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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 12 Hansard (18 November) . . Page.. 4233 ..

MR HARGREAVES (continuing):

That this Assembly amends Standing Order 118, by adding a new sub-section '(c) shall not be longer than five minutes in length' and amends existing sub-section (b) by adding 'and' after 'refers'.

I have moved that the recommendations of the report be adopted. I should reiterate that, if this motion is accepted by the Assembly, the standing orders will automatically change and will apply from the next question time, that is, tomorrow.

In conclusion, I have two quick points to make. This side of the house will, of course, support the report because it is consistent with something that I believe the Chief Minister said-I believe it was the Chief Minister; I stand corrected if it was not-as an election promise. I will just quote the Chief Minister for the edification and entertainment of the stump:

We will limit Ministers' answers to Questions to five minutes. We will ensure Question Time is treated with respect. While it is undoubtedly a time for point scoring, under Labor there will be no avoidance of questions, and no diatribes in response to questions.

I express, on behalf of the committee, our appreciation to the support staff who stitched all this together and did a sterling job researching it all. I commend the motion to the Assembly.

MS DUNDAS (4.53): Just briefly, I want to add some comments to the motion before us. Mr Hargreaves in his speech noted the research that was done into what happens in other parliaments. Whilst not all parliaments have a time limit specified on specific answers, they usually put limits on the length of time allocated to questions without notice. So the committee kind of had two paths before us: to limit individual questions or to limit the whole of question time. It needs to be made quite clear that the committee did not support the idea of a time limit on question time as a whole. Paragraph 3.6 makes that quite clear.

It is always a very hazy area when we start looking at time limits for questions, how debate flows and the opportunities members have to contribute and to get their issues on the record. To put a time limit on an answer still gives members time to put their question in a way that can be understood by the minister being asked the question. Supplementary questions will also still be allowed, as will the ability of all members who wish to to ask a question, which I think is a very important point.

I would also like to pick up on something else that Mr Hargreaves mentioned-that this amendment to standing orders will not work without the commitment from ministers answering questions to make it work. Mr Hargreaves referred to the Labor Party's election platform which says, "We will ensure question time is treated with respect. Under Labor there will be no avoidance of questions and no diatribes in response to questions."Of course, we cannot stick that in the standing orders. We cannot force somebody to respect question time, and we cannot force somebody through standing orders to not avoid questions. In my view, it has, unfortunately, been the case that members of the ministry, though speaking on the topic of the question, have quite happily avoided answering the direct question that has been asked. So I hope that maybe,

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