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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 2 Hansard (21 May) . . Page.. 492 ..

Statement by Speaker

MR SPEAKER: Members, on Tuesday, during questions without notice, I undertook to examine the Hansard in relation to a point of order raised by Mr Berry arising out of an answer given by the Chief Minister to a question asked by Mr Corbell. Immediately prior to Mr Berry's point of order, Mr Corbell had raised a point of order on the same matter. Standing order 118 provides:

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,

and the Speaker may direct a Member to terminate an answer if of the opinion that these provisions are being contravened or that the Member has had a sufficient opportunity to answer the question.

On Tuesday, Mr Corbell addressed a question to the Chief Minister concerning the Government's approach to joint ventures on land development where that approach is taken. The Chief Minister gave an answer to the question. Mr Corbell then asked a supplementary question and, on what I understood to be the completion of the answer, Mr Corbell raised a point of order concerning the relevance of the answer. Mr Corbell's point was that, in her answer, the Chief Minister made no reference to the specific query he raised in his supplementary question. Later Mr Berry raised a similar point of order.

I have examined the Hansard, as undertaken, and have also re-examined the provisions of standing order 118. I have to reiterate that, unless and until the Assembly directs me otherwise, I cannot direct how a Minister must answer a question, other than to ensure that the provisions of standing order 118 are adhered to. If they are not being adhered to I will, as I recall I have done on occasion, ask the Minister to terminate his or her answer. The test of relevance can be difficult to apply and I have not insisted on a narrow interpretation.

Mr Corbell: You do not even try.

MR SPEAKER: This is the approach that I believe my predecessors have taken, and it is the approach I intend to follow with answers to questions without notice, unless, of course, the Assembly directs me otherwise.

Mr Humphries: Mr Speaker, as you were reading that ruling, and you made reference to your decisions on questions of relevance, Mr Corbell interjected, "You do not even try". That is a reflection on you as Speaker and it is unparliamentary, and I call on Mr Corbell to withdraw it.

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