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Wednesday, 19 June 1996
Page: 2250

Mr COBB —My question is addressed to the Minister for Industrial Relations. The minister will be aware of the tragedy of high youth unemployment in the Parkes electorate and elsewhere. Can the minister inform the House of the effect that prospective legislative change will have on youth employment?

Mr REITH —Thank you, Mr Speaker.

Mr Crean —Mr Speaker, I speak on a point of order. I ask you to rule on that question in terms of the anticipation rule. This matter is clearly in debate today in the House. Once the minister gets to his feet—

Mr SPEAKER —It is on the Notice Paper , but the debate has not been had.

Mr Crean —The debate is in current session, Mr Speaker. I debated it this morning, and the Leader debated it this morning. The whole of the House is debating it today. This question is not seeking clarification. I ask you to rule on the anticipation rule and rule the question out of order.

Mr Sinclair —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. I thought even the Manager of Opposition Business would realise that no legislation was referred to. When you talk about prospective legislative change, you are talking about the embrace of what happens not on any one bill, because he and he alone introduced the one bill, but about the whole field of government legislation. I submit to you that, for that reason, the question is entirely in order.

Mr Crean —Mr Speaker, I suggest to you that, even if you accept that attempt at interpretation, this is no more than a ruse to give the minister an opportunity to talk on debate that is in the House. It is clearly against the anticipation rule. You have taken a very strong lead in the anticipation rule. I ask you to rule it out of order.

Mr SPEAKER —The question is in order.

Mr REITH —The government is obviously very concerned about the high levels of unemployment. We are especially concerned, as I know the honourable member for Parkes is, about the level of unemployment in respect of young people. As a result, the government is undertaking in a range of areas a series of important policy initiatives which are directed to improving the state of the Australian economy. In contrast to the situation they have faced as a result of Labor's mismanagement, young people in particular will have an opportunity for work.

I saw today in the Melbourne Age that the member for Canberra has said that Labor will oppose the continued provision of junior rates.

Mr McMullan —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. I understand your ruling to be that, on the basis of the reference by the member for New England—

Mr SPEAKER —I listened to the right honourable member for New England. I was not influenced by that.

Mr McMullan —The question related to more than the immediate legislation and therefore was in order. The answerer is now referring precisely to legislation that was in debate at 2 p.m. and will be in debate as soon as we finish question time. Therefore, this part of the answer is out of order, even if the question was in order.

Mr SPEAKER —I thank the member for Canberra. I am listening very carefully to the minister's response.

Mr REITH —The fact is that the opposition has made a basic mistake in their approach to a very significant issue. For the whole 13 years that Labor was in opposition, they supported a system whereby there was discrimination in favour of young people obtaining work. They were not alone in doing so. All the states of the Commonwealth, regardless of the political persuasion of the various governments, have taken the same view. This is not an ideological view of either the Labor Party when they were in government or Labor parties in the