Lost amid the hubbub of election speculation, the Savva book and the Coalition's division and confusion, last week the government quietly signalled its downgrading of the most important parliamentary committee.

When Labor's John Faulkner left politics over the 2014-15 summer break, he left an important legacy: a bill substantially overhauling Parliament's Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, which, unlike other committees, is separately established under the Intelligence Services Act. Faulkner wanted to overhaul the clumsy process of allocating spots between the major parties and the two chambers on the committee and, more importantly, give the committee greater oversight power in relation to intelligence, security and counter-terrorism agencies -- including the ability to initiate its own inquiries.