House debates

Monday, 5 September 2022

Business

Sessional Orders

3:21 pm

Zoe Daniel (Goldstein, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

I seek leave to move:

That all words in paragraph (a) of sessional order 65A be omitted and the following words substituted:

"(a) During Question Time, priority shall be given to a crossbench Member seeking the call on the fifth, thirteenth and seventeenth questions."

Leave not granted.

I move:

That so much of the standing and sessional orders be suspended as would prevent the Member for Goldstein from moving the following motion immediately—

That all words in paragraph (a) of sessional order 65A be omitted and the following words substituted:

"(a) During Question Time, priority shall be given to a crossbench Member seeking the call on the fifth, thirteenth and seventeenth questions."

The urgency of this matter to justify suspension of standing orders is as follows. The intention of the sessional orders agreed at the beginning of the 47th Parliament was that the crossbench get three questions each question time, in line with increased crossbench representation. Even in the short period parliament has been sitting, this is not the way question time has developed. This is urgent because, now, in five of the seven question times so far during this parliament, the crossbench has received only two questions, and only 18 questions were heard today. Each day that passes, therefore, reflects the denial of the opportunity to question the government on important matters relating to the community that elected this crossbench—the largest crossbench of our time.

It's important that we begin as we plan to continue in this new parliament, rather than allowing poor habits to evolve or simply turning a blind eye to deliberate, mischievous points of order. It is urgent because this is denying crossbenchers the full opportunity to represent our communities in parliament, in one of the few times we get the opportunity to speak up. It is on that basis that I put this motion.

Photo of Milton DickMilton Dick (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

Is the motion seconded?

3:23 pm

Monique Ryan (Kooyong, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

I second and support the member for Goldstein's motion for this change to sessional order 65A. The 47th Parliament has the largest crossbench yet seen in this House, reflecting the fact that one-third of Australians voted for a representative independent from the major parties at the most recent federal election. The millions of Australians who make up our electorates have expressed a desire to see politics done differently. As a new member of parliament, I have been disappointed by the opposition's frequent interruptions and stonewalling in question time in the first sitting fortnight of this parliament. The opposition's points of order are pointless. The time we have here is precious. It is expensive. It should be valued. We hold the trust of the public that we use this time effectively and responsibly. Our electorates want and deserve better than the time wasted in question time. We wish to facilitate a more productive question time in which the important and pressing issues of our time can be discussed in detail and with respect. This country needs an effective opposition and question time needs to include real questions and real answers. The interests of our individual electorates will be better served by a redistribution of questions such as to increase the ability of this crossbench to hold the government to account.

3:25 pm

Photo of Paul FletcherPaul Fletcher (Bradfield, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Government Services and the Digital Economy) Share this | | Hansard source

I inform the House that the opposition became aware of this proposed suspension of standing orders around 2.15 today, when the member for Goldstein approached me to provide me with notice of that, and I thank her for doing that. I was then informed that the government intends to support this.

Just weeks ago the government made changes to the standing orders, through the normal process, to add standing order 65A, which aims to set out a set of new and modified arrangements to deal with the fact that we do have a different composition in this parliament than we have had previously. Standing order 65A, amongst other things, is predicated on the assumption that there will be—when you work through the maths—22 questions, because it refers to a crossbench member seeking the call on the fifth, on the 13th and on the 21st questions.

As the member for Goldstein has rightly said, in fact, today the Prime Minister brought question time to an end after 18 questions. And in the several question times in the last sitting period we saw the Prime Minister bring question time to an end after 18 or 20 questions. We've had conduct from the government which is different from the premise on which it drafted standing order 65A, brought it to the House and secured the support of the House for it.

I make no criticism of the crossbench for bringing this motion forward today, but I do say that these are matters within the control of the government. Given the conduct that we have seen from the Prime Minister today and in several question times in the last sitting period, where the Prime Minister shut down questions after 18 or indeed 20 questions, unless the Prime Minister changes his practices, the practical impact of what is put before the House today—let's be in no doubt about it—will be one less question for the opposition and one more question for the crossbench.

