Parliament business unfinished

by Chris Griffith
Published 16 July 1995 in The Sunday Mail


my face


CJC travel rorts inquiry recommendations, reform of state parliament, vetting of jurors, and controls on how-to-vote cards -- they were among the unfinished business of the 47th Queensland Parliament.

In all, 10 pieces of legislation introduced into State Parliament since the 1992 election will now slip off the notice paper into oblivion, forgotten, and never to be heard of again, unless of course they are resurrected anew in the next parliament.

At the top of the list is a Bill introduced by Premier Wayne Goss in November 1992 to implement the CJC's first and pivotal recommendation in its famous Parliamentary Travel Rorts Inquiry report.

The Bill splits the Clerk of Parliament's role so that the Clerk, who deals with MP's on a daily basis, no longer has to process travel claims and is therefore no longer intimidated by having to knock back any dodgy requests.

The Bill was never passed, mainly because Mr Goss flicked the issue to EARC and its Parliamentary Committee which recommended against the CJC's idea after letters of protest by the current Clerk and Speaker Jim Fouras. They said new travel guidelines had overcome the problem.

This recommendation's quiet sinking is one last rejection of Sir Max Bingham's approach to the controversial travel inquiry, which in 1992 led to the resignation of two government ministers and the then Opposition Leader.

Not sinking quietly, but kicking and screaming, is Opposition Leader Rob Borbidge's private members' Bill to force the registration of how-to-vote cards so that bogus ones can be eliminated on polling day. ALP campaign director Mike Kaiser has since signalled that Labor will publish 'Green preference cards', urging Green voters to give preferences to Labor.

Come election night, it may be Mr Borbidge's political fortunes that sink quietly into oblivion if minor party voters embrace Mr Kaiser's 'Green cards'.

Many of these 10 forgotten pieces of legislation are those the government drafted late in its term. The Jury Bill 1995 is Attorney-General Dean Wells's response to the large-scale jury vetting during the Herscu and Bjelke-Petersen trials.

It aims to limit access to jury lists and is certain to be reinstated in the next Parliament if Labor is reelected.

Also odds-on for reinstatement is the Parliamentary Committees Bill 1995, which establishes a new set of parliamentary committees including an Ethics and Parliamentary Privileges Committee. Importantly, it gives committees some teeth by forcing relevant government ministers to reply in writing to all committee recommendations.

This Bill, introduced only in May this year, has enjoyed a relatively low priority. EARC originally recommended these parliamentary reforms way back in October 1992, and the EARC Parliamentary committee produced its endorsing report in October 1993. That's 20 months ago.

Other government legislation Parliament never got around to considering is the Motor Accident Insurance Legislation Amendment Bill, the Status of Children Amendment Bill, the Choice of Law Bill, and the Building Units and Group Amendments Bill.

Howard Hobb's Land Amendment Bill, and Mark Stoneman's Nature Conservation Amendment Bill are the other two private members' initiatives bound for oblivion.