Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 9 Hansard (23 November) . . Page.. 2523 ..
MRS CARNELL (continuing):
I am the first to admit that it would be lovely to make sure that no class size in primary school in the ACT was larger than 25. It would be lovely to have a situation where everything was absolutely perfect. We will work to achieve the best possible education system we can, within our means; but we believe that the most money we can possibly make available in this budget is here in front of us in this line item. If this Assembly chose to vote against this line we would have no choice but to resign.
MR CONNOLLY (2.33 am): That is mere political bluff to keep Mr Moore in line. To say that the Government would have no alternative but to resign if a single line item in the budget were changed is merely political puff. It is not a statement of the constitutional position in this Assembly. It is in the House of Representatives, because there is no other prescribed form for dismissing a government. It is an accepted convention that it has only to be a reduction in the line item, not the rejection of the line item. The accepted form used to be the reduction of a line item by [sterling]1. I think that now the House of Representatives practice is that the accepted form is reduction of a line item by $10. That may have changed with inflation. The accepted constitutional principle is that there is only one consequence of that motion, and that is resignation of the government. But that is not the case here because, under our constitutional arrangements under the self-government Act, there is a prescribed form for changing a government. That prescribed form requires a specific motion, with specific notice being given of that specific motion.
Mrs Carnell can make that threat in order to stare down Mr Moore, but it is merely a political threat. Mr Moore can answer that threat and say to Mrs Carnell, here or outside this place, "Don't be so silly. See reason". He can vote either to reject this line item or, as we suggested earlier, to adjourn this line item and give the Government a week to think about it. But it is not a statement of the constitutional position or the law that Mrs Carnell would have no alternative but to resign. It is merely a piece of political puffery. It is merely a threat. It has been made very clear on this side of the house, when we say that we are objecting to this, that this is not a matter of confidence; that this is a matter of negotiating a budget process. It is up to Mr Moore whether or not he is going to stick to his principles or simply collapse to Mrs Carnell's puff.
MR MOORE (2.35 am): Through you, Mr Speaker, I would like to thank Mr Whitecross for his kind invitation to join him. Mr Whitecross, I must say that I am a little bit miffed that you did not accept my kind invitation to join me when I moved my amendment to this budget at the start of the process.
Mr Berry: Because it was wrong, Michael. No matter how many times you say that it is right, it is still wrong.
MR MOORE: I hear the interjection from Mr Berry that it was wrong. Mr Whitecross took quite some time to make the point about what was right and what was wrong, what was non-justiciable and so on. I must say that, to a certain extent, Mr Whitecross had a quite valid point. The difficulty was that your view was based on legal opinion. I had the opposite legal opinion.