Given the often complex nature of the questions the Parliament is now required to consider, and the need for the Parliament to be aware of the opinions and needs of the wider community, the Parliament delegates many of its investigatory powers to temporary and permanent committees of its own Members.
For the purposes of the legislative process there are two classifications of committee (there are also committees for the administration of the Parliament): Select Committees and Standing Committees. Select and Standing Committees are traditionally Chaired by a Government Member and the majority of positions on all committees are occupied by Government Members. The reports of these Committees represent the majority view of the Committee and are made after an examination of the evidence before it. The effectiveness of a Committee and the authority of its findings and recommendations are dependent upon the quality of its evidence and the thoroughness of its inquiry.
The first classification is that of the temporary committees, known as Select Committees. Select Committees are established by either House for the purpose of inquiring into and reporting on a specific matter such as the examination of a Bill, or an aspect of public policy. A Select Committee utilises the powers of the Parliament to call for papers and records and summon witnesses. A Select Committee does not have any legislative power and its purpose is to inquire on behalf of its appointing House, deliberate upon the evidence it has gathered and reports its findings and its recommendations to the House. Joint Committees comprising Members of the House of Assembly and Legislative Council can be established. Select Committees are automatically disbanded on the Tabling of their final Report.
The other form of Parliamentary Committee is the Standing Committee.Standing Committees are permanent committees which have an ongoing role in a general field. The South Australian Parliament has a series of Standing Committees comprising Members of both Houses, with many sitting as joint committees, covering the entire range of Government activity.
Like the Select Committees they have a role in ensuring government accountability to the Parliament as well as examining complex questions as referred by the Governor, required by statute or forwarded by either House. Standing Committees also have the ability to initiate inquiries on their own motion but remain accountable to the Parliament for their activities. Standing Committees have no legislative power.