Page 1346 - Week 04 - Thursday, 10 April 2008

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Mr Hargreaves: Is that the one we are talking about?

MR SPEAKER: —the motion had no standing.

Mr Hargreaves: Yes, okay. No problems.

MRS DUNNE: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I would not have reflected; I was just reflecting on the general use of the standing order. Having now worked in this building for coming up to 12 years early next month, I realised that I had never before seen or heard a member use this device. I started to search through the standing orders to find where it was covered, because it had never been used, although I know of its existence and I know it is used in other places.

It turns out that there is no standing order in the ACT Legislative Assembly standing orders that allows for this to happen. Of course, we can all move any motion we like with leave if it is not listed on the notice paper. But it is interesting to look at House of Representatives Practice and its discussion of the closure of a member. On page 514 of the present edition, it says:

With the exceptions stated below, any Member may move at any time that a Member who is speaking “be no longer heard” and the question must be put immediately and resolved without amendment or debate … The standing order was introduced at a time when there were no time limits on speeches and, in moving for its adoption, Prime Minister Deakin said:

The … new standing order need rarely, if ever, be used for party purposes, and never, I trust, will its application be dictated by partisan motives.

It was probably a much more genteel time back in the days of Prime Minister Deakin. There follows a lengthy exposition on the circumstances in which the chair may decline to move the motion.

What we saw today—and it was highlighted by this out-of-order attempt by Mr Corbell to close the debate—was a high level of petulance manifested by the manager of government business. We see that on a fairly regular basis. It is usually characterised by him saying, “This is a day set down for government business and we have not debated any.” But we have to remember that this is a day set down for a number of things, including government business, Assembly business, and the tabling of committee reports, some of which still have not been tabled and one of which refers directly to a piece of legislation which has been passed by this place.

What happened today, with the connivance and the direct application of the manager of government business, was a shameful display—an absolutely shameful display—of how a majority government can work, or how a majority government does not work in the ACT. There are not enough checks and balances; there is not enough regard for the forms of the Assembly, the forms of parliament and the traditions of parliament. Mr Corbell’s performance as manager of government business needs to be severely remedied fairly soon or we will have to take other measures against him.

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