Page 586 - Week 02 - Thursday, 6 March 2008

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points of order or when other procedural matters are in play. That is a sensible amendment that provides for recognition that the use of points of order or other procedural motions in this place should not detract from the time available for ministers to answer questions.

I welcome changes in relation to petitions and the fact that there will be a new requirement for relevant ministers to respond to the Assembly on petitions within a set time period. This is a sensible reform. It is a reform that will provide for ministers and the government as a whole to make clear to the Assembly its position in relation to matters that are raised by petitioners to the Assembly. That will help to reinforce the value of petitions as a means of advocating a cause to this place. Currently, as has been observed, petitions disappear into the ether and nothing is necessarily done as a result of them—or it is perhaps more the case that nothing is seen to be done as a result of them. This will allow government ministers and the government as a whole to outline to the Assembly what has occurred in response to particular petitions that are presented to the Assembly.

There are a range of other procedural changes that I will not go into at this time. I will, however, respond briefly to the amendments that have been foreshadowed by Mrs Dunne and that have been circulated in the chamber this morning. The government is extremely surprised to see, at one minute to midnight after an inquiry lasting over three years, that all of a sudden there is a series of quite substantive amendments proposed by the Liberal opposition. The government’s strong view is that these matters should have been raised by the Liberal Party’s representative during the course of the 3½-year inquiry into the standing orders. There would then have been adequate time for all of these matters to have been considered in the tripartisan way in which the rest of this report is presented to the Assembly.

So I foreshadow that the government will not support these amendments today. The reason for that is quite a simple one. These are matters that should have been dealt with in the course of the 3½-year inquiry. It is simply not good enough, after 3½ years of inquiry, to come to this Assembly at one minute to midnight and say, “We want substantive changes to the standing orders.” For over 3½ years the opportunity has been on the table to consider substantive changes to the standing orders. I am advised by the government’s representative on the committee, Ms MacDonald, that the amendments circulated today have not been proposed in any of that time.

The amendments reflect the shambles that is the Liberal opposition in this place more than any serious attempt to engage in a considered process to develop reforms to our standing orders. Why couldn’t the Liberal Party have taken the opportunity to raise these matters in the past 3½ years? Were they asleep on the job? Was Mr Smyth asleep on the job as the Liberal Party’s representative on the committee? Or was it Mrs Burke? I think Mrs Burke was on this committee for a period of time as well. Was she asleep on the job? I think the answer to both of those things is yes, they were. It is simply not good enough, at one minute to midnight, to introduce these provisions into what is a very lengthy and considered report by the committee—a report that, as I understand it, has cross-party endorsement and that has taken 3½ years to get to this point—3½ years.

Mr Smyth: Tedious repetition, Mr Speaker.

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