I say to the House, and I say particularly to the government, that this is not an exercise of good faith by the government. The government just weeks ago set out a set of arrangements in the standing orders. There were extensive discussions between all of the parties: government, opposition and crossbench. There were a whole range of discussions on these matters. We did raise concerns with a number of them, but the government set out a set of arrangements, and that has now been set out in the standing orders. Literally a week or two later, in terms of sitting weeks that have elapsed, the government is now proposing, as I'm advised, to support a material change to those arrangements, which will have the practical effect of reducing by one question the number of questions that the opposition receives and increasing by one the number of questions that the crossbench receives.

Again, I make no criticism of the crossbench. I do criticise the government. This is not the way that the government should be engaging with the opposition. We've heard a lot about kinder, gentler politics; we've heard a lot about a more cooperative and consultative approach. This is the very opposite of that. This is being done with absolutely no notice to the opposition and the practical effect of it is to reduce by one the number of questions that the opposition is able to ask.

I say to the Prime Minister that he could resolve this issue simply by committing that he will maintain a practice of having 22 questions, which is the basis on which standing order 65A was drafted. The opposition will oppose this motion on the practical grounds that its substantive effect is to reduce the number of questions that we receive. The government could very simply solve this issue by committing to having 22 questions in question time.

3:30 pm

Photo of Mr Tony BurkeMr Tony Burke (Watson, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations) Share this | | Hansard source

That was a valiant defence of the sessional order the opposition voted against. That's what we just had. The Manager of Opposition Business is right that the sessional order presumes we'll get through 22 questions, which most of the time we used to when we got to the normal finishing time of 10 past three. What has happened this term is, because the only question they feel is at stake is the crossbench question, they take point of order after point of order to slow everything down and they don't lose a question. It has always actually been a natural restraint on oppositions that you would feel, if you kept the points of order going, you were going to lose a question at the other end. That would cause oppositions to hold back. On this occasion what they've done is decide, 'Well, it's only the crossbench that's at stake, therefore we'll do points of order.' We had four on one question today.

The impact of this will be really simple. If the number of points of order goes back to normal, the opposition will get all the questions that they had every right to expect. But effectively what this change to the sessional order does is say the commitment that was publicly given to the crossbench that they would get three questions is what will ordinarily now occur. That's what this says—and it says, for the commitments that were made to the opposition, it's very much up to you. There is only one reason we're getting through so few questions, and that's in the hands of the Manager of Opposition Business.

3:32 pm

Photo of Bob KatterBob Katter (Kennedy, Katter's Australian Party) Share this | | Hansard source

When I came into parliament as a member of the National Party government, in three months I got no questions at all. Now every two or three weeks I get a question. When I did get the question, the whip came down and said, 'You've got a question today, Katter,' and he gave me the question. I said, 'That's got nothing to do with my electorate. I'm not interested in that. What're you giving me that for?' and he said, 'That's the question you're asking.' I said, 'Hold on a minute, am I to understand that the only way I get to stand up and ask questions in this place is if I'm a mouthpiece and a little puppet on a string for you? Is that the way it works?' and he said, 'Yes, that's the way it works.' What we're asking for is a more enlightened approach than that.

Question time was cut short because I had question 21, and the Prime Minister was a bit scared of it; I know that. He's a good bloke. Peter Andren and Ted Mack, the fathers of the third force in politics, said on their first re-election, the first time that a third-party person had ever gotten re-elected, 'The only questions that will be asked in this place will be asked by those of us on the crossbenches, because they are the only meaningful questions.' One side throws banana skins in front of the government, and the government tell us how wonderful they are, which bores the entire Australian public silly—and I want to thank both of them, because that's the reason we're here. It sure would be nice if we gave a bit of return on their money to the taxpayers of Australia.

