Page 430 - Week 02 - Tuesday, 4 March 2008

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simply unreasonable; it is simply a matter of managing the business in this place and recognising that.

I do not think anyone is seriously suggesting that Mrs Dunne is only going to speak for two minutes. I do not think Mrs Dunne has ever spoken for just two minutes in this place, unless she is instructed to do so. Of course when you grant leave, you grant leave for an open-ended period. I am sure that Mrs Dunne would have taken full advantage of that. Mrs Dunne, I think, would blush if she were to suggest she was only going to speak for a short time.

The government’s position on this is simply that, if members wish to debate this matter, that is fine; we have no difficulty with that whatsoever; we will entertain that debate but not at this time. Private members business is an opportunity for non-executive members to raise issues of interest and concern to them, and that is when they should do so. That is the reason the government is not prepared to extend leave in this instance.

The process and the practice of granting leave has been one that has been greatly abused in the past in this Assembly, and certainly members who had been here during minority assemblies and minority government periods would have seen the absolute abuse of those provisions. We might as well not have had standing orders during that time, because closure of debate meant nothing. Members could add comments after the closure of debate. There was not much point in having time limits during that time; you could basically speak for as long as you liked, as many times as you liked, and you could speak again in debates.

Really, the difficulty with that, from the government’s perspective, has always been that it did not impose any discipline on members to focus their comments and crystallise issues in their minds so that when they contributed to debates it was meaningful debate, it was considered debate, and equally—

Mrs Dunne: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: this is about why standing orders should be suspended on this occasion and not a dissertation on standing orders.

MR CORBELL: Mr Speaker, I am just outlining the government’s position on when we do and do not grant leave, and that is a relevant consideration in this debate.

MR SPEAKER: It is not about leave; it is about suspending the standing orders.

MR CORBELL: Of course Mrs Dunne is moving the suspension of standing orders because the government did not grant leave, and I think it is important to put on the record the government’s thinking around the granting of leave. Generally speaking, the government will not grant leave in those circumstances. We have made that clear and we have had a consistent practice on that since the beginning of this term of the Assembly in 2004. We have sought to ask and encourage members to use the forms of the Assembly when it comes to raising matters for discussion and debate.

When it comes to matters of interest and concern to non-executive members, there is a whole day out of a three-day sitting week, or 33 per cent of the time of this

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