Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 3 Hansard (2 April) . . Page.. 873..
MR SPEAKER (continuing):
be submitted to the Assembly. In accordance with standing order 79, I have determined that the matter proposed by Mrs Burke be submitted to the Assembly, namely:
The continuing decline in housing affordability in the ACT.
DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (3.51): Mr Speaker, I move:
That so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent private members' business being called on forthwith.
A matter of public importance is a one-hour discussion with no vote. It is a way to raise an issue, but it has no outcomes. The MPI for a sitting day is chosen through a random process. Any non-executive member wishing to have an MPI discussed writes to the Speaker to let him know, and the MPI is selected by the Speaker drawing one from a hat.
It was a proposal of Vicki Dunne, then the Liberal Party whip, agreed to by the crossbench and the Labor backbench in the administration and procedures committee on 29 March 2005 that MPIs not be put on Wednesdays, which are set aside for private members' business. Clearly, by secretly breaking that agreement and writing to the Speaker to propose an MPI, as it seems all the Liberal Party members did, they could be certain that their preferred MPI would be chosen.
There are two reasons why the Liberal Party might have decided to secretly break the agreement originally proposed by Mrs Dunne. One relates to ensuring the opposition uses as much private members' business time as possible. In an election year, clearly there is a lot to be gained by grabbing as much time as possible. The fact that the Liberal Party will do anything, with no regard for previous agreements and not even an attempt at courtesy, would seem to indicate that they would act as appalling bullies if ever they were in government.
It has been suggested to me that this is a way to avoid debate on my motion calling for a curfew for the airport. The Liberal Party has been very silent on the issue of airport noise and development. One of the Canberra Liberal Party's financial backers is Bob Winnell, whose Village Building Company plans to build under the flight path and who supports a curfew. But, as the EpiCentre dispute demonstrated, the Liberal opposition in the Assembly also has close ties with the airport. It is not too long a stretch to see this secret breaking of an agreement as a cowardly step to avoid having to put the position on the table.
MR CORBELL (Molonglo—Attorney-General, Minister for Police and Emergency Services) (3.54): The government will not be supporting this motion today, because we accept that the standing orders do provide for a matter of public importance on each sitting day. But we do share with Dr Foskey her concern over the extremely underhanded and duplicitous way in which the Liberal Party have conducted themselves in this matter.