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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 2 Hansard (10 March) . . Page.. 544 ..

Mr Humphries

: I do not think I did, but I will take your word for that.

MR BERRY: I think you missed the atmosphere a bit and the atmosphere really does not show up in the Hansard. In my experience - not recent - it struck me as the circumstances one might expect just before a bar room brawl, because it was - - -

Ms Tucker: The Canberra Times cartoon should be tabled as it shows the atmosphere.

MR BERRY: If you care to get it for me, I will table it. But it was quite out of control, and many members of the committee were upset by the proceedings as well. I am not able to say with accuracy what was the cause of the disorder, but I am able to say that it was unacceptable. It was unacceptable to all of the members there, but none of the members, including the chair, could have done anything about it. This motion, if passed, will give the presiding member the opportunity in the case of grave disorder to adjourn the committee without a question being put or suspend the committee.

The committee shall convene - I am just quoting from the motion - at a time to be named by the presiding member. I had to put in a safeguard to ensure that the presiding member did not have the power to hold up a committee, so the Speaker can fix a time for the committee to reconvene or, in the absence of the Speaker, the Deputy Speaker on receipt of a request from a majority of members of the committee. I repeat my earlier comments in relation to the powers of presiding members. They ought not to be able to prevail over the powers of this Assembly. That is why the powers that you have in respect of members here have not been replicated. That, I think, would fly in the face of the Assembly's wishes in respect of membership of those committees. Mr Speaker, I urge members to support this motion.

MR HUMPHRIES (Attorney-General, Minister for Justice and Community Safety and Minister Assisting the Treasurer) (4.48): Mr Speaker, the Government does not propose to oppose this amendment to standing orders because, on the face of it, it appears to be obvious that a presiding member should have the power to deal with, in effect, the affairs of the committee, including grave disorder on a committee. If this crystallises the powers the committee chair has or should have in respect of these matters, then it is appropriate to put them in standing orders. Let me say that I do not think it is free from doubt that the powers do not already exist on the part of the committee chair. There are common-law powers in these circumstances which, I would have thought, extended to a committee chair being able to shut down proceedings that are clearly out of control. If there is any doubt about that - I suppose there must be if I have put it in that way - then it needs to be made clear. The proposed amendment appears to do that.

I also think it is worth recording, notwithstanding what might be put forward by the mover of the motion, that this should not be seen as an amendment cast around a particular individual or one particular occasion. I have seen occasions on committees of the Assembly where affairs have got fairly hairy.

Mr Berry: Passionate, you are thinking of there, I think.

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