Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 4 Hansard (3 April) . . Page.. 1357 ..
MR SMYTH (continuing):
ruling you made was incorrect and was so broad that in the context of time it will rule out 95 per cent of the discussion in this place. I would ask you to reconsider your judgment and allow Mr Pratt to ask his question now because clearly, under House of Representatives Practice, Mr Pratt's question was within the bounds of the rules of question time. It was not a reflection on debate held in the previous year and it was about a subject that was not garnered or covered in the debate yesterday. I seek your ruling, sir.
MR SPEAKER: I have already ruled on the matter, Mr Smyth, but let me go to some of the issues. I wish you had referred to the words that Mr Pratt actually used. In fact, he referred to the debate yesterday. That was what alerted me to the issue of compliance with the standing orders. I do not have a lot of room to move in most of these standing orders, except by reference to precedents in other places. The reference you gave me was to page 528. I will read a relevant sentence or two. It states:
The rule does not preclude questions on the subject matter-
I understand that the subject matter of the debate yesterday was the inquiry into education-
of such debates, which may be so broad as to cover, for example, the country's whole foreign policy-
referring, of course, to the federal parliament-
but rather precludes reference to the debate itself and to specific statements made in it.
I took it that Mr Pratt had made specific reference to a statement about amounts of money mentioned in the course of the debate. On the basis of standing order 117 (e) (i), I do not think that I had much room to move.
MR SMYTH: Mr Speaker, I would contend that that is an inappropriate understanding of standing order 117 (e) (i), simply because it says that you shall not refer to the debate. The debate yesterday was about a motion that actually referred to the Connors inquiry. The substance of yesterday's debate was, in fact, what we, as taxpayers in the ACT, got out of the government's expenditure of $250,000 on the Connors inquiry. That was the substance of that debate.
For the sake of accuracy in asking a question, Mr Pratt has simply said, "Yesterday, you said X, Y and Z in debate. Previously in debates, Mr Corbell has said A, B and C. Which one is correct?"I think it is fairly reasonable in this place to at least reference where you are drawing sources from. I do not believe Mr Pratt was imputing inference or reflecting on the vote of yesterday's debate in any way, shape or form. Indeed, the substance of his question and the matter to the heart of which he was going was an inconsistency that we perceived in a point taken by the government.
In seeking to ascertain whether the government was right, whether the government was absolutely wrong, or whether one of the ministers was right or wrong, you actually have to give the ministers the understanding of where it has been said, what has been said and the context in which it has been said. If that is denied to us as members and if for the rest of this calendar year I cannot refer to something that has happened in the previous year,