Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 9 Hansard (23 November) . . Page.. 2367 ..
MR CONNOLLY (3.37): The Australian Labor Party some four years ago celebrated its centenary and, for the 104 years that the Australian Labor Party has been involved in Australian politics and has had representatives in the parliaments of the colonies, the States, the Commonwealth and now the Territories, we have played by the rules. We have advanced the interests of our constituencies, we have advanced the interests of our platforms, as hard and with as much vigour as we can within the rules of Australian parliamentary democracy. We have been faced with a dilemma in recent days in respect of the budget of the Carnell Government. We have said loudly and clearly that it is a bad budget. We put forward in this place a motion which reminded the Government of some very clear recommendations, particularly in respect of education, of the Estimates Committee. We required the Government to act on those. The Government has refused to act on those. We currently have before this chamber this very day a motion of censure directed at the Chief Minister in respect of that education budget. We are, with all our vigour, within the rules of the game, pursuing this Government for aspects of its budget which we find unsatisfactory.
We said some week or so ago now that we would not breach the rules, we would not tear up the rules of parliamentary government in Australia for the short-term political advantage of amending this Carnell Government's bad budget. We took that issue of principle despite the fact that a couple of years ago, when the numbers in the Assembly were reversed, members of the present Government - you, Mr Speaker, as the then Opposition education spokesperson - moved just that type of amendment, and Mr Moore went on at some length in question time today about that eventuality. Mr Humphries, with a considerable level of embarrassment, acknowledged in his remarks that he took a different view when he was in opposition, but he now is standing up for principle.
For 100 years we have played by the rules, even though playing by the rules may give us a short-term political disadvantage. We would clearly get a short-term political advantage in tearing up the rules of Westminster representative government and amending this budget, but we do not believe that that is appropriate. That is not to say that we believe that Independent members, Opposition members, have no ability to move motions that deal in some way with financial aspects.
Members of the First Assembly would recall that during the period of the Alliance Government a very restrictive interpretation was given of section 65 of the self-government Act. Indeed, the then Opposition's Human Rights Bill, moved by Ms Follett, was at one stage ruled out of order because it was argued that it would have an incidental effect of requiring the expenditure of money. We had a debate about legal opinions, and at that time we said that members on the non-Executive benches had the ability to move private members business that may have a consequence of expenditure of money; but we said then, as we say now and have said throughout, and we are the only political body that has said throughout, that the government is the only body that may introduce or amend a budget, that non-government members can exercise control over the government of the day in a minority situation by voting against individual measures within the budget, by voting no. That is what we have been doing, and we have been saying to Independent members who want to posture on this: If you are fair dinkum, if you really