Supporting information for teachers
Use these brief notes to prepare for the Run a parliamentary committee classroom activity.
- The Parliament of Australia uses the committee system to closely investigate matters of public importance and examine bills. Committees research issues, gather evidence from experts and individuals, and make recommendations. They can do this in more detail than is possible in either the Senate or House of Representatives. Committees are made up of members of parliament who question witness groups and report to the Parliament on their findings.
- The committee prepares a report which is tabled in Parliament. The report may make recommendations for Parliament to consider. For example, it may suggest that Parliament introduces legislation, or amends a bill or an existing law, to deal with the issue. The government may act on these recommendations, or it may respond by developing policies or seeking further information. However, the government is not obliged to act on the committee's recommendations.
- Witnesses should ensure that they have thoroughly researched the information that they will be presenting to the committee. They need to support any assertions they make with substantial evidence.
- One of the committee's main jobs is to evaluate all the information presented to it, even when that evidence may be contradictory. The committee may decide it agrees with the point of view of one witness group over another, or may make its own conclusions after taking into account all the information presented.
- Anyone can submit information to a Senate or House committee. Committees provide an opportunity for organisations, groups and individuals to participate in law-making, and to have their views placed on the public record and considered as part of the decision-making process.
- Many parliamentary committee hearings are held at Parliament House, but committees also travel all over Australia to discuss issues with many different people.
- Standing committees operate continuously and concentrate on examining bills and issues relating to particular subjects. For example, the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Education and Employment examines bills and issues relating to these two areas.
- If the Parliament wishes to investigate a specific issue outside these areas, it may form a select committee.
- Committee hearings are usually formal public meetings of the Parliament. Hansard reporters record everything that is said. Submissions and hearings are published in Hansard and are available on the Parliament House website.