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Wednesday, 13 June 2007
Page: 219

Ms ANNETTE ELLIS (5:24 PM) —In that case, I am sure I have something to say on communications, information technology and the arts. I am slightly astonished with this arrangement. I am happy that members from the bureaucracy are here, but I find it extraordinary that the minister is not. Any contribution that we make from this side of the Committee in this area, I think, should be heard by the minister, with the greatest of respect. I want to put on record my astonishment that the minister may not be prepared to be here for this debate.

Mr Slipper —Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The minister obviously can read the Hansard but, having said that, I did contact the whip and I understand the minister is running late and, on behalf of the government, I apologise for the minister not being here. The minister will be here, I understand, as soon as possible.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —By way of explanation, the minister will be here shortly. The previous minister of course has left—that is blatantly obvious. The list of speakers from the opposition has been exhausted. I have no choice but to shut down the Main Committee in the absence of the minister. So I believe that the department would be very happy to take details of speeches from the opposition speakers, and the minister will answer all of those questions in the summing-up at the expiry of time for this debate.

Ms ANNETTE ELLIS —I thank you very much for your indulgence and I take note of the colleague opposite mentioning that the minister is not here. I just want to make the point, without labouring it too much, that in this particular part of the debate on appropriations it is most appropriate for members of the opposition to be able to not only debate them but ask questions of the minister and then respond to those answers. It is very difficult to do that when the minister is not here. We respect the fact that he is not here, but it does not help open debate, which is what we have just had with the previous minister.

Mr Slipper —The minister is now here.

Ms ANNETTE ELLIS —There he is.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —We would accept that it is suboptimal.