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Monday, 28 November 2005
Page: 38


The PRESIDENT (3:05 PM) —I want to put on the record again the ruling in response to Senator Faulkner today. I was asked about Senator Troeth’s question relating to the report of the Employment, Workplace Relations and Education Legislation Committee on the Workplace Relations Amendment (Work Choices) Bill 2005.

As I indicated, there is no rule of the Senate about when a government response to a committee report may be presented, and therefore there is nothing to prevent a question inviting such a response. My attention was drawn to standing order 62. There is nothing in that standing order to prevent the question. The standing order provides for debate on committee reports and government responses after their presentation to the Senate, and it has nothing to do with question time. Even if the report had been put before the Senate and debated, the question asked would not have been out of order, because of—as I said earlier—the interpretation of the anticipation rule to which I referred earlier in the previous ruling by President Reid.


Senator Faulkner —Mr President, I rise on a point of order. As you responded in writing to the point of order I took, you might also respond in writing and indicate to the Senate whether we have ever had a situation in the history of this chamber where a government response has not been provided in writing and has not been provided at the time when committee reports and other matters are tabled. Could you also indicate whether a government response has ever been provided in question time. Those are the substantive issues. With respect, they have not been addressed in the response to my point of order that you have just given. To my mind, what has occurred in question time today is utterly without precedent in the history of this chamber.


The PRESIDENT —It may well be and it may well not be, but we will have a look at it.


Senator Hill —Mr President, on the point of order, which I think is also an odd procedure in this instance but Senator Faulkner started the process, I think the point that Senator Faulkner fails to appreciate—and perhaps time has taken its toll a little on Senator Faulkner over the years—is that the government quite often responds to a report on a committee actually in the debate that subsequently follows. There is no prohibition on the government reporting at any time or in any form. Certainly, if Senator Faulkner refers himself to standing order 73, he will see that, whilst it might not be proper to involve him in a discussion of the report by the committee, it certainly does not rule out the option of the minister responding in the form of question time.


Senator Faulkner —They have never not been done in writing, and even you know that, Mr President, and you should know it.


The PRESIDENT —Order!


Senator Hill —It is totally in order and, rather than wishing to acknowledge that, of course, Senator Faulkner resorts to his usual technique of simply asserting something, shouting his assertion and demanding that his view be accepted. In this instance, as more commonly is the situation, he has misinterpreted the standing orders. The process that was adopted in the question and the answer was perfectly legitimate within the standing orders. And, for what it is worth, Mr President, I respectfully support your determination, which seems to be absolutely correct.