Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 5 Hansard (25 August) . . Page.. 1306 ..
MR BERRY (continuing):
Mr Speaker, this morning Labor learnt that you had not authorised the debate on the censure motion which has just been disposed of as a landmark debate. I understand there were letters or requests from the media in relation to this matter. It was something that the Labor Party had agreed to but we understand that you, Mr Speaker, dispatched a runner to offices to collect information on what might be considered consensus in relation to the matter. Mr Speaker, your decision, I think, was made in good faith. We do not dispute that. This motion does not question the Speaker per se. It is just a way of this Assembly stating its position in relation to this matter.
Mr Speaker, I will keep my speech in support of the motion as short as possible, but I do need to go to a statement by Mr Moore which appears in the Hansard of 25 June 1997. Mr Moore said:
I think it is a very important day in terms of open government. I think it is a very important day in terms of the Assembly that we have unanimously agreed that we have reached the point at which we should now make sure that our proceedings are opened up even further. I hope that the decisions of the Speaker will be reasonably free when interpreting landmark or important debates. I think that many, if not most, of the debates that are held in this Assembly are particularly important, in that they affect many lives and the way people go about their lives in this community. That, in itself, should mean that there should be a fairly open way of dealing with the guidelines.
I know, Mr Speaker, that you acted on the basis of information that was dutifully collected for you, and I understand that the Liberals at least and perhaps some of the crossbenchers at first opposed this being a landmark debate. I know that what I read out was not a contemporary version of what Mr Moore's policies might be this day, because they are fairly rubbery and change from time to time, but I trust that he has stuck with this one. I think the Assembly might have a different view from the one that was expressed in not allowing the broadcast of a landmark debate to go ahead.
MR MOORE (Minister for Health and Community Care) (6.38): Wayne Berry just has a way of luring people in by saying, "Yes, come with me, Michael. Here we go. This is the way we should go". Mr Berry, in putting up this motion, really challenges us to think about what it is that we believe a landmark debate is, what it is that we believe the media should have a presence for. I stated at the time I was responsible for this legislation that I was interested in open government; that I wanted to ensure that as much as possible we expose to the public media what we do in debate. I have a doubt in my mind about question time. When I look at how the Federal Parliament is reported, the media is all about question time and the conflict then instead of about something more substantive; so I have in my mind some reluctance to perceive question time as landmark, not so much because of what happens in question time but because of the way it is reported.