Page 1055 - Week 04 - Wednesday, 16 March 2005
you must have known, Mr Speaker, that there were other people waiting to speak. Knowing that there are members in this place who wish to speak on this important matter, you should act impartially and in spirit of democracy and allow them that latitude.
Yes, it is in your gift, Mr Speaker, but it is appropriate that you act for the benefit of members and, through the members, the people of the ACT. This is a matter of considerable importance and it requires airing. It is on the front page of the Canberra Times and in the major news bulletins on a daily basis. It is incumbent on you to allow the full length of debate that is necessary to prosecute these issues.
What we see in the Canberra Times and in the major news bulletins is that the Canberra hospital system, the public hospital system, is a basket case. This basket case has been presided over by the Minister for Health.
Mr Quinlan: Point of order.
MR SPEAKER: I think I know what the point of order is. just speak to the motion. If you think there is something wrong with the exercise of my discretion, deal with it in the context of your dissent motion.
MRS DUNNE: The Minister for Health is here, essentially on trial, and you will not let the full course—
MR SPEAKER: I have asked you to deal with the issue of my discretion.
MRS DUNNE: Yes, I am dealing with your discretion.
MR SPEAKER: This is not a debate about the Minister for Health. It is about whether I should exercise this discretion or not. I would ask you to stick to the point of your motion. If you do not, I will order you to sit down.
MRS DUNNE: Mr Speaker, your discretion is actually stifling debate in this place on an important matter, which goes to the administration of the public hospital system in Canberra. By putting the question to the vote at this time, you are stifling debate in a way that is undemocratic and outside the normal practice of this place. That is why I moved dissent from your ruling. The question should not be put at this stage; the debate should run its full course.
MR CORBELL (Molonglo—Minister for Health and Minister for Planning) (11.54): Mr Speaker, the government believes you have exercised your discretion most appropriately. You have provided adequate time for debate in this place on a matter that is important to the Canberra community. Indeed, we have had close to an hour and a half of debate in this place. Three members of the opposition, including the Leader of the Opposition and the deputy leader, have spoken to this motion. Equally, from the government side, the Chief Minister, the Deputy Chief Minister and I, as the subject of the motion, have each responded to it comprehensively. Dr Foskey, representing the Greens, the only cross-bench member in this place, has also had an opportunity to speak on the motion.