Page 1488 - Week 05 - Thursday, 7 April 2005

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There is no justification whatsoever for referring this matter to a privileges committee, which is the outcome that Mrs Dunne is seeking from her request to suspend standing orders to move a motion. It is, in my mind, simply an indication of the desperation of the Liberal opposition in this place that they will do anything at all to try to blacken the names of other members of this place.

It is completely appropriate that members of this place have discussions about how they conduct themselves and what their views are on the composition of committees. If you were to take Mrs Dunne’s absurd interpretation, it would mean that none of us could ever have any discussion with anyone about the membership of an Assembly committee. What an absurd suggestion!

That is why members of the government are not supporting the suspension of standing orders this morning—not because we are not interested in scrutiny and not because we are not interested in oversight of our actions, but because the proposition is absurd and preposterous. We do not have time to waste the Assembly’s time on absurd and preposterous propositions, and that is what Mrs Dunne is suggesting we do this morning.

MR STEFANIAK (Ginninderra) (10.43): It is not a waste of time to ensure that this place is open. It is not a waste of time to ensure that a government is, in fact, open. This government went to the election promising to be open. It is not a waste of time to discuss serious matters such as this. It is about accountable government; it is about an Assembly conducting itself with propriety in accordance with standing orders and in accordance with the rules set down in the Australian federal parliament. We base ourselves on House of Representatives Practice.

In her letter to the Speaker, Mrs Dunne has made some very serious allegations. It is right and proper that those matters have a chance to be aired—and indeed that anyone who might feel disaffected by the matters raised has a right to respond to them in the appropriate way. To hide behind numbers in this Assembly, to hide behind the fact that you guys have nine people and everyone else has only eight, is to avoid open government, to avoid scrutiny. We have seen far too often, in the very short term of this Assembly, attempts by the government to shut down important debate—important debates on behalf of the community and things the community expect of this parliament—and now, today, an important debate on propriety, on how this place should operate, on how this place should have regard for House of Representatives Practice, for our own standing orders and for matters of propriety.

Mr Corbell talks about there being merely discussions as to who should form committees. It is true that we have discussions about all sorts of things in this place—that is part and parcel of politics—but there is a time when matters go beyond discussion and other issues come into play. We have seen, in the short history of this place, some instances of areas where people have been found to have gone beyond what is normal in terms of their conduct in this Assembly. People have been admonished and people have been censured because of it. In fact, one staff member resigned as a result of it.

In the short space of this Assembly we have had instances where privileges committees have been formed and matters have been aired properly. All Mrs Dunne is trying to do today is to have an open discussion in relation to these matters and, obviously, see what

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