Photo of Milton DickMilton Dick (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The question is that the motion for the suspension of standing orders be agreed to.

3:44 pm

Zoe Daniel (Goldstein, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That all words in paragraph (a) of sessional order 65A be omitted and the following words substituted:

"(a) During Question Time, priority shall be given to a crossbench Member seeking the call on the fifth, thirteenth and seventeenth questions."

As I said in moving urgency, the intention of the sessional orders agreed at the beginning of the 47th Parliament was to provide the crossbench with three questions in question time. It has not worked. In five of the seven question times since the 47th Parliament began, the crossbench has only been able to ask two questions and not the agreed three.

There appears to have been the deliberate use of points of order to waste time to deny the crossbench the 21st question. For members of the crossbench, asking questions without notice is a key tool to hold government to account. Such tactical approaches to reducing the agreed number of questions is cynical and thwarts the agreement between the government, crossbench and, indeed, the opposition on questions. The agreement is not being treated with good faith by the opposition.

This amendment is designed to restore the original intention of the sessional order that would be in line with the numbers in the House—the government, opposition, Greens and crossbench. This may seem like a small numerical change, but, if we are to be truly representative, it'll make a big difference for the communities that this crossbench represent. All of us on this crossbench may wish for greater reform of question time, but this is a start. I commend this motion to the House.

3:45 pm

Monique Ryan (Kooyong, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

I second the member for Goldstein's motion as was stated. The Australian people deserve better from their parliament. They want and expect better from question time. They're disappointed with the ranker and the uselessness of many of the points of order that are raised by the opposition. They want the government to answer questions, rather than asking themselves pointless questions and wasting everyone's time with those. We can do better and we should do better.

3:46 pm

Photo of Helen HainesHelen Haines (Indi, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Goldstein for this really important motion. I have been here for a little bit longer than some of my crossbench colleagues, but I stand united with them on this issue. The people of Australia are sick of question time. It is performative politics really at its worst. We see mind-numbing dorothy dixers. We see mischievous points of order. The people of Australia demand some transparency and accountability from their parliament, and question time is a time to get that, if we take it seriously.

We on the crossbench seek real answers to real questions. We are the biggest crossbench since Federation and we undertook an agreement with the sessional orders to have proportional representation at question time. That's not being fulfilled because of many parts of this awful performative politics that is question time—not just mischievous points of order, not just mind-numbing dorothy dixers, not just question time being cut short by the Prime Minister but all of it combined.

We can make a difference in this place. We can do better, and one way of doing better is making sure that the crossbench get their proportional representation at question time by backing the member for Goldstein. I call on everyone in this parliament to do better and to support this motion.

3:48 pm

Photo of Luke HowarthLuke Howarth (Petrie, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Defence Industry) Share this | | Hansard source

The reality is that it's not proportional representation if the Independents get one question and we get two every question time. The reality is that we have about five times as many members as them. The Greens are almost in coalition with Labor, so they've got 12. We've got 58. The reality is that the people in my electorate in Petrie and right around the country expect us to be a very well accounted for opposition, and, if we're not getting questions, how do we hold the government to account?

I would expect better from the member for Indi and the member for Mayo and the member for Kennedy and all those members that have been here for some time. The reality is that in my time in this parliament—and I've been here for four terms; three terms in government, the first time in opposition—every member that's come in here and spoken today hasn't been here before. They weren't here when Labor has been in opposition. They weren't here for the points of order that Labor raised, the change in standing orders and the motions moved against the government in the last two terms.

It's really not fair for Australians if we have one question from Independents and then, more or less, two questions from the opposition: The opposition should be getting more questions than that. The Labor Party and the Manager of Government Business shouldn't be supporting this motion. They should be making sure that the opposition gets its fair share of questions and, if they don't want to do that, the Prime Minister should sit question time longer.

