The Legislative Council committee system is a significant development in the strengthening of the State's parliamentary system. It allows the House to more efficiently perform one of its roles as a house of review and to keep the executive accountable for its actions.
Legislative Council standing committees have been established by standing orders and their existence survives dissolution. Accordingly the standing committees continue from one Parliament to the next. Members are appointed to committees and their membership can also continue; however in practice, membership is usually nominated for the life of the Parliament only and there may be delays in reconstituting the membership of committees at the beginning of a new Parliament.
Legislative Council Standing Committees have a defined set of functions to perform (terms of reference) and may also initiate their own inquiries within their terms of reference. They are essentially generic, ‘whole of Government’ committees with each having a broad, but distinct, focus in their potential subjects for inquiry. They are not restricted in their inquiries to specific Government portfolios, although each committee’s terms of reference defines a basic broad area of responsibility so as to avoid an overlap with another committee’s jurisdiction.
Select committees of the Legislative Council are established to carry out a specialised inquiry into a particular matter. They have a limited life, are defined by the terms of their appointment, and usually dissolve once their inquiry is completed or if Parliament is prorogued (whichever event first occurs).
Committee systems often undergo review and refinements. The modern Legislative Council committee system has been in operation since 1989 (with some occasional refinements). During the Thirty-Seventh Parliament (which commenced in March 2005) the Legislative Council amended its standing orders to facilitate a revision and realignment of the committees and their terms of reference.
The current Legislative Council committees are: