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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 5 Hansard (2 May) . . Page.. 1321 ..

MR CORBELL (continuing):

question time does not improve over the remaining life of this Assembly there may be a need to revisit this issue at a future time.

Finally, there was the proposal to change the call in relation to the way votes of the Assembly are conducted. The proposal, the amendment before the Assembly, is to amend standing order 160 to provide for members' names to be called in reverse alphabetical order on every second call of the Assembly. Regrettably, the committee was not able to reach a position either in favour or against this proposal. The committee is composed of an even number of members, and there are three members favouring each of the alternative points of view on this matter.

Normally, of course, Mr Speaker, when the Assembly refers a matter to the committee, it should be expected that the committee will reach some sort of conclusion. However, on this occasion we were unable to do so. We believe it is appropriate that the Assembly itself decide this matter if a member chooses to bring it on for debate.

I commend the report to the Assembly.

MS TUCKER (10.39): I will be very brief. Mr Corbell has explained the committee's findings and recommendations very well. I think it is worthwhile to make the point that this is a place which we would hope inspires confidence in the community, and we know too well that there is quite a poor opinion often held in the community of parliaments because of the way the proceedings are often presented. It is actually often quite unfair. We know in the case of the federal parliament that it will often be the most unpleasant scenes which are broadcast on television throughout the country, but a lot of good and sensible debate occurs. The reality also is that there are occasions when debate is not conducted in a dignified or credible way.

I believe that what happened in this place that caused the committee to be looking at these issues was a wake-up call for everyone in this place, and that, in a way, to legitimise that behaviour by adding a further discipline procedure is not a good response at all. Basically, it means the community will see that people in this place are not capable of conducting themselves with dignity and seriousness and that we have to have these new punitive measures introduced. There is a defence sometimes put to that by members of this place, which is that this is robust parliamentary debate and it is the way of parliaments. Well, that is exactly what we have to challenge.

What it looks like to people in the community is a lot of men behaving badly, basically. In fact, the Westminster system was designed around parliaments mostly comprised of men. I believe that if we want to attract people into politics who are not inclined to get into such so-called robust parliamentary debate, we have to change how we work.

We want more women in politics. We want to encourage men into politics who may have a gentler approach. For that reason I think it is very important that we are prepared to challenge this notion of the so-called robust parliamentary debate and call it what it is, which is basically a lot of rudeness and bad behaviour. For that reason, I do not think we need to be introducing penalties. I know that every single person here is capable of behaving in a serious and dignified way; we just have to make sure that we do.

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