to make oral or
written submissions. As committee hearings provide a forum in which
individuals and groups may put their views directly to the Parliament,
the opportunity to appear is usually welcomed.

while Kerry Packer may have famously appeared before the enquiry into
media ownership “reluctantly”, there are decided benefits available to
witnesses: “The proceedings of committees are recognised as proceedings
of Parliament and thus have the same privileges and immunities as
Parliament itself. This means that witnesses are provided with several
important rights and protections so that they may give evidence freely
and honestly without fear of recrimination… Papers and documents
presented to a committee are absolutely privileged because they are
proceedings in the transaction of parliamentary business.”

Have a look at what the various committees – Senate, Reps and Joint – are currently looking at here.
There’s something for everyone. And individual Senators will always
welcome a prompt. You can find out who’s on what Committee here and get their contact details here for Senators and here for MHRs.

will be different after July 1 – but you can still be part of the
process. And if you’re shy, we can help you. You know where to get us.