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Wednesday, 17 August 2011
Page: 8311

Mr DUTTON (Dickson) (11:41): It is with a great deal of regret, I think, that the minister now refuses even to respond. This is a very important parliamentary process.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms AE Burke ): The member for Dickson, and everybody, should realise that consideration in detail is not question time.

Dr Southcott: It is consideration in detail.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: It is consideration in detail. There is actually no requirement under the standing orders for the minister to respond. The chair has given a great deal of latitude in this regard.

Mr DUTTON: I do think that it is a very important parliamentary process to be able to consider in detail amendments moved by the government. These are important questions because they go to the very soul of how our health system will operate into the next generation. This is a government that proclaimed that they wanted to fix public hospitals. They have created all these new bureaucracies. They have now capitulated and weakened even the original process that they put forward. They now have 29 amendments on the books. Yet, remarkably, the government will not go to the detail of the amendments, either because they do not know the detail or because they are embarrassed by the detail.

To go to your point, Madam Deputy Speaker, nobody pretends that this is about question time; but what does consideration in detail mean if the coalition cannot ask questions about the detail of the amendments? These are not flippant, tidying-up, clerical error type amendments that you sometimes see in this place. These are substantive amendments, 29 in total, and they completely water down, completely dilute, the original intent of the legislation. In some places whole sections have been struck out and new words have been submitted, and it is quite appropriate for us to ask detailed questions about why that has taken place. But, as importantly, it is incumbent upon the minister to answer in detail those considerations. To sit there silently and not contribute to the debate I think is a poor reflection on the minister and also shows the minister's contempt for you, Madam Deputy Speaker, as the chair in this place, and for the parliamentary process. We have reasonable questions that we want to continue to ask. We are frustrated by the process—there is no question about that—because right from the start the questions that were put have not properly been answered. We asked the minister reasonable questions from the commencement of this consideration in detail. The minister has plucked out a couple of questions and answered those, but the detail has not been forthcoming from the government. As I say, people need to ask the question: why wouldn't reasonable questions be answered by this minister? If this minister had an involvement in the construct of these amendments, why wouldn't this minister be prepared to step up and defend the amendments? If the coalition has questions to ask about why significant changes have been made—necessarily it seems at the hands of the premiers in order to do a deal by a desperate Prime Minister—why wouldn't the health minister in accord with the standing procedures in this place answer those reasonable questions?

This is not a process where a minister can come in, with due respect to the minister, and somehow answer the questions that suit the minister's own knowledge but completely ignore those questions for which she has no substantive response. I think it is for the minister to answer the questions that have been put but not yet answered. It is incumbent upon the minister so that there is faith in this process for the doctors and nurses who are waiting to see whether or not this will substantially change their workplace and whether or not this is going to be the reform that people thought they voted for in 2007 and 2010. The minister's accountability is at question here. I think it is absolutely absurd if the minister continues to refuse to partake in this debate because we will continue to contribute and put questions until this minister answers the reasonable questions that have been put. If this process has to continue on until question time, it will.