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Tuesday, 27 May 2008
Page: 3318

Mr TRUSS (Leader of the Nationals) (4:46 PM) —Mr Speaker, as the Speaker you have tried to be very fair in your office, and I think that you have earned the respect of the whole House for the way in which you have endeavoured to give members an opportunity to have their say. This is an instance where I think that a misinterpretation of the standing order has not allowed the honourable member for North Sydney a fair go. I refer to standing order 81—

Mr Albanese —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. There was a seconder of this motion who reserved their right to speak, and the seconder of the motion is entitled under standing orders to be given the call.

The SPEAKER —On the point of order: there was only one person who sought the call and I have given that call to him—the Leader of the Nationals.

Mr TRUSS —Standing order 81 says:

After a question has been proposed from the Chair, a Member may move … whether or not any other Member is speaking—

That the question be now put.

The issue is that, before that particular motion can be moved, the question must have been proposed, and the chair must have proposed the question to the House. That had not happened yet in this instance. The member for North Sydney was endeavouring to move an important amendment. He had not even completed moving the amendment, let alone got to the stage where the Speaker would actually propose the question to the House. The Leader of the House intervened and sought to immediately close it down. I would argue, therefore, Mr Speaker, that he acted prematurely, before he had a right to actually put that motion to the House. He should have listened first to the member for North Sydney moving his amendment and then waited for you, Mr Speaker, to propose the question to the House. That had not happened. He intervened immediately to deny the member for North Sydney the ability to even complete the motion he wanted to bring before the House.

It was an important matter. We have been debating the question of FuelWatch. The government had put forward an amendment to our original proposal; that had been approved by the House. Then we were proposing an additional amendment. That was a perfectly normal and correct procedure. But the reading of this additional amendment, proposed by the member for North Sydney, was not even completed. He was going to challenge the government in a really practical way to stand behind their commitment that no-one would pay extra for petrol. This amendment would have put the government to the test about whether they really believed that FuelWatch was going to work or not going to work. But he was not even given a chance to complete moving the amendment. The members of the House are not aware of its contents. Members of the government, who would have had the opportunity to put their votes where their mouths are over recent times, did not even get to hear the amendment. The Leader of the House may not have been aware that some of his members were probably interested in the commitment that this amendment would have enabled, but they were not even given the chance. The amendment had not even been completed by the member for North Sydney, let alone got to the key stage which triggers standing order 81—namely, that the Speaker then puts the question to the House. The Speaker had not done that. He could not, because the amendment had not yet been moved.

So, Mr Speaker, I would argue that, whilst you have always sought in this office to understand and to administer the rules of the House fairly and equitably, in this case there was no fair play. The procedures were truncated in a way that denied the member for North Sydney his right to actually put his motion and then for you to put it to the House. So, when the Leader of the House intervened, he was indeed out of order. He was acting ahead of the opportunity that the standing orders provide for the closure of the question.

In that regard, Mr Speaker, I believe in this instance your ruling was not correct. Whilst I have every respect and admiration for the way in which you are fulfilling the role, on this occasion there was an error. The opposition is seeking to correct that error and to give all members a fair go and, in this instance, to give the member for North Sydney the opportunity to move his amendment.