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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 1 Hansard (8 December) . . Page.. 3995 ..

MS CARNELL: Mr Speaker, I think we have lost the plot a bit. I am saying that I am more than happy to take these questions on notice, but because the Public Service commissioner does not send me information about her decisions, because she is at arms length, then there is no way I am ever going to know what decisions she makes under the Act when she makes them. That is the reality. The public sector commissioner does not work directly to the Minister. The Act put together by those opposite, and supported by us, sets up the appointment of the Commissioner of Public Administration at arms length from the Government. Why would we do that if it was not appropriate for that person to act within the Act? It is true that the commissioner does give advice to me on things like management of the Public Service.

Mr Stanhope: Gives advice to you on management of the Public Service?

MS CARNELL: Absolutely. But the commissioner does not come to me as Minister asking for advice on how to make decisions. She has the capacity to make decisions as required under the Act. What I am saying quite clearly is that I am happy to take on notice questions on decisions made by the Public Service commissioner. There are no problems with that. I will ask the commissioner - it is a new commissioner at the moment - to go back to the records and look at what happened. But those decisions are not relayed to the Minister when they are made, so there is no way for the Minister to know without taking the question on notice. That is our system. There is no smokescreen. If those opposite want answers in question time, then they are going to have to give notice a couple of hours before or put their questions on notice.

Mr Berry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. During your response to another point of order, you said that Ministers can answer questions how they like, or words to that effect.

MR SPEAKER: That has always been the situation, Mr Berry.

Mr Berry: Mr Speaker, in the set of standing orders I have standing order 118 goes this way:

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 questions.

Mr Speaker, are you reading from a different set of standing orders from those I am reading?

MR SPEAKER: There is no point of order. Mr Corbell, do you have a supplementary question?

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