Thursday, 18 October 2018
Questions without Notice
My question is to the member for New England under standing order 99. I refer to the member's motion on the Notice Paper relating to the drought and the importance of providing strong leadership for rural and regional Australians. I ask the member: when will the motion finally be put to a vote?
Mr Speaker, I seek your guidance, but there are very clear guidelines around questions to private members about committees and business of the House—not about when a motion may or may not be debated in the parliament but about how many submissions they received and how many meetings they might have had. I'm not sure that that question is in order.
Standing order 99 makes clear that these questions can be made not only to chairs of committees, as the Leader of the House has referred to, but also to people who have motions on the Notice Paper. It is motion No. 36 on the Notice Paper. I also refer you to page 550 of Practice, which says with respect to these motions, which is different to where you're dealing with questions to a committee:
… the Procedure Committee has indicated its support for such questions being confined essentially to matters of timing and procedure.
And that's exactly what this question does—no more, no less.
I was actually a former chairman of the Procedure Committee and, as much as I respect the Procedure Committee, the evidence presented by the Manager of Opposition Business is that the Procedure Committee would welcome something. That doesn't mean that it's actually part of the standing orders. I point out to you that the timing of the debates in the parliament about legislation and other matters is a matter for the Parliamentary Business Committee, which I happen to chair as the Leader of the House, and therefore it is not within the responsibilities of the member for New England when a motion may or may not be debated.
Let me address this very directly and as quickly as I can.
Honourable members interjecting—
If members would cease interjecting. The Leader of the House is right about who makes determinations on the timing of such things, but that in my view doesn't prevent the question being asked. I'll explain why. The part of Practice that the Manager of Opposition Business read—he's got the new edition and I've got the old edition photocopied here—certainly talks about timing and procedure—
Honourable members interjecting—
No, I've got a photocopy. I haven't got the whole book in front of me. The Practice doesn't refer to motions, but the standing order is very clear and says that 'questions must relate to a bill, motion, or other business'. It does include a motion, so the question is in order, even if the question may be difficult or impossible to answer. So I call the member for New England.
I thank the honourable member for his question. I must say that I am completely overwhelmed. I know that you find me endearing. I know that you miss me. I know that you want me back. I know that I'm the only reason you ever get a question. There is a whole range of other legislation that we need to get through, such as the small business tax cuts, which I know are vitally important. There is so much more that we have to get through. I know that we're looking forward to the $272 million, which we fought for, for the national Regional Growth Fund. I know there are so many people who want to know where that money is going to be spent. There is so much that this good coalition government is doing and there is so much in front of us, but I'm sure we will get to that motion. When we do—and I'll take it on notice—I'll get back to you personally. When we do, you might like to ask me another question. God knows I've got a bit of spare time up here.