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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 1 Hansard (8 December) . . Page.. 3994 ..

Mr Stanhope: Your ruling on that point of order does not answer the basic question of whether or not the Chief Minister has declared that she will never again answer a question in this place on the Public Service commissioner. It seems to me, from what you were just ruling, that you agree that in future the Chief Minister will take all questions in relation to the Public Service commissioner on notice, because she does not feel able to accept any responsibility for that office.

MR SPEAKER: That is entirely up to the Chief Minister.

Mr Stanhope: The Opposition needs to know whether we are wasting our time in asking questions on anything to do with the Public Service commissioner.

MR SPEAKER: It is entirely up to the Chief Minister how she wishes to answer those questions. I cannot order people to answer questions in the way that you may desire them to be answered. I do not even know if it is possible. You could stand up and ask the most long-winded questions that required massive amounts of statistics. I cannot order a Minister to immediately answer those questions. It would be impossible.

Mr Humphries: Can I address you on the point of order, Mr Speaker? I think Mr Stanhope misunderstands the role of some agencies within government, in the loose sense, which are part of the process of government but which do not answer to Ministers in the same way that a public servant who is employed directly within a department does. For example, if a member of this place were to ask me to explain a decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions, or indeed of an officer of the court, I would be unable to answer that question. At best, I would have to take it on notice. I would probably have to say that I could not answer it at all. That is even though that person is within the Government's framework and is paid by the Government as an employee. Mr Speaker, I could not answer that question. That is the truth. The Public Service commissioner is in a similar position. The Chief Minister was not saying that she would not take any questions in the Assembly about the Public Service commissioner - questions about the role of the commissioner, about what he or she is paid or about the work. But decisions of the commissioner are appropriately at arms length from the Government, and certainly in most cases cannot be answered without the Chief Minister taking them on notice.

Mr Corbell: Mr Speaker, is the Attorney-General seriously saying that Mr Osborne cannot ask a question of him in relation to the DPP, or Mr Rugendyke cannot ask a question of him in relation to the Registrar of Motor Vehicles, also a independent statutory position, or the Human Rights Commissioner? For heaven's sake, this Government has stood up in this place time and again and answered plenty of questions about the DPP, the Registrar of Motor Vehicles, the Human Rights Commissioner and the Ombudsman without taking them on notice. This is simply a smokescreen for the Government to refuse to answer questions on this issue. It is pathetic. They should stand up to their responsibilities.

MR SPEAKER: There is no point of order.

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