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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 7 Hansard (19 October) . . Page.. 1880..


QUESTION ON GOVERNMENT POLICY
Statement by Speaker

MR SPEAKER: Yesterday I undertook to examine the question asked by Mr Osborne concerning euthanasia. The question that Mr Osborne asked was:

Chief Minister, could you outline the Government's policy on euthanasia and could you reassure me and the Canberra community that your party will not adopt a Stalinist-type approach to this moral issue, as some people in this house have attempted to do?

Standing order 117(c) states:

Questions shall not ask Ministers:

... ... ...

(ii) to announce Executive policy, but may seek an explanation regarding the policy of the Executive and its application, and may ask the Chief Minister whether a Minister's statement represents Executive policy ...

House of Representatives Practice states on page 521:

A question which directly asks a Minister to state new policy is obviously out of order but a request for an explanation regarding existing policy and its application, or regarding the intentions of the Government, is in order ... Whether an answer to such a question would involve the Minister in a policy matter or in a form of words which may appear to disclose some point of policy can be determined only by the Minister. The Speaker is not in a position to decide.

Having considered the matter, I do not believe that the question contravenes standing order 117(c)(ii), as it did not ask for an announcement of a new policy but sought an explanation of existing policy. However, as mentioned in House of Representatives Practice, it is difficult for the Speaker to decide what is new policy and what is existing policy. I would remind members not to ask the Executive to announce new policy.

Whilst the question may be in order in terms of standing order 117(c)(ii), the use of the words "will not adopt a Stalinist-type approach to this moral issue, as some people in this house have attempted to do" could be construed as an imputation against such members. While no point of order was taken against the words at the time, nevertheless I would ask members not to use phrases such as this in drafting questions in the future.


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