Business of the House - Standing and Sessional Orders
23 June 2016 -
Mr WALSH (Murray Plains) — I rise to make a contribution on the motion. When you look at the report that we are actually talking about, it talks about how the minority report should be read in conjunction with the majority report. I suppose if you take that to the full extent, I would think that both the majority report and the minority report should be read in conjunction with two Labor Party press releases, one published on 27 November 2014 and one published on 16 October 2014. If you actually read them in conjunction, you will see that it cuts across into notice of motion 4, which we will be dealing with after this motion, I suppose.
In the press release published on 27 November 2014 the Labor Party said that:
Scrutiny will be enhanced with consideration in detail made a standard feature for bills in the Assembly and budget hearings made more rigorous.
I think if anyone listened to the manager of opposition business in the house, they would know that every time, I think, when government business has been discussed on a Tuesday at the start of a sitting week, he has got up and raised the point that we would like to consider bills in detail. From my recollection there have been two occasions. In the 18 months we have now been sitting we have had two very limited opportunities to do consideration in detail. There was a promise in November 2014 that there would be more consideration in detail, and that promise has most definitely been broken.
If you go to the press release of 16 October 2014, the Labor Party said that it was going to:
Abolish Dorothy Dixer questions in both chambers, instead providing ministers with the ability to make 2-minute ministerial statements where new initiatives, projects and achievements can be briefly explained or announced.
If you actually look at the minority report that is with this report, that very much — —
Mr Brooks interjected.
Mr WALSH — No, it deals with both motions at once. You cannot have a minority report that says something and not have it dealt with in this particular motion. The government said that it was changing that whole rule in the future where ministers will be able to just get up and blab, blab, blab about whatever they want to blab about in their ministers statement, rather than actually focus on, as the government bragged about back on 16 October 2014, having ministerial statements about new initiatives, projects and achievements and a brief explanation of those initiatives. We have seen — —
Mr Brooks — On a point of order, Acting Speaker, the member is referring to sessional order 7, which is the subject of the next motion, which is on the notice paper. That has been foreshadowed, and I think the member should keep his comments for that particular debate.
Ms Asher — On the point of order, Acting Speaker, the motion before the chamber at the moment relates to the Standing Orders Committee report into the inquiry into sitting hours and operation of the house. If you look at the terms of reference in that report, they are unbelievably broad. On page 1 it says that ‘the Legislative Assembly referred a matter to the Standing Orders Committee including but not limited to’ a range of factors. So the report before the house is an extraordinarily broad report, and I believe the Leader of The Nationals is well within his rights.
Can I also perhaps indicate while you consider this matter, Acting Speaker, that the Leader of the House has just had a discussion with the manager of opposition business, and as part of that, I indicated to her that I was willing to speak only once and to deal with all of the issues, given her desire to move the house on to other business.
My contribution to the point of order is twofold: firstly, the report before the house is incredibly broad, and the Leader of The Nationals is well within his rights to talk about the whole report, because that is mentioned in the motion before the house and the terms of reference basically allow the committee to look at anything to do with the operation of the house; and secondly, there is an agreement between the Labor Party and the Liberal Party in order to allow the house to get on to debating other things that some of us who wish to be cooperative are going to truncate debate and speak once and not speak again on the second motion to enable the house to get on with debate. So on technical grounds and practical grounds, I would urge you to allow the Leader of The Nationals to continue his contribution.
The ACTING SPEAKER (Ms Blandthorn) — Order! On the point of order, I have taken some advice from the Clerk. The member can make broader reference to the whole of the issues raised in the debate, but I ask him to specifically keep his remarks to the issue at hand.
Mr WALSH — I thank you for that guidance, Acting Speaker, and as the member for Brighton just said, on the second motion we will all get up and speak for another 10 minutes because the point of order from the member for Bundoora is about the fact that he does not actually like the truth. Those opposite have been caught out lying. They have lied to the people of Victoria. They went to an election with a promise to end Dorothy Dixers and actually change some of the operation of this house, and what have they done? Less than two years in, they are backflipping because they actually cannot stick to their own rules.
This is actually about the ministers sticking to their own rules in the sessional orders that the Labor government designed for itself, and they do not like it so they are going to change it. The member for Bundoora does not like that. He just wants to filibuster and take up people’s speaking time. For the member for Bundoora’s benefit, there was a commitment — a clear promise — to end Dorothy Dixers and have ministerial statements that actually spoke about government business. That is now being changed with this report.
We have had a majority report of the Standing Orders Committee that is actually going to be overturned by the government because it did not like it. It put its own minority report in, and it is going to force through the minority report rather than the majority report. The way the standing orders have worked over my time in here is that they are introduced by consensus, and they are worked through. Labor changed the standing orders; it got what it wanted and now it does not like it because it cannot stick to it. The member for Bundoora is absolutely wrong about that particular issue.
When I look at the report and the sessional orders that have been changed, I think there have been sensible changes made. The incorporation of second-reading speeches has been a good initiative. As a minister, and other former ministers would relate to it, standing up and reading out a speech is not necessarily the most productive use of this chamber’s time. The Leader of the House in the previous Parliament would have liked to have done that too, but at that time the Labor Party did not want to agree to it. It did not want to agree to this sensible change at that particular time. It is a better use of parliamentary time to spend more time debating and doing government business rather than standing there reading out second-reading speeches.
I understood that this motion was going to address the government having changed the guillotine from 4 o’clock to 5 o’clock on a Thursday. Some members of the government at least realise that particularly for country members — of which there are some on the other side of the chamber — 5 o’clock, with peak hour traffic, is not the best time to leave this place and get out of Melbourne. I was of the understanding from informal discussions I have had with the member who is in charge of government business that there was potentially a move to bring that back to 4.30. I am disappointed that that has not happened on behalf of quite a few of the country members who have to vacate this place. I am disappointed in particular on behalf of the member for Mildura, who has had some very nervous trips to the airport to catch a plane back to Mildura, because if he does not make the flight, he is stuck here for another night. Unfortunately that sensible suggestion does not appear to have been addressed in this motion.
Following the ruling from the Chair earlier, the debate on motion 4 will now go for considerably more time because we have not been able to debate these two motions concurrently.
I say to the members of the Standing Orders Committee involved in the majority vote that I think they actually got it right. I am very, very disappointed that the government has a minority report recommendation which will effectively take away the scrutiny of its ministers when they make ministers statements. We saw today the abuse of those standing orders, particularly by the Minister for Emergency Services. Members of the Labor Party are absolute heroes in opposition and absolute hypocrites in government.
In 2014 Labor said what it was going to do. Why will Labor members not actually stick to that and make ministers statements mean something in this place rather than there just being a chance for ministers to get up and rant and rave. Whether it be about the commonwealth government, whether it be about the opposition, whether it be about anyone else in this place, they just filibuster for the sake of their own backbench members.
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