I remember that, in the last term, in the 46th Parliament, during COVID, the member for Cook, the former Prime Minister, would quite often have question time going through to about 20 to four. Question time did not end at 10 past three; it went from 2.00 to 3.30 and often 2 to 3.40 to make sure those questions were answered. So really, for all Australians listening, this is not good for democracy. It isn't representational of the 151 members in this parliament.

The Australian people know that the Greens are more or less part of the Labor Party, and that leaves 12 independents. When I look over there, I count maybe one or two of them that perhaps would sit with our side of the parliament. The other 10, through their contributions here today and their reflections on the opposition, really have shown their true colours, and the people of Kooyong and other seats need to be aware that their members are supporting the Labor Party, will continue to support the Labor Party and are not really true Independents. They're also not grassroots members. Through their language, through the way they behave and through their reflections on the opposition, they wouldn't have the slightest clue of what it means to be down here with the people. I'll be really interested to see how these guys go at the next election—

Government Members:

Government members interjecting

Photo of Milton DickMilton Dick (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! Members on my right will cease interjecting.

Photo of Luke HowarthLuke Howarth (Petrie, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Defence Industry) Share this | | Hansard source

because the reality is that this is not fair. It's not right. It weakens our democracy. The Prime Minister gets up and talks about the Westminster system, but he wants to change it so the opposition doesn't get its proportional representation of questions. The fact is that they have about 20 per cent of what we have. They should be getting one in every six questions, and the government wants to support them in weakening the voices of the opposition to suit themselves. It's just not on.

3:52 pm

Photo of Zali SteggallZali Steggall (Warringah, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

I heard the words expressed by the member for Indi. Being in my second-term, I do support and agree with some of the statements that have been made by the opposition as well as some of the statements made by the member for Goldstein. I say that the spirit and intent of standing order 65(a) was on the assumption that question time would go to 3.30, which it routinely did in the previous parliament, and it has been cut short in this parliament to date. It was on the assumption that there are 22 questions in the parliament, which is, again, what often occurred in the previous parliament. Both sides of politics have on numerous occasions used question times to interrupt and delay. There was suspension of standing orders during the previous parliament by the now government. There are now multiple points of order. In the last parliament, the Speakers enforced that there would only be one point of order per question. Maybe is a way of returning to a prompt and more effective use of question time.

In representing a community, I should say the community does want question time to be more effective. You are kidding yourselves if you don't think the public watches this and cares. We are wasting the public's time and money when it is all show and not a genuine questioning of government. We have now had over 100 days since the election, and this is our eighth sitting day. We are here to hold the government to account and ask serious questions. It is important, and it is important that we have proportional representation here in questions. I support the motion because we haven't been getting to proportional representation. The crossbench is 22 per cent of the opposition and, as such, there is a third question, but I would urge the government to have a proper sitting of question time to ensure that we have a full length of questions occurring.

Photo of Milton DickMilton Dick (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The question is that the motion be agreed to.

4:02 pm

Photo of Paul FletcherPaul Fletcher (Bradfield, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Government Services and the Digital Economy) Share this | | Hansard source

I seek leave to move the following motion immediately:

That standing order 97 be amended by the addition of a new paragraph, standing order 97(c), to read as follows:

  Question time must not be concluded before 3.30 pm each day.

Leave not granted.

I move:

That so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent the Manager of Opposition Business from moving the following motion forthwith:

That standing order 97 be amended by the addition of a new paragraph, standing order 97(c), to read as follows:

  Question time must not be concluded before 3.30 pm each day.

This is demonstrably a matter of urgency. We have just had a change to the standing orders made on the basis of a series of arguments put by the Leader of the House and, indeed, by the crossbench, which argued that it's been the conduct of the opposition—it was said—which meant there had been a reduction in the effective number of questions that members of the crossbench were able to ask. I make the point, and I do this without any criticism of the crossbench, that the first time this was put to the opposition was at approximately 2.15 this afternoon. There was no consultation with the opposition from the crossbench. More seriously, there was no consultation with the opposition from the government. The Leader of the House made no attempt to raise this matter with me.

