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The Queensland Parliament’s activities in 2012

Parliament House 2013

At the start of a new year, it is timely to look back on the Queensland Parliament’s activities in 2012.

The Parliament’s first sitting week for the year was in February. This was the final sitting of the 53rd Parliament, with the dissolution of the House then occurring on 19 February. Following the state election held on 24 March, the Parliament returned on 15 May for the formal swearing in of members of the 54th Parliament followed by the official opening of the Parliament by the Governor, Her Excellency Ms Penelope Wensley AC, on 16 May 2012.

During 2012 there were 12 parliamentary sitting weeks as well as two weeks of Estimates Committee hearings. A total of 63 Bills were introduced during the year with 57 of these being referred to the Parliament’s portfolio committees for examination.

The Parliament passed 46 Bills into law during the year with a further 20 Bills that were introduced during 2012 awaiting consideration in 2013.

The consideration of Bills by the Parliament, that is, their introduction and debate by Members of Parliament, accounted for just over half of the Parliament’s sitting time during 2012. The chart below outlines the full breakdown of all business conducted in the Assembly during the year.

 2012 Parliament activities pie chart

(Other parliamentary business includes matters of public interest, adjournment debate, disallowance of statutory instruments, address-in-reply, etc)

Question Time is the hour allocated each sitting day for Members of Parliament to ask Ministers questions relating to their Ministerial responsibilities. During 2012, a total of 604 questions were asked ‘without notice’ in Question Time. A further 879 questions were asked ‘on notice’, with Ministers having 30 calendar days to formally respond to these.

Parliament is also an important forum for Members to make statements about matters of importance to them and their constituents. A total of 526 such statements were made by Members during 2012, 230 of the being Ministerial Statements and 296 being made by non-government and back-bench Members.

By tradition, Members of Parliament table petitions in Parliament, with each of these then forwarded to the relevant Minister for a response. In 2012, 192 petitions were tabled with 154,549 persons in total signing these petitions. In addition to these petitions, Members tabled a further 2,241 documents during the year. Each of these is able to be accessed on-line via the Parliament’s Tabled Papers Database.

Parliamentary committees play an important role in Queensland’s parliamentary system. Committees investigate specific issues and report back to the Parliament. Some committees also have continuing roles to monitor and review public sector organisations or keep areas of the law or activity under review.

In 2011 a new system of portfolio-based committees were established by the Parliament with each given the responsibility of examining proposed new laws that are introduced into the Parliament. The Parliament’s seven portfolio committees are aligned to specific areas of Government activity and have responsibilities for:

  • examining Bills introduced into the Parliament
  • inquiring into specific issues that have been referred to them by the Parliament
  • monitoring and reviewing public sector organisations
  • keeping areas of the law or activity under review.

Committees may examine Bills and other issues of importance by holding hearings, calling for submissions and receiving expert advice.

To date, committees have held 112 hearings into issues that they examined during the year. These hearings have been held at Parliament House and across regional Queensland with the overwhelming majority being open to the public. Many of these hearings are also broadcast on the Parliament’s Internet site and available to watch both live and on replay with these broadcasts receiving thousands of hits each month.

Members of the public and stakeholder groups with an interest in any committee inquiries are encouraged to contact the relevant committee and get involved with these inquiries. Full details of all current committee inquiries and committee contact details are available on the Parliament’s web site.

Committees publish reports on their findings and where appropriate, make recommendations on how they believe proposed legislation can be improved by amendment. In 2012, parliamentary committees published a total of 137 reports on their examinations of Bills and other matters that they were inquiring into.

Another function of the portfolio committees is to serve as the Estimates Committees during the Parliament’s annual budget process. Following the introduction in Parliament of the proposed budget for the upcoming year (Appropriation Bill), each Estimates Committee holds a hearing to scrutinise the proposed spending of each Government department. This occurs in the Legislative Council Chamber at Parliament House and each Minister, their Director-General and other senior staff able to be questioned. The committees then report on this before the Parliament decides on whether to grant supply by passing the Appropriation Bill. The Parliament’s Estimates Committee hearings occurred over two weeks in October with the budget then passed later that month.

Parliamentary sittings will resume on 12 February 2013.