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Wednesday, 18 October 2006
Page: 89

Mr McMULLAN (3:19 PM) —Mr Speaker, I have a question further to that asked by the member for Hunter. The member for Hunter raised a very important point, and I have two questions. Firstly, I do not understand how a problem with regard to House of Representatives standing orders can subsequently be pursued in the Senate, and I would ask you to clarify that for me. I did not understand that. Secondly, could you consider referring to the Procedure Committee or getting advice on how we might avoid the problem that arose today?

I think Deputy Speaker Wilkie probably had no alternative but to rule in the way he did in the circumstances that were before him, because there is no mechanism for allowing a member who is concerned with a breach of this standing order to have time to seek advice—for example, from parliamentary counsel. You indicate now that it might have been available, but I understand that it was not available at the time. Certainly there is no way that the member for Hunter could get access to that information.

I think the House has a glitch in its procedures here, and it is not a matter that can subsequently be pursued in the courts. The courts have said that they will not adjudicate on internal matters about the parliament and its procedures. So the only people who can deal with it are the members of the House of Representatives. I ask you to follow up on the important matter raised by the member for Hunter and perhaps ask the Procedure Committee to look at how we can overcome the problem that arose on this occasion. Even though I do not criticise how it was handled, I think it has created the circumstance that has the potential to have bills carried here that are actually not in accordance with the standing orders.

The SPEAKER —I thank the member for Fraser. As he would be aware, in a situation like that, the occupier of the chair is always placed in the fairly difficult position of not being able to work out the full implications of amendments. However, the minister did give an assurance, as I understand, that was accepted at the time. The matter has gone through a vote and has been accepted. But it is certainly in order for the member for Fraser to refer that matter to the Procedure Committee.