Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 04 Hansard (Tuesday, 23 March 2010) . . Page.. 1268 ..
potentially be shut down from scrutinising? What other areas of government activity will we potentially be denied the ability to ask questions about?
Mr Speaker, the Canberra Liberals believe very strongly in scrutiny of government. We believe very strongly that we should be able to ask questions. Unlike the Greens, we are not tied to this government and we will ask them those questions. The sensitivity from the Greens and the Labor Party, as outlined in your ruling, as reflected in your ruling, Mr Speaker, is unfortunate. It is, in our opinion, designed to gag us. It is designed to shut down debate and shut down our ability to ask questions. I support the motion and I commend it to the Assembly.
MR HARGREAVES (Brindabella) (3.23): Mr Speaker, I was the member who raised the original question and I thank you for the ruling and for the explanation of it. It needs to be put on the record as to exactly why I asked for that ruling, Mr Speaker—because I did not believe at the time that a member could ask a question of a minister on an issue or a subject for which they were not responsible.
What I have been hearing coming from those opposite and from you, Mr Speaker—
Opposition members interjecting—
MR HARGREAVES: Do be quiet for a second, will you? What I have heard, Mr Speaker, is that you cannot ask a question of a minister unless that minister is officially connected with the subject. The point that I make here is that this turns on the notion of “officially connected”. The only way ministers are officially connected with anything is if they have an authority granted to them under the administrative arrangements orders. That is what this hinges on. The Greens-Labor agreement is not in anybody’s responsibility under the administrative arrangements orders. It is as simple as that.
Mr Speaker, I think your ruling should be upheld. But there are a couple of other issues I would like to put on the table. Firstly, it is not the practice of Speakers in this place since self-government to just make a unilateral determination on such a request that I put forward. It is always the case that Speakers have sought advice on it—expert advice on it. I know that Speaker Cornwell did it, Speaker Berry did it in my time here, and now you have done it, and I appreciate it. What has happened is that you have been given expert advice and been referred to the relevant authorities on that advice and you have delivered it in your capacity as Speaker of this place.
Mrs Dunne would suggest that she is a better interpreter of those particular references than people who have spent a lifetime in that environment. I would suggest, Mr Speaker, that Mrs Dunne is not qualified to make those particular interpretations. Support staff that Speakers have at their disposal, whether it be in the chamber here or in the parliament on the hill, are much more qualified to give advice on that.
Another thing I would like to suggest, Mr Speaker, is that there is an inconsistency here. When I have received or asked questions relating to Liberal Party policy in the past, Mrs Dunne et al have jumped to their feet and protested that it is inappropriate that that question be asked because the minister—and I know this; a check of the Hansard will reveal it—“has not got responsibility for Liberal Party policy”.