Page 1738 - Week 05 - Wednesday, 1 April 2009

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The House has the power, within constitutional limits, to make a determination on any question it wishes to raise, to make any order, or to agree to any resolution. In the conduct of its own affairs the House is responsible only to itself. However, the effect of such orders and resolutions of the House on others outside the House—

And here I interject and would support the words “the executive, for example”—

may be a limited one. Some resolutions are couched in terms that express the opinion of the House on a matter and as a result may not have any directive force.

So the House of Representatives practice makes it clear that that house can certainly express an opinion, and the house can even express an opinion very strongly by saying, “We direct you to do certain things,” but it does go to make the point:

Other than in relation to matters such as its power to send for persons, documents and records and its powers in regard to enforcing its privileges, decisions of the House alone have no legal efficacy on the outside world. The House, as a rule, can only bring its power of direction into play in the form of an Act of Parliament—

that is, only in concert with the other two components of the legislature, the Sovereign and the Senate—

This is the only means by which the House can direct (rather than influence) departments of State, the courts and other outside bodies to take action or to change their modes of operation. However, while the House may not have the power to make a direction, a resolution phrased in other terms may …

That is an interesting commentary in House of Representatives Practice, and obviously there is push and shove between the executive and the legislature, but I think the point the government has been seeking to make is this: we have seen two motions today from the Liberal opposition, both of which purporting to direct the executive to do certain things. One was quite an extraordinary assertion by Mr Hanson which was, “You, the executive, must introduce legislation and you must do so by a certain date, but we cannot tell you exactly what you want to do in terms of legislation.” The other one was by Mr Smyth, purporting to direct the executive, in relation to the budget papers, to provide officials at certain times and release documents to the opposition by certain times.

Both certainly fall within the ambit of the standing orders, but neither is consistent with House of Representatives Practice in terms of saying that the executive should be able to be formally directed in a legally binding way. At the end of the day, these matters are resolved as to whether or not the Assembly feels that the refusal, for example, of the executive to agree to such a strongly worded opinion, even if it is couched in terms of a direction, warrants the dismissal of a minister. I think that is the issue at play here: whether or not it warrants the dismissal of a minister, which is the only really serious sanction the Assembly has, simply if the executive refuses to agree to such a request or direction.

I think perhaps there needs to be a discussion in this place, if we are going to be moving these types of motions, about our understanding of what is going to be the

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