Monday, August 20, 2007

"The committee does not have to give reasons"

Following my post last week on the Government Administration Committee's lightweight report [PDF] on the Animal Welfare (Restriction on Docking of Dogs' Tails) Bill, I emailed the chair and deputy chair of the Committee seeking an explanation. Today I received the following response from the Clerk of Committee:

The committee has completed its consideration of this bill and therefore is not at liberty to enter a dialogue about its consideration as the matter is no longer an item of business before the committee.

For your information, there is no set format for a committee's report on a bill and the report can be as short or as long as the committee chooses. The committee is not obliged to give reasons for a decision.

In this instance, the committee considered all the information available to it and decided to recommend that the bill not be passed. The committee does not have to give reasons for this decision.

The report together with all documentation considered by the committee is publicly available in the Parliamentary Library.

(Emphasis added)

So, they can make any decision they like, but they don't have to explain why. No matter what you think of the particular bill, that stinks. Democratic government has a constant and ongoing obligation to justify its actions to the electorate so that it may be judged and held accountable for them. Unfortunately, it seems we have yet another holdover of monarchical unaccountability in our select committee processes.

(And if you think this isn't important, just consider that this principle of unaccountability also applies to the Election Finance Bill...)

The committee members have since come out and said that neither major party supported the bill, but they should really have said that in their report.