Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 12 Hansard (18 November) . . Page.. 4234 ..
MS DUNDAS (continuing):
by limiting their time, ministers will be more focused in the way that they deliver answers, more aware of the direct question asked and will look to provide the information being sought.
As I said, it was an interesting debate. The information about the practice in other jurisdictions lends itself to our limiting of answers, but I reiterate the point that we are not looking to limit the length of time allocated to questions without notice or in any way to limit the amount of time for questions to be asked. They are two important things that we must retain in our standing orders.
MR CORNWELL (4.56): As the person who originally moved this motion in the Assembly, which was subsequently sent to the Standing Committee on Administration and Procedure, I am very pleased with the committee's report. It has fulfilled everything that I wanted it to fulfil. As Ms Dundas has said, there was never any intention, as far as I was concerned, to curtail the period of question time; but it did seem to me that the government of the day should be implementing its policies, one of which, as was pointed out by Mr Hargreaves in the debate earlier, was that ministers' answers in question time should be restricted to five minutes.
It is an interesting fact that it has taken this Labor government two years to implement this. With a bit of prodding from the Assembly and the Administration and Procedure Committee, it has taken this Labor government two years to implement this small part of its policy. Nevertheless, I think it is important. Paragraph 3.5 of the committee's report states that, on 10 occasions in the October 2003 sitting week, the time for a question and answer exceeded five minutes. I could comment that today there were at least two questions the replies to which appeared to be very lengthy; I do not know whether they exceeded five minutes or not. But I think the amount of time that we have allowed of no longer than five minutes is adequate and welcome. It will be welcomed, I am sure, by the Speaker, as an amendment to standing orders will therefore allow for an answer of up to five minutes to be enforced. I would hope that as often as possible it will not have to be enforced. Nevertheless, I am pleased with the result and was pleased with the report-and I am delighted to have assisted the Labor Party to implement a section of its platform, even if it did take two years. Thank you.
MRS DUNNE (4.59): I, too, am delighted that the Labor Party is now in a position to implement some of its election commitments. As Mr Cornwell has said, this was an election commitment. It is interesting that it has taken the motion of a member of the opposition and the consideration of the Administration and Procedure Committee to actually get this to implementation stage. So in a sense it is not Labor implementing its policy; it is the Assembly implementing Labor's policy.
I refer members to pages 11, 12 and 13 of the report, which show quite clearly the need for this. We see that in the sitting week of 21, 22 and 23 October there were 30 questions asked and fully one-third of those took more than five minutes to ask and answer. I think the standout one was question 5 on 23 October. In addition to it taking eight minutes to ask the question and answer it, it took a startling 11 minutes to deal with the supplementary question. This showed that we as an Assembly need to get our house in order.