Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 10 Hansard (29 August) . . Page.. 3091 ..
MR SMYTH (continuing):
Other supporters listed include the Gold Creek Country Club, the Cannons, the ACT Brumbies, the Canberra Space Dome, the Institute of Sport, Pitch n Putt Woden, ActewAGL, Belconnen Soccer Club, the Framing Doctor, the Bush and Tucker 4WD Tours, as well as the Kythera Motel and the Last Stop Bed and Breakfast.
Those people enable Make-a-Wish Foundation to support young Canberrans who are suffering. Several times over the last couple of years the Make-a-Wish Foundation have funded a piece of equipment or a trip to Disneyland to lighten the load on families who are really suffering and to lighten the load on our very special children who are suffering through tragic diseases. Any organisation that spreads a bit of kindness and joy and the wonderful community support that keeps such an organisation going should be acknowledged. I thank all of those who have supported the Make-a-Wish Foundation.
MR HUMPHRIES (Leader of the Opposition) (6.14): I want to make some comments in the adjournment debate about the conduct of question time in the Assembly in the last two weeks. There are lots of conventions about question time, but the rules which govern the way in which ministers answer questions are fairly limited. In particular, the rules which require ministers to answer questions are extremely limited, in fact almost non-existent.
As you yourself have noted, Mr Speaker, there is no standing order, or perhaps any convention either, that requires that a question asked of a minister be answered. That is obviously a matter for day-to-day practice in any parliament. Parliaments, if they are truly parliaments which will keep a government accountable, are institutions which have to develop for themselves the standards that they expect of people who sit on the treasury bench.
I do not believe that the standard being set at the present time for questions in question time is a very high standard. I have great concern about where question time is has been heading in recent months. We have examined the questions that were asked of ministers in the course of this sitting fortnight. Of the 38 questions that came from members of both the crossbench and the opposition, on our reckoning 31 were either not answered at all or answered only very partially.
Obviously, questions vary in their intent, and some questions admittedly are difficult to answer in any case. Some questions necessarily require being taken on notice, and that is fair enough. But other questions are extremely straightforward and deserve simple and direct answers. I think the Assembly should expect those answers but has not received those answers.
Last week, for example, the Chief Minister was asked, in his capacity as Minister for Health, about the number of people waiting for elective surgery in the ACT. He gave certain figures to the Assembly. Fair enough.
The following day, on Wednesday, he was asked to explain why the figures he gave to the Assembly and to the Estimates Committee varied from the figures that were provided in a press release on the previous day. The Minister agreed that there was some