As I have explained to the House, the practical consequence of the change which has just been made is that there will be a reduction in the effective number of questions which are open to the opposition to ask every day. Standing order 65(a) is predicated on the assumption that there will be 22 questions. But the fact is that the conduct we've seen from the government and from the Prime Minister is, typically, that question time is being brought to an end after 20 questions or after 18 questions. Indeed, today, question time was brought to an end after 18 questions.

I emphasise that the opposition and the crossbench have a shared interest in scrutiny. We have a shared interest in accountability. The crossbench are here to represent the interests of their constituents. The opposition are here to represent the interests of our constituents. Indeed, in a Westminster system there is a very strong interest in the government being subject to the day-to-day scrutiny of an informed opposition and of an informed crossbench. I think we have a shared interest in as much practical and effective scrutiny as there can be of the government of the day. If we look at what has been one of the direct causes of the concern that the crossbench has raised, and I acknowledge the concern, it is that standing order 65(a) drafted by the government—drafted by the Leader of the House—is premised on the expectation that there will be 22 questions in question time. What we have in fact seen in practice is that question time is being brought to an end by the Prime Minister after 20 questions or after 18 questions. As has been pointed out by my colleague the member for Petrie, who is a student of these matters—all on this side of the House are students of these matters—we have seen from the behaviour of the former Prime Minister, the member for Cook, a very strong commitment to question time going for a period that, in practical terms, has been considerably longer than has been the regrettable practice of the current Prime Minister.

Mr Speaker, I say to you, but more importantly I say to every member of this House: on the opposition side and on the crossbench side we have a shared interest in scrutiny. We have a shared interest in holding this government to account. Our constituents ask us to do that. As to the solution that has been put forward and the change to the standing orders that has just been made by the House—and, again, I must express my regret that there was not a proper opportunity for consultation with the opposition—I say particularly to the crossbench: my door is always open. Our doors are open and we welcome every opportunity to sit down with you, brainstorm these issues and find a way to make our parliament work more effectively in seeking answers to questions from government. We seek to do that on behalf of the Australian people and consistent with what has been the historical role of opposition throughout the Westminster system, referred to for centuries as 'Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition'. That is an important role. It's an important role in our system and, regrettably, it can sometimes be the case that prime ministers—perhaps new prime ministers—can find that scrutiny a little unappealing and a little unattractive. But it's not about how people feel, whether people like it or not, it's about its importance to the system.

There is an urgency to this matter. The reason that standing orders should be suspended is that we have just made a change to the standing orders which bears quite significantly on the operation of question time and on how effective it will be as a means of holding the government to account. I acknowledge the concerns that have been raised by the crossbench but I also welcome comments including from, for example, the member for Warringah, who, in her observations, noted she felt that some of what the opposition had said had substance. So we have, in effect, before us a partial solution to a clear problem.

The problem we have is that the government said there would be 22 questions, and the government said that there would be an allocation of those questions under a certain ratio, under a certain formula, as between the opposition and the crossbench. We made arguments vigorously as to whether we thought that formula or that allocation was right, but in good faith. We've worked under that allocation once it has come into effect.

It is unfortunate, I think, that this government's attempt to deal with this issue—and it is a novel issue; I and the opposition acknowledge that it is a novel issue—have proved to be wanting so early in the life of this parliament. It's particularly unfortunate that a key trigger of the reason why the government's attempts to deal with this issue, a key trigger for the problem here, the reason that the government's attempted solution has not worked, has been the conduct of the Prime Minister himself.

What we have put, and we say this as a matter of urgency that the House needs to consider now, is effectively the second half of the solution. Let's put two halves together and make a whole. What we're proposing is that if one part of the solution has been a change in the respective sequencing of questions being asked by the opposition and by the crossbench, another part of the holistic solution here needs to be that we look at the total length of question time. We've been pretty reasonable in what we've proposed. We could have proposed that question time go, for example, to four o'clock or even to five o'clock, but we've proposed, quite reasonably, 3.30. That is not without precedent at all, that question time go to 3.30.

