Wednesday, 9 December 2020
Questions to the Speaker
House of Representatives: Procedure
I have a question for you, Mr Speaker, on the administration of the House. Last night, the House considered and passed the Health Insurance Amendment (Compliance Administration) Bill 2020. The Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister and Cabinet, the member for Tangney, summed up the bill. The issue is that the minister summed up the wrong bill. The minister actually gave a speech pertaining to a different bill, the Health Insurance Amendment (Administration Bill) 2020, which the House passed last sitting week. I took a point of order at the time, to genuinely assist the minister, and pointed out that he may wish to check to see if he was speaking on the wrong bill. He proceeded nevertheless.
Mr Speaker, as you'd be aware, this is the second time this has occurred in recent weeks. The Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction summed up the wrong bill a few weeks ago. I accept that genuine mistakes do happen, but it is now a repeated occurrence. I put to you, Mr Speaker, that it is an insult to the House if ministers can't read the speech on the right bill.
I have two questions for you, Sir, as presiding officer and guardian of the privileges of the House. Firstly, what avenues are available to the assistant minister to correct the record? A summing-up speech by a minister is an important thing, and the House should reflect that ministers have spoken on the wrong bill. Secondly, what steps can we take as a House to insist that ministers speak on the right bill in the future?
In answer to your first question, all ministers and assistant ministers are able to table documents or seek indulgence; they don't need leave, so that's fairly straightforward. On the second question, I think the straightforward answer, in terms of the operation of the House, is nothing. I'm just being very blunt. My point is that ministers represent each other, ministers give summing-up speeches and mistakes happen. If I heard you correctly, I think your question was what could I do to guarantee that this didn't happen. There's nothing I can do. It's not my role to be checking speeches before they're given.
I understand entirely, Mr Speaker, and I thank you for your response. For your information, as presiding officer, I have here the two speeches presented by ministers, with the same words highlighted. It was, word for word, exactly the same speech on an entirely different bill before the House.