Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 10 Hansard (Tuesday, 12 September 2017) . . Page.. 3558 ..
MR RATTENBURY (Kurrajong) (3.43): We will not be supporting Mrs Dunne’s motion. I have been having a look at the standing orders in the course of the debate. Standing order 118A(c) flags the fact that:
… in the event that the Minister does not provide an explanation or statement to the satisfaction of the Member, that Member may, without notice, move a motion …
I heard the minister say that it had taken longer because she had sought additional information. Certainly that is my lived experience: at times, questions come forward, and when you read the provided answer, perhaps from knowing the context in the Assembly, you think that there is further information that is required or that the question could warrant a better answer. That process does take some time to go back and forth. In relation to the specific question that is being discussed today, I think the minister did provide a satisfactory answer. Whilst the member may not agree with it, we will accept that as a reasonable explanation.
In light of comments from the Chief Minister, which I think gave a very fair and balanced account of the situation, I would like to say that I do find myself at times challenged by some of the questions that are sent as questions on notice which, through some basic researching or reading of annual reports, could be self-answered rather than relying on the question on notice process. I think it is important that we have these questions and that there is scope, but sometimes there is a bit of flexibility because it can take a bit of time to pull some of this information together.
MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (3.44), in reply: I can count, but I do draw members’ attention to the whole of the standing order. The standing order basically sets out that questions should be answered within 30 days and if they cannot be answered within that 30 days the minister may provide to the member who was asked the question an explanation or statement as to why the member cannot be provided with the answer. If that does not happen, a member is entitled to come into this place and draw attention to the matter. Quite frankly, if ministers learn from this process that, if they cannot answer on time, they might pay members the courtesy of being in touch with their office and saying, “We cannot answer in time, but it might take us an extra five days,” or whatever, that might be a reasonable outcome.
Members of the opposition have to come in here at the beginning of every sitting period. I have five questions today, and I am sure that other members have questions as well, because there is a long list of questions that are outstanding and were not answered in the period. This happens on a regular basis. Members in this place come in after question time, usually at the beginning of a sitting period, and ask for an explanation as to why they have not had questions answered. To give the answer “I’ve signed it off” or “I’m about to sign it off” is not an explanation as to why it is late. It is not an explanation as to why it is late. To say, on a sitting day, nine days after the answer was due, “I am about to sign off,” or “You might get it tomorrow,” is not an explanation as to why the answer is late.
What I am asking for, and what the standing order calls for, is an explanation. If the explanation is “It is more complex than the department thought and I have sent it