Fact Sheet G2

Fact Sheet G2: Parliamentary Committees

Summary: Many members of Parliament work on parliamentary committees.  Most committees investigate topical issues in detail, and take evidence from experts and the public. You can take part in this process. The committee reviews all the evidence and prepares a report which the government considers.

Committees’ role

Types of committees

Issues committees investigate

Taking part in a committee inquiry

Public hearings

Committee recommendations

Find out more

Current joint investigatory committees

 

Committees’ role

Committees investigate specific issues and make recommendations to the government.  This suits a small group of members.  They work together to research an issue in detail, by gathering and reviewing evidence from experts and the public.

A very important part of a committee’s work is public contact.  You can send a committee your views, and may be asked to give evidence at a public hearing. In this way members are better informed about community views.

Members from different political parties work on each committee.  They often take a bipartisan approach and work together to consider evidence and agree to recommendations. 

Committees prepare detailed reports which usually contain recommendations to the government.  As recommendations are made after a detailed inquiry, they add value to the policy-making process. 

The government considers and responds to each recommendation.  Sometimes recommendations lead to changes to the law or public policy.  However, the government does not have to accept any of the recommendations.

Types of committees

Most committees are either joint investigatory committees,  select committees or standing committees.  These committees conduct public inquiries and encourage public participation. We focus on the work of these public committees in this fact sheet.

Joint investigatory committees

Joint investigatory committees are called ‘joint’ because members from both the Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council work on them.  As their title suggests, they investigate particular topics and prepare detailed reports. 

Both Houses appoint committee members at the start of each new parliament.

Standing committees 

If the Assembly or Council wants an ongoing committee, without involving the other House, it sets up a standing committee.  Standing committees last for the life of a parliament.

Select committees

The Assembly and Council establish other committees, known as select committees, as needed.  They have a more limited life, usually only until they finish investigating a particular issue.

Domestic committees

The Assembly has internal committees, often called domestic committees, which deal with Assembly procedures or Parliament’s administration.  Domestic committees meet privately and usually do not ask for submissions or hold public hearings. 

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Issues committees investigate

Joint investigatory committees

The Parliamentary Committees Act 2003 gives joint investigatory committees specific responsibilities.  There are currently nine committees dealing with issues from education and jobs to environment and natural resources.  See Current joint investigatory committees below for a full list. 

They investigate topics given to them by the Governor, on the government’s advice, or by either the Legislative Assembly or Legislative Council.  The instructions to investigate an issue are called ‘terms of reference’.  In some situations a committee can also decide to investigate a topic itself.

Select committees

Select committees are usually set up and given terms of reference by either the Assembly or Council.  They are more common in the Council than the Assembly. In 2015, the Council established a select committee to investigate the proposed lease of the Port of Melbourne.

Standing committees

Like joint investigatory committees, standing committees are responsible for a specific area of government administration.  The Assembly has not set up any standing committees recently. 

The Council currently has three standing committees:

Economy and Infrastructure
Environment and Planning
Legal and Social Issues

Standing committees receive their terms of reference from the House that establishes them.

Taking part in a committee inquiry

First check the details of the topic being investigated.  The terms of reference set the scope of the inquiry.  For details:  

 Visit www.parliament.vic.gov.au or contact the Committee Services Office on 03 8682 2800.

When committees start an inquiry, they ask for submissions.  Look for advertisements in newspapers or follow @VicParliament on Twitter.  If you want to contribute, send a submission before the advertised deadline. 

The committees have a helpful guide called Making a Submission.  For a physical copy contact the Committee Services Office on 03 8682 2800.

The guide explains how to prepare a submission, what to do if you want confidentiality and how parliamentary privilege may protect you.

Sometimes a committee issues a discussion paper at the start of its inquiry. This starts an initial discussion before the committee fully investigates a topic. You can send a submission about the discussion points.

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Public hearings

An important part of a committee’s work is collecting evidence from experts and the public.  The committee reviews submissions and decides who to invite to give evidence at a public hearing.

If a committee asks you to be a witness, two committee brochures will help,  Giving Evidence at a Public Hearing and Rights and Responsibilities of a Witness.

For a physical copy contact the Committee Services Office on 03 8682 2800 and ask for a copy.

Most hearings are public.  Committees advertise when these take place, put details on our website and tweet from @VicParliament.  Hearings are held in Melbourne and throughout Victoria, depending on the topic being investigated.

Committee recommendations

A committee prepares a report at the end of its inquiry and tables it in the Legislative Assembly.  The report summarises the investigation and evidence, and gives the committee's recommendations.

The government must respond to the recommendations within six months.  The response is publicly available as soon as it is tabled in the Assembly. 

Find out more

Each committee has a page on our website with contact details, information about current inquiries and completed inquiry reports.

The current status of all committee inquiries is available on the committees website.

web

Committees Inquiry Status Table

phone

Committee Services Office: 03 8682 2800

 follow

 @VicParliament on Twitter

 

Current joint investigatory committees 

Accountability and Oversight Committee — monitoring the Freedom of Information Commissioner, the Victorian Inspectorate in respect of Ombudsman officers, and other matters concerning freedom of information.

Economic, Education, Jobs and Skills Committee — industrial affairs; education and training; and new urban regions.

Electoral Matters Committee — parliamentary elections and referendums; local elections and electoral matters.

Environment, Natural Resources and Regional Development Committee — the environment; natural resources; planning the use, development or protection of land; and development and services in regional Victoria.

Family and Community Development Committee — welfare of the family and the community; and the role of government in those areas.

IBAC Committee — monitoring the Independant Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission and most functions of the Victorian Inspectorate.

Law Reform, Road and Community Safety Committee — legal, constitutional or parliamentary reform; road trauma and safety on roads; the use, manufacture and supply of drugs; and the level or causes of crime.

Public Accounts and Estimates Committee — public administration; public sector finances; annual estimates; responsibilities under the Audit Act 1994; and monitoring the Victorian Inspectorate in respect of Auditor-General officers.

Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee — reviewing Acts and regulations; and reviewing bills for abuses of rights and freedoms, the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction and under the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities.

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