Mr Speaker, I say to you and I say to the House, this matter is urgent because of the changes that have just been made to the standing orders. It is unfortunate that the opposition was notified of those extremely late, but we've put on our thinking caps. We've thought with alacrity and good heart about how we can come up with a holistic solution to the issue that the parliament presently faces.

That holistic solution is the one embodied in the motion that I am now proposing, that standing orders ought be suspended so I am able to move the motion that standing order 97 would be amended by the addition of a standing order 97(c), which would say as follows: 'Question time must not be concluded before 3.30 pm each day.' What that would do is allow a satisfactory minimum period of time for question time to occur. We would be very open to it continuing later, should that be the government's judgement. I suspect it won't, but we'd be very open to it.

This is a practical solution, which addresses both the legitimate concerns that the crossbench have raised and the legitimate concerns that the opposition have raised. It's unfortunate that we've seen a little bit of game playing from the government, some of those experiences from backroom Labor politics on display today. But we're saying let's join together for a kinder, gentler parliament where we can work together to achieve outcomes for our constituents.

Photo of Milton DickMilton Dick (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

Is the motion seconded? I call the Leader of the Opposition.

4:13 pm

Photo of Peter DuttonPeter Dutton (Dickson, Liberal Party, Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

I second the motion and I'll make a brief contribution because we've got very important business to deal with in the House—two speeches that we're all sitting here very anxious to listen to. But this is an important issue that needs to be resolved before the House can move on.

I want to deal with a couple of points. Firstly, the arrangement that the honourable member spoke of, the amendment to the standing orders, essentially, in this parliament reduced the numbers from 10 to eight for questions that the opposition could put to the government. That was quite a departure from practice over many, many parliaments. It was driven by the inclusion of the crossbench members, and I acknowledge that; that's fine. But there is nothing to this argument about the proportionality, though—that's the first point. The member for Petrie rightly pointed out that the numbers here in the opposition are 58, and that is roughly five times the numbers on the crossbench. So there's nothing to that argument. It's a facilitation of the crossbench. The government came to an agreement—at about the same time they cut all their staff, of course—that they would have an arrangement in place where the crossbenchers could ask questions. We're in support of that, and we have made that point clear today. But the reality is that we are now moving beyond that to a point that wasn't contemplated initially, and that is to reduce, in effect, from eight to seven questions the number that the opposition can put to the government of the day.

If this were an aboveboard action, if this were something that the government were proud of, if this were something that, in concert with the crossbenchers, was done transparently, if we had have been advised of this cosy arrangement before question time, not during question time, that would have been a different scenario. There may have been some legitimacy to what is being argued here. But that's not what's being argued. The argument around there somehow being a conspiracy by the opposition to pad out question time so that those members on the crossbench couldn't achieve their third question I will just deal with as it is complete nonsense.

I have met in good faith with each of the members of the crossbench. I extended to them an opportunity to speak with me on issues that are important to them. Not one of them has taken up the opportunity to raise this issue with me. That's because it is not a legitimate criticism. We haven't raised points of order here to try and exclude their opportunity to ask another question of the government. What interest would we have in that? We're happy for questions to be asked of the government. We think they're a bad government. Whether it is us, the Greens or the Independents asking questions of the government, I am fine with all of that. So to suggest, which is the point that the member for Goldstein made, that somehow the legitimacy of her point here and her secret agreement with the government is to try and deal with an issue of our making is a complete nonsense. I am not going to stand for it. I am not going to be besmirched in that way. It is not genuine. If it were a genuine concern that the member for Goldstein or, indeed, the member for Kooyong had, they would have come to see me and raised it. I have said to them that I have an open door in relation to any issues that they have. There's been not a peep.

