Business of the house - I am pleased to rise to support this motion before the house today. I do so also as a member of the Standing Orders Committee. I am very pleased to be a member of that committee. It was formed in this Parliament in March this year. We have had several meetings and, as you can see from the report, we have done some fairly substantial work. The purpose of the Standing Orders Committee is to review the standing orders of the Legislative Assembly and to make recommendations for change. That is indeed what we have here in the report before the house today. We have had a number of meetings and there was some quite robust discussion about a number of the changes, although you will see from the report that many are very cursory in their nature, some brought about by technological change and some simply noting that there need to be some changes in the way that the house operates and the streamlining of these standing orders.
The Legislative Assembly adopted the new standing orders in 2004. The house has made some minor changes along the way and in particular in this Parliament they have included the removal of a number of committees, the joint investigatory committees. I must say that from my point of view it was quite disappointing to see that occur, because in my first term in this place I had the honour of being a member of the Family and Community Development Committee. That was an important committee. The very first referral to that committee looked into the abuse of disabled people in residential care. That inquiry took evidence from all around the state. The committee submitted an interim report and later a final report. One of the recommendations of that committee was that there should be a national royal commission into what was happening in disability services, and we now have that royal commission happening. So it was an important piece of work that made very important recommendations, and a major one of those recommendations was picked up and acted on. The standing orders have been in operation now for 15 years, and the house determined that they should be reviewed. The committee has now put forward these recommendations.
I would just like to refer to several of them. For instance, standing order 11 only provides that scrutineers give the Clerk a written report of the results of the count when there is an election of the Speaker. There has been a change to ensure that there is real clarity around informal votes not being taken into account but just the formal votes being counted and the majority of the formal votes determining who is elected. It is an important amendment but again a fairly straightforward one. The absence of the Speaker: if the Speaker is absent at the start of a sitting day, the Clerk currently notifies the house before the Deputy Speaker takes the chair. We thought that that was no longer necessary and that the Deputy Speaker should now be able to take the chair without such an announcement being made. The discussion around the condolence motion was interesting. There were some fairly firm views about that. We heard the member for Murray Plains in this place speaking on this motion earlier. It was very clear that he would not want a condolence motion in this house upon his passing. I must say that I always take the view that funerals and condolence motions are not about the person who died but about those who are left living and that they do have a place, but nevertheless the committee has come to a consensus that it is appropriate to give a member the option as to whether the house acknowledges them by way of a condolence motion. That is indeed one of the recommendations of the committee and will be reflected in the new standing orders. The committee is an important one and has a lot of potential to change things. While we are looking at a number of the smaller changes that have tidied things up along the way, one of the issues that is of concern to me is that—I presume it was probably about 2004 that this was introduced—government business takes precedence entirely and that any opportunity to have non-government business was removed from the standing orders. Now we are in a position where we only have government business. I have to say I think that is a very poor state of affairs for any Parliament. No other Parliament indeed in Australia has such a circumstance. Every other Parliament throughout Australia allows for general business. That is often a couple of hours on a Wednesday; that is the way it takes place in the upper house here. This is the sort of thing that your Standing Orders Committee could consider. It is an important issue and one that could be raised and discussed going forward. It is certainly something I would support. I look to other Independents and small parties in other parliaments around Australia who have the opportunity to introduce bills during general business or non-government business, depending on how they call it. Water policy is something that is very important to me and to my electorate, and I spend a lot of time on it. I have colleagues who are members of Parliament just across the river in New South Wales, members of the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party, who have just recently been able to introduce to the house their own legislation that calls, for instance, for all members of Parliament to declare their ownership of any water on their register of interests. It is a really important issue in that state, and this is something that has really brought to the attention of everyone the importance of a member being able to raise matters that are important to their electorate. Similarly, in my previous contribution to the matter of public importance I referred to the fact that in the same Parliament—New South Wales—the Shooters and Fishers Party put forward a bill to enable landowners who adjoin forests and national parks to take some authority over an area of, say, 250 metres from their boundary into a forest and do planned burning to prepare firebreaks of their own accord, because in many places, especially more remote places, there is a need for a lot of that sort of community involvement in preparation and fire planning. These are some of the really important opportunities that a member of Parliament who is not a member of the government can use to bring matters before the house. As it stands at the moment I do not have that opportunity. Neither does anyone else on this side of the house. It is something that we sorely miss and that I believe should be changed. It is an important committee and there is some important business that it could certainly consider going forward. Again, I refer to the fact that there are many minor amendments here. I am also clearly supporting the report that has been written and the motion before the house. I commend the motion. Motion agreed to.