Monday, 9 November 2020
Questions to the Speaker
Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (Coronavirus and Other Measures) Bill 2020
I wish to make a brief statement in response to a question I received from the Manager of Opposition Business at the end of last week. On the last sitting day I was asked a question by the Manager of Opposition Business about the impact on the potential interpretation of an act of a summing up speech by the Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction during debate on the Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (Coronavirus and Other Measures) Bill 2020, which the Manager of Opposition Business said was about a different bill. The Manager of Opposition Business made the point that a minister's second reading speech is of importance for statutory interpretation by the courts. He is correct in saying that and, indeed, House of Representatives Practice makes this point in several places.
This use of the second reading speech is provided for in the Acts Interpretation Act 1901. Specifically, section 15AB of that act provides expressly for this potential interpretive use of a minister's second reading speech. Even though that section also provides more generally for the use of extrinsic material in the interpretation, it is the minister's second reading speech which is the most important. The speech to which the Manager of Opposition Business referred was not the second reading speech but, rather, the summing up on the second reading, and there is an important and critical difference—that is, the court would look to the second reading, not the summing up.
I've provided this response because I thought it was in the interests of members to clarify matters. I do have to point out that in doing so, and having considered the matter, I also want to make it clear that I'm not the arbiter on these matters. Indeed, there's no role for me in checking whether correct speeches are made on bills. I hope this clarifies matters for the House. After question time I'll make another statement on the subject of ministerial statements, but I won't do that now.