When we hear about transparency and we hear about new conduct, a new parliament and a new way of behaving and conducting ourselves, that's not been on display here today. We have seen a government that saw this coming. The manager of government business is an experienced hand. He saw them coming a mile away. What did they come with? They came with an argument that we, as an opposition, would be able to ask one less question of the government. Why wouldn't they take it up? What happens in the circumstance where, as today, there was a condolence motion at the beginning of question time? To the government's credit, today it extended beyond 3 pm to accommodate the time that was taken for the condolence motion in relation to Mikhail Gorbachev. That was an appropriate extension today, but that is not anything other than a discretion exercised or not by the government of the day. That hasn't been accommodated for in the proposition from the honourable members of the crossbench today. There's nothing in the standing orders that says that the government must extend, when a proper condolence motion is considered by this House, question time beyond 3.10, which would be the appropriate way to do it.

So I think there is a lot of reflection to take place here. The government are not going to allow this motion to get up. They will seek to close it down. But I think it is a very poor reflection on those members who have contributed in a way that misrepresents what this is really about today.

4:19 pm

Photo of Mr Tony BurkeMr Tony Burke (Watson, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations) Share this | | Hansard source

The Leader of the Opposition has accurately predicted what I am about to say. Let me first of all, though, deal with some of the comments that have been made on the way through. Firstly, there was the comment about us not allowing debate. The former coalition government, during its time in office, gagged debate 654 times. In this exact sort of motion, the two speeches that have just been heard never would have been heard. Never—not a chance. It would not have happened 654 times. But allow me—

Photo of Milton DickMilton Dick (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

Are you taking a point of order, Member for Dickson? The Leader of the House will resume his seat.

Photo of Peter DuttonPeter Dutton (Dickson, Liberal Party, Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to make the point of order that the statement made by the minister is completely inaccurate. It is false. He has misled the parliament and he should correct the record now, at the first available opportunity.

Photo of Mr Tony BurkeMr Tony Burke (Watson, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations) Share this | | Hansard source

'That the question be put' votes—272 times under the former coalition government; 'That the member be no further heard'—382 times under the former coalition government. The Leader of the Opposition just referred to the mathematics, the numbers not being true. Could I just draw his attention to this. He said that the numbers of the opposition are five times those of the crossbench. There are 16 on the crossbench. If you multiply that by five, that means you're in government; it means you've got 80 members in the House. That's what they just said. There are 16 on the crossbench, and the proportionality that's reflected in the sessional order does presume we should get to 22 questions.

I would simply warn those considering this motion about one of the impacts that will definitely come from what the Manager of Opposition Business has moved. Effectively, if part of what the House just voted on was about having an incentive that we don't spend as much time on endless points of order, what this is saying is: push off the finish time, and then the opposition can keep behaving exactly as they have, with absolutely nothing to provide any extra layer of discipline. That's what they're suggesting.

I speak to the members of the crossbench here directly. In terms of the question 'How long does question time normally go for?' I refer to page 554 of Practice:

Since 2011, the first complete year of the 43rd Parliament, following the introduction of restrictions on duration of questions and answers, it has been about 70 minutes.

That's the normal length of time for question time. The Leader of the Opposition is right, though: it's right and proper that there be extensions, whenever possible, at the end when there have been significant indulgences at the start. That is something that should happen. But the 70-minute concept simply has the impact that you get 11 questions each side, because some questions are a bit shorter and some answers are a bit shorter. History has been that you get 11 questions each side if you don't stall the whole day with points of order.

Here's what changes as a result of what the opposition have put: either way, we get a situation where, if the opposition want to get all 11 questions, it's on them to raise only points of order that are genuine points of order. If we do the extension, if this motion is carried, then what we saw today and what we saw on the previous days on which this parliament has sat—where you get four points of order in the course of a single question, and it goes on and on and on—will be continued. I don't think that's consistent with the aspirations that people have for this parliament, and I'd urge people to vote against it.

Photo of Milton DickMilton Dick (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The question is that the motion be disagreed to.