Page 1167 - Week 04 - Thursday, 17 March 2005

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on his feet—the old tumbles were not turning fast enough as he had the officials and the minister before him—and he went away and reflected on it, or he cannot remember.

Mr Smyth: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: under standing order 118B, the minister is not allowed to debate the subject, which he is doing. The question is quite specific: what is the 2005 March dollar figure of the cost of the prison, not what happened in estimates last week.

MR SPEAKER: And Mr Stanhope is drawing attention to some similar questions that were asked in estimates last week. I think that is consistent with the question that was asked, Mr Smyth.

Mr Smyth: No, no, it’s not.

MR SPEAKER: Just sit down for a moment. We get these constant calls on points of order about how ministers are answering questions, because, quite obviously, the answers do not suit the questioner. But it has never been the case that the questioner can demand a certain style of answer from a minister. Ministers resolve to give the answer that suits the question so far as they are concerned. There is always an element of politics in these matters. That has been the convention of question time.

MR STANHOPE: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Heaven forbid that I have been political in my response, though! Having said that, it does need to be remembered that the $110 million in March 2003 terms that this government has appropriated and committed to the prison project is exactly $110 million more than the Liberal Party was prepared to dedicate to this project, despite campaigning on the fact that they supported a prison. We have appropriated $110 million more than the Liberal Party was ever prepared to appropriate for a—

Mr Smyth: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I will read standing order 118B: ministers shall not debate the subject to which the question refers. Mr Stefaniak did not ask about Liberal Party commitments. He asked what was the 2005 dollar value for a prison. If the minister cannot answer, he should sit down or he should just say that he cannot answer.

MR SPEAKER: Come to the point of the question.

MR STANHOPE: Of course, this is the $110 million that was at the heart of the Liberal Party campaign to “vote as if your life depends on it”—a message that the people of Canberra took very seriously and voted—

Mr Smyth: Mr Speaker—

MR SPEAKER: You asked the question. Mind you, Mr Stefaniak is not protesting about the answer. The question was asked about the cost of the prison and the Chief Minister is entitled to put it in context—historical context even—for a full five minutes. If you do not like his answer at the end of it, the resources of the parliament are open to you.

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