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

 

 

Committees’ role

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

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. Recommendations add value to the policy-making process, because they are made after detailed inquiries. 

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 the recommendations.

Types of committees

Most committees are investigatory committees. These committees conduct public inquiries and encourage public participation. We focus on the work of these public committees in this fact sheet. The Parliament also has several domestic committees.

Joint committees

Joint committees are called ‘joint’ because members from both the Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council work on them. They oversee some government and parliamentary processes and bodies. They also investigate particular topics and prepare detailed reports. 

The Assembly and the Council appoint committee members at the start of each new parliament.

Joint committees are established under the Parliamentary Committees Act 2003.

Standing committees 

Standing committees investigate particular topics and prepare detailed reports. Unlike joint committees they only involve members from the Assembly or the Council, not both.

Standing committees are established under the standing orders (rules) of the Assembly or Council. The Assembly and the Council appoint committee members at the start of each new parliament.

Select committees

The Assembly and Council can also establish other committees, known as select committees, as needed. They usually exist for only a short time to investigate one particular issue.

Select committees are established, and members appointed to them, by a resolution of the Assembly, Council or both.

Domestic committees

The Assembly and the Council have internal committees, often called domestic committees, which deal with Assembly or Council procedures or Parliament’s administration. Domestic committees meet privately and usually do not ask for submissions or hold public hearings. The Standing Orders Committee, Privileges Committee and Dispute Resolution Committee are all domestic committees.

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Issues committees investigate

Joint committees

The Parliamentary Committees Act 2003 gives joint investigatory committees specific responsibilities. 

Most have an ongoing oversight role but they also investigate particular topics. The Governor, on the government’s advice, the Legislative Assembly or Legislative Council can give a topic to a committee to investigate.  We call the instructions to investigate ‘terms of reference’.  In some situations, a committee can also decide to investigate a topic itself.

Current joint committees and their areas of investigation:

Integrity and Oversight Committee — oversight of the Information Commissioner, the Victorian Inspectorate, and the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission.

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

Public Accounts and Estimates Committee — public administration, public sector finances and annual estimates; the Victorian Inspectorate in respect of Auditor-General officers; and oversight of the Auditor-General's Office and the Parliamentary Budget Office.

Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee — whether bills affect rights and freedoms and the review of regulations and other legislative instruments.

Standing committees

Like joint committees, standing committees are responsible for a specific area of government administration. 

The Assembly and the Council have three standing committees each. It can be confusing because the three Assembly committees have the same names as the three Council committees:

  • Economy and Infrastructure
  • Environment and Planning
  • Legal and Social Issues.

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

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 in the Assembly. In 2017, the Assembly established a select committee to investigate penalty rates and fair pay.

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 Giving written evidence to a parliamentary committee. For a hard 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, read the guide on Giving evidence to a parliamentary committee at a public hearing.

For a hard copy contact the Committee Services Office on 03 8682 2800.

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 Parliament. 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 Parliament. 

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

phone

Committee Services Office: 03 8682 2800

 follow

 @VicParliament on Twitter

 

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