Page 134 - Week 01 - Wednesday, 8 December 2004

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years that, given the small number of members and the inability often to make the case using your full complement of members, members have been extended the courtesy of being allowed to speak somewhat longer to cover the ground that is encompassed in a debate. I guess that would apply particularly to the Greens, who now have only one member on the crossbench, who has to answer all the allegations, all the points, all the interest in a debate. It is impossible for them in a single speech to make all those points. That tradition is about to go out the window, with the government using its majority to put the gag in place.

Mr Stanhope: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Mr Smyth is not speaking to the suspension of standing orders; he is actually speaking to issues outside here. This has nothing to do with the motion for the suspension of standing orders. This is just a whinge because of the opposition’s inadequacy, its lack of impact in the election and the fact that it handed the government a majority.

Mrs Dunne: On the point of order, Mr Speaker: if the Chief Minister wants to debate, he can take his turn in the debate.

MR SPEAKER: That is not a point of order either, Mrs Dunne. Are you finished, Mr Smyth?

MR SMYTH: No, not at all, Mr Speaker. What I was saying is accurate and is relevant.

MR SPEAKER: Please confine your remarks to the need for the suspension of standing orders.

MR SMYTH: It is about the right of a member to get an extension. It is about the tradition of this place. The Chief Minister himself speaks about Westminster and its traditions. We have established traditions. The tradition over the 15 years has been—and you have probably used it as many times as I have, Mr Speaker—that members be extended a courtesy. Firstly, it is a courtesy to all our members to have their say. We are elected to speak on behalf of the people of the ACT. What is now being said is that we can speak for only a limited time. That has never, or very rarely, happened in this place. I think it would be a very, very bad move to establish it as a precedent, but obviously that is the intention of the government.

Secondly, it stifles the debate. The issues that we want to canvass are very, very broad and, collectively, we probably get about an hour and 20 minutes in which to put our case. Sometimes you cannot put a case in an hour and 20 minutes. I think it is an acknowledgment of the size of this place that we have always allowed members to seek an extension to speak longer if necessary to put the full case. Thirdly, we were told that nothing would change under a majority government, yet what we are seeing today is a dramatic change. I would suggest to the Assembly that they do not want to travel this path.

MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (11.04): I notice that the government are not going to defend their indefensible position, Mr Speaker. As Mr Seselja said, this essentially is the gag. The government are applying a gag because what they are hearing is inconvenient for them; it is not within the realm of things that they want to discuss and they want to close it down. They are now flexing their muscles, their unionised muscles, to close

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