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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 5 Hansard (14 May) . . Page.. 1188 ..

MR SPEAKER (continuing):

it is the practice of this Assembly to exercise some latitude in relation to this standing order at question time. Members may reword a supplementary question to seek the same information as the original question so as to clarify the Minister's answer. I will, however, be monitoring the practice and exercising discretion so that the original intention of the standing order is not ignored.

In the April sitting week there were also a number of points of order taken in relation to standing order 118, which states in part:

The answer to a question without notice:

(a) shall be concise and confined to the subject matter of the question; and

(b) shall not debate the subject to which the question refers, ...

On Thursday, 18 April 1996, Mr Berry took a point of order when Mr Stefaniak, in response to a question on the basketball courts at Charnwood High, spoke about youth services. I should like to remind Ministers that, although it has been the practice in this place to allow Ministers a reasonable degree of latitude in responding to questions, responses should not include subject matter outside that asked about in the question, unless there is a direct and identifiable correlation between the subject of the question and the matter addressed in the answer.

Mr Berry: There were youths who spotted them as having been pinched.

MR SPEAKER: That interjection is timely, Mr Berry. I would also remind all members that interjections can lead to a Minister responding and, in so doing, straying into contravention of part (b) of the standing order; that is, they can lead to debate. Finally, I point out to all members that one of the functions of the standing orders is to ensure that the proceedings of the Assembly are conducted in an orderly manner and that adherence to standing orders by all members enhances the conduct of the chamber. It is also possible to amend the standing orders if it is the wish of the Assembly to do so.

On another matter, I wish to inform the Assembly that on 17 April 1996 a question which had been submitted by Ms Follett appeared on the notice paper. The question relates to the Belconnen Remand Centre, and two parts - (1) and (5) - of it are concerned directly with the death in custody which occurred on 15 April 1996. Although questions are checked to ensure that they conform with standing orders before they appear on the notice paper, the sub judice convention traditional to the Westminster style of parliament was not checked.

As members would be aware, the sub judice convention is self-imposed by legislatures to avoid debate on matters which are in the judicial system. As set out in House of Representatives Practice, the convention is that "subject to the right of the House to legislate on any matter, matters awaiting adjudication in a court of law should not be brought forward in debate, motions or questions". House of Representatives Practice also states that the application of the sub judice rule is subject always to the discretion of the Chair.

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