Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 01 Hansard (Tuesday, 9 December 2008) . . Page.. 137 ..
MR SESELJA (Molonglo - Leader of the Opposition) (6.21): Sorry, I was just seeing if the Greens were looking to speak, but they have yielded the floor. Mr Speaker, today we agreed to a bunch of new principles in relation to how the Assembly should operate. One of those key principles—I believe it is also in the Latimer House principles—which we may or may not be debating later on today, is about proper scrutiny of the executive and particularly proper scrutiny of bills, giving enough time for the Assembly to look closely at legislation.
We have changed the standing orders today to ensure that we are able to properly scrutinise bills. We have said that there should be time for that. What will happen today if this suspension motion is not supported is that not only will we have a situation where we do not properly have time to scrutinise bills—we only have two days to scrutinise a $35 million appropriation bill—but even worse than that, we will not even get to have the debate about whether or not we should have some time to scrutinise it.
A vote against the suspension of standing orders completely repudiates what this Assembly passed this morning, which is the principle that we should have proper scrutiny of bills. If we are not allowed to have this debate, not only will we be saying “Well, it does not matter; we don’t need proper scrutiny of bills. We don’t even need to give a reason why they shouldn’t be scrutinised. We don’t even need to have the debate and have members put on the record why they believe two days is enough time for the parliament to consider a $35 million appropriation bill.” This would also immediately be back-flipping on the principle that we all agreed on in this chamber earlier today. That is why standing orders should be suspended.
It would make an absolute mockery of the new processes if, without giving any reason, without standing up and justifying the position, without actually saying this is why this is urgent and this is why it must be passed on Thursday, we will be in a situation where we don’t even get to debate that point. I think that would make a mockery of what we voted on today. I think it would make a mockery of what the Assembly passed today.
For that reason I put it to all members that we should support the suspension of standing orders so we can have the debate. We can hear from the government and we can hear from the Treasurer about the urgency, about how putting the bill to a committee would be detrimental, how there is really no prospect of coming back and getting this through and there is no prospect of putting this to a committee. No argument has been given to us yet. I think it is only reasonable that we can have the debate, hear those arguments and vote on that substantive point.
MS HUNTER (Ginninderra—Parliamentary Convenor, ACT Greens) (6.24): Mr Speaker, we support the procedural motion, but we do not support Mr Smyth’s substantive motion. We can go ahead and have a bit of debate about the procedural motion on the understanding that at the end of the day we will not be supporting Mr Smyth’s motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative, with the concurrence of an absolute majority.