59th Parliament Sessional Orders
A lot has been said and much of what I would say has been addressed in earlier speeches on this side, in particular that summary by the member for Ripon summarises the broader view of why we need to have sessional orders that are fair.
Going straight to them, I support sessional order 3 and the amendment that the Greens have put up in this place today. I support it because in most parliaments that have a parliamentary system there is an opportunity for non-government business to be addressed. It was only in about 1999 that that seems to have been removed from this place.
It is common practice for non-government business to include debates on petitions and notices and even for private members bills to be introduced and debated. For that to be taken away, especially in a circumstance where we have a government that has an overwhelming majority in this place, does seem to create an inequity in relation to the ability of those of us on this side to properly represent our communities. Because it is only in this place that we are able to get up and say publicly what we think about certain issues and bring them to the attention of everyone in this place and bring them to the attention of the government.
I was reading a paper given to me after diligent research by a member of the library staff called the Ten Measures of a Healthy Parliament. One of them is that non-government members should always be given the opportunity to have their say. Now, the other nine are equally as important and of great value, but in the context of this debate, that is a particularly important one.
It is common in other houses of Parliament, and by some anomaly in 1999 it seems to have been removed from this place. This is the time to reintroduce it because it is a Parliament that is so dominated by government members that the voices of minorities in this place are not heard. I mean, look at us. Look where we sit. We are a very small number and it is very important that we get the opportunity to be able to raise a range of issues.
It used to be that on a petition the petitioner could speak for 5 minutes, and 40 minutes would then be allocated for other members of Parliament to debate that particular petition should they wish to do so. It used to be that private members bills could be introduced and debated. It used to be that notices of motion could be put forward and debated. Now we just have notices read out one day, put on a list and never visited again. That is not the way democracy should really work.
So for those reasons, and the fact that this has been something looked at over a period of time—and I know that some of us in this Parliament have looked at this issue of non-government business being introduced during the course of the last Parliament and it is something that committees could well look at again, a standing orders committee, for instance—I would much rather see the government adopt this amendment today.
One of the other ten healthy factors that was mentioned in that article is that it is appropriate for governments to actually adopt an amendment that may be put by a non-government member if it is a good one. I think this is a good one, as are a number of the other amendments that have been put.
Going to ministers statements, sessional order 7, I would say that both the Leader of the House and the member for Essendon have indicated that it is their clear understanding and intention that ministers statements will relate to their portfolios. Both openly said that. I was sitting here, I heard it, so why would you not simply add the words that the amendment proposes? It seems to be, as stated by the Leader of the House, that that is the intention of the government, but unfortunately the lack of additional words at the end of that sessional order means it does not create an onus on the government to comply with that. This is a really good amendment. It is clearly the understanding of, as I said, the Leader of the House and the member for Essendon that the minister would speak on a matter relevant to their portfolio, and I would urge the government to adopt that amendment.
This would be an amazing thing in this house to see the government actually adopt a non-government amendment that is of value, that is worthy, and it is a precedent that is a good one. It means that we are actually looking at the content of what we are debating and deciding whether or not we might change our mind, whether someone else had a better idea, whether this would be for the better operation of our Parliament. So I would urge the government to put into place what it says its intention is by agreeing to that amendment.
Going to the content of answers and to the amendments proposed, I think there is a need to have more clarity around that and I support the amendments that have been put forward in relation to that.
I think, in summing up, a healthy Parliament does provide the opportunity for everyone to have their say, for all our constituents to be represented and for those of us who have something to say to Victoria, something to say to this Parliament and to the government, to have the opportunity to do that and for there to be open debate on it.
So I would urge the government to consider these amendments. While the Leader of the House is not looking at me at this moment, I wish that she would so I could eyeball her and try and persuade her that she should change her mind in this case and persuade her government to do so. For those reasons I will be supporting the amendments.
Click here to view this record on Hansard.