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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 14 Hansard (11 December) . . Page.. 4677 ..


MS TUCKER (11.41): I move:

That the resolution agreed to by the Assembly on 28 August 1996 adopting temporary orders relating to the precedence of private Members' business be amended by omitting "the last sitting day of 1996" and substituting "the last sitting day of 1997" (twice occurring).

I will not speak on this at length because we had a very recent debate in this place when it was originally passed. Including today, this is the fifth day that we have had the opportunity to have an extension of time for private members business. I believe it is quite appropriate that we extend that time. Personally, I think it has worked well. I do not think it has been used for filibustering, as some people in the Government were slightly concerned may occur. There may have been some of that, but mostly I think it has been very constructive. There is a significant amount of private members business, and it is quite appropriate that we have more time.

MR HUMPHRIES (Attorney-General) (11.43): Mr Speaker, the Government's view has not changed from the view that we expressed when this debate occurred earlier about inserting the provision that is now being amended. It is our view that these sorts of issues need to be handled on a more flexible basis than to create an entire day for private members business throughout the whole of 1997. On occasions such as today, for example, the Government has a lot of business and would be happier if the afternoon were devoted to Government business.

It is also my observation, with the greatest respect to private members in this place, that some of the private members business we have debated has been relatively unimportant and has been time filling rather than actually significant material which needs to be passed by this Assembly.

Mr Moore: And that is never the case with Government business!

MR HUMPHRIES: That may be the view of others; but the Government, as we are told often, is supposed to fill the notice paper and keep the business of the Assembly going. I do not think it is a fortunate precedent. However, let me make it clear that if the Assembly supports this motion - particularly if the Labor Party indicates that private members ought to have the right to have access to private members business all day long - that will be the position which we will accept for future Assemblies and which we will apply against the Labor Party in future Assemblies.

Mr Speaker, let me make clear what I said on the previous occasion. I believe that what is happening here is that, although they are not stating it, the Labor Party is supporting this motion with the unstated qualification that it is being done this time only because they consider the Government has not enough business of substance to warrant there being half a day on Government business on Wednesday afternoons. I have no doubt that the next time they are in a position to be in government in this place they will say, "We are sorry; we cannot possibly agree to let the whole of Wednesday go on private members business. We have far too important an agenda to run".

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