Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2011 Week 02 Hansard (Thursday, 10 March 2011) . . Page.. 764 ..
need not necessarily intervene in the ordinary course of debate when an interjection is made.
The point of interjections in many cases is that we are not getting the answers we want. In fact, we do not get answers at all. Ms Le Couteur today said, “But he has not answered the question.” Yes, it is an interjection. People then say, “Well, answer the question.” Ms Burch says, “We will look into it.” But we do not even get a vague attempt at the questions being answered. That goes to the very nature of question time. House of Representatives Practice is quite practical on this:
The purpose of questions is ostensibly to seek information or press for action. However, because public attention focuses so heavily on Question Time it is often a time for political opportunism. Opposition Members will be tempted in their questioning to stress those matters which will embarrass the Government, while government Members will be tempted to provide Ministers with an opportunity to put government policies and actions in a favourable light or embarrass the Opposition.
Welcome to question time. That is what we are here for. We are here to question. We are here to hold each other to account. But what we want is fair application, Mr Speaker, and fair application is not being applied here. It is only when we bring your attention to what appears to be selective hearing, to the fact that those opposite are saying words, for instance. You got caught out with this yourself yesterday when you made comments to me. When Mr Hanson made the same comment, he was asked to withdraw. Then when you got asked to withdraw, there was great prevarication. I think you used the words “I will withdraw my alleged comment” or “words that I was alleged to have said”. That is not even the right form of withdrawal.
All we are asking for is consistency. If you want this place to be silent at all times, then apply that rule in that manner. House of Representatives Practice says that where a member feels they are being interrupted in the flow of their speech, they can appeal to the Speaker for protection as is appropriate. That is how it has been for a long, long time. But if you want to shut question time down to the point where there is mute silence, just say so. Make that the rule, but apply standing order 39 to everybody. Ms Hunter so quickly proved the point after she quoted that standing order to us. Then she had a conversation which one could hear over here in breach of standing order 39, but nothing was done. Just apply it sensibly. That is all we are asking. We dissent from your ruling.
MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (3.19), in reply: Mr Speaker, I do not relish this and it is not great for the relations in the chamber that we have to do this—
Mr Stanhope interjecting—
MR SPEAKER: Mr Stanhope! Order, members! Mrs Dunne has the floor.
MRS DUNNE: But this is an important matter and it is a matter about consistency. Mr Corbell stood up and said, “Of course, you should come down on the opposition like a tonne of bricks.” There was a fair amount of coaching in that because the opposition is warned more often than anybody else. The opposition is warned in this place more often than anybody else, I contest, because of the partisan nature of the