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Business of the house: sessional orders

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Sam Hibbins MP
Member for Prahran
12 February 2015

Mr HIBBINS (Prahran) — I note the passionate contributions of members to this debate on the sessional orders. Some significant and welcome changes to the sessional orders have been put forward; however, others can be improved on. Therefore I will move a reasoned amendment.

I move:

That all words after 'That' be omitted with a view of inserting in their place the words:

'this house refuses to agree to the question that the sessional orders be agreed to until the Standing Orders Committee has reviewed the proposed sessional orders and any other opportunities to improve procedures of the house.'

I think it is important for the Standing Orders Committee and for this house to reflect on the changed nature of this house. For the first time in over 50 years four parties are represented in this house, plus there is an Independent — a welcome change for some but not so welcome for others. It is important that we get the standing and sessional orders right to reflect the needs of the crossbenchers.

There is the glaring omission of a provision for general business and non-government business to take precedence, which occurs in all other states and in the federal Parliament, and an inability for general business motions and private members bills to be debated. This affects not just those on the crossbench but also opposition members and government backbenchers, who I note in the federal Parliament often use private members bills to progress critical issues.

Now I note on the government side that we have heard notices of motion described as 'pointless', 'useless' and 'grandstanding'. I suggest that they would be none of those things if we got to actually debate them and vote on them. We are in a situation where notices of motion can be given orally or in written form, and private members bills can be introduced, but they will never be debated or voted on. The standard we need to hold to in the sessional orders, rather than continually saying, 'You lot did it in opposition' or 'You put this up in government and this did not happen', is that we need to apply the old-fashioned pub test. I am not sure there are too many watering holes in Melbourne where they are debating the sessional orders, but if you tried to explain to the average person that we read out notices of motion, put them on the notice paper and then they sit there but we never do anything about it, I think you would find that it would fail the test.

The Greens were elected to this Parliament with a legislative agenda, and it would reflect the will of the voters for us to be able to put forward that legislative agenda and for it to be debated in this house. I also suggest that given that we have had amendments to the motion to make changes to the sessional orders circulated by the government in the last 12 hours, and, merits aside, the fact that the amendments have been circulated so quickly and so close to this debate, indicates that a more thorough review is required.

I move the following amendments to the proposed sessional orders:

Sessional order 13

1.     Delete this sessional order and insert —

'13 Giving notice

Standing order 140(1) be suspended and the following to apply:

(1)   A member may only move a motion to discuss a subject if he or she has given notice of that motion on a previous sitting day.

(2)   Copies of all notices, whether to be given orally or in writing, must be provided to the clerks at the table before notices are called on by the Speaker.

(3)   Oral notices must be read to the house. They can only be given before the house proceeds to the business of the day as set out in the notice paper.

(4)   All notices given by ministers must be oral.

(5)   The maximum overall time allowed for members who are not ministers to give oral notices is 15 minutes. Notices will be apportioned between members on a pro rata basis, according to representation in the house.

(6)   In addition to notices given under paragraph (5), members may give written notice by lodging a copy, identified as a written notice, with the clerks in accordance with paragraph (2). Members are not entitled to also give such notices orally.

(7)   A motion by a member expressing no confidence in the Premier and ministers, in the terms set out in section 8A of the Constitution Act 1975, may only be given orally under paragraph (5) or, where a member seeks to move the motion during formal business by leave, and leave is refused, the member may give notice of that motion despite the provisions of paragraph (5).

(8)   Except where a member has given notice under paragraph (5), the Clerk must notify the Speaker of a notice of a motion by a member to disallow a statutory rule to which standing order 151 applies, and the Speaker will report details to the house at the first convenient opportunity.'.

Sessional order 14

2.     Omit 'member who raised the matter' and insert 'Clerk'.

3.     After 'days.' insert 'A copy must be given to the member who raised the matter, and printed inHansard.'

There are two modest, reasonable amendments designed to retain the ability of members to read out motions and include an overall time limit on speaking with the call apportioned according to the representation in the house. Obviously, to prevent repeats of what we saw on the opening day when 100-odd notices of motion were read, and to save the staff of the member for Burwood from having to go to all that effort to put them up again, I suggest that notices of motion would not be pointless, useless or grandstanding if this house got the chance to debate and vote on them.

Our amendment to sessional order 14 is a modest proposal to have responses to adjournments provided by ministers incorporated into Hansard rather than members just being given a written response. That would be a fair and modest proposal that would add to the transparency and accountability of this house.

Now I will touch on the amendments put forward by the opposition. I share its concerns that question time will now be punctuated with ministerial statements and that that does not truly reflect a commitment to remove Dorothy Dixers from question time. On the subject of its other amendment, I accept that the inclusion of supplementary questions in question time has increased the overall number of questions but I also welcome the chance to ask more questions, as any non-government member should.

Finally, I welcome the changes to the timing of the program in this house. It is appropriate in terms of the timing of the adjournment debate. We will support the government's amendments in that order.


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Sam Hibbins MP
Member for Prahran
12 February 2015




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