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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004-2005 Week 1 Hansard (9 December) . . Page.. 259..

Mr Smyth: Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The question quite clearly was: is the government going to cut the community program? In a way, it could be a yes or no answer. I know you cannot direct the minister to do that; but he is not talking about it. The question was not about the government's record on housing. The question was about whether or not the community connection program will be cut. He is way off the mark in terms of relevancy.

MR SPEAKER: I thought I heard him say he was going to continue to support it.

Mr Smyth: No. He said that they will continue to support community programs. This is the community connection program specifically; it is about a specific program, not about a general community program.

MR SPEAKER: The minister dealt with the subject matter of the question and I think his answer was in order. How he answers it is a matter for him.

Mr Smyth: But he has to answer it.

MR SPEAKER: No, he does not have to answer it.

Mr Smyth: Yes, he does; of course he does.

MR SPEAKER: No, he does not have to answer it. I have news for you! It is in the hands of the minister. You can ask the questions: provided they are within the standing orders, ministers can answer them how they like; and they need not answer them at all. Have a look at Parliamentary Practice.

Mr Smyth: Mr Speaker, I agree with most of what you have said but the answer has to be relevant; it has to be about what was asked. He is avoiding the question, which was whether or not a program called the community connection program will be cut.

MR SPEAKER: The minister is required to deal with the subject matter and he has five minutes to do it. That is the relevant standing order in this case. The minister has dealt with the subject matter and he still has time left if he wants to continue.

MR HARGREAVES: I do not intend to waste the Assembly's time any further.

MRS BURKE: Mr Speaker, I have a supplementary question. Could the minister then inform the Assembly of what he is going to do to assure those most vulnerable in our society that they will not be left in the lurch over the Christmas period; and quash any rumours that are floating around the community?

MR HARGREAVES: As I read the question, it is what am I going to do to assure the people out there in the community who are trying to be housed properly, and who are currently being frightened by rumours being spread, that that will not be the case. That is my reading of the question.

Mrs Burke: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: that is not the question I asked.

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