Public Works Committee - Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to get a proposal referred to the Public Works Committee?

It is not possible to provide an accurate indication of overall timing.

When arranging for the referral of a proposal to the Committee it is advisable for departments to develop a realistic and detailed work plan for the parliamentary approval process that is compatible with the overall project work plan.

The Public Works Committee Secretariat has identified the following timeframes and factors that can influence timing:

  • the parliamentary sitting pattern – while proposals can be referred when Parliament is not sitting, reports can only be tabled, and expediency motions can only be moved when Parliament is sitting;
  • submissions and other papers are provided to the Public Works Committee at the time of the referral;
  • a lead time of at least six weeks between the referral and the public hearing; and
  • a period of two months between the public hearing and the tabling of the Committee's report. This may vary according to the parliamentary sitting pattern and the urgency of a particular project. Departments should discuss this with the Public Works Committee Secretariat.

On what basis does an agency avoid having to refer a project to the Public Works Committee?

The Public Works Committee Act 1969 [External Site] provides that under certain circumstances a work or an organisation may be exempted from scrutiny by the Committee on the grounds of:

  • "urgency" ( individual proposals only)

    Section 18(8) of the Act provides that:

    1. A public work the estimated cost of which exceeds fifteen million dollars shall not be commenced unless:
      1. the House of Representatives has resolved that, by reason of the urgent nature of the work, it is expedient that it be carried out without having been referred to the Committee.
  • "defence purposes" (individual proposals only)

    Section 18(8) of the Act provides that:

    1. A public work the estimated cost of which exceeds fifteen million dollars shall not be commenced unless:
      1. the Governor-General has, by order, declared that the work is for defence purposes and that the reference of the work to the Committee would be contrary to the public interest.
  • "repetition" (individual proposals only)

The Act also provides that under certain circumstances "repetitive works" may be exempted from Committee scrutiny. The relevant section of the Act, section 18(8A) provides that:

    (8A) The Minister may, by notice published in the Gazette, declare a work to be a repetitive work for the purposes of subsection (8) [see paragraph 13]

    if,
  1. He or she is satisfied that the work is substantially similar to other works that have been carried out, are being carried out or are likely to be carried out from time to time by of for the Commonwealth, or by or for an authority of the Commonwealth to which this Act applies; and
  2. The Committee has agreed to the work being so declared.
  • The commercial nature of an authority's operations as per Section 6A(3) of the Act which provides that:
  • Where the Governor-General is satisfied that an authority of the Commonwealth is engaging in trading or other activities, or is providing services in competition with another body or bodies, or with persons, the Governor-General may make regulations declaring that this Act does not apply to that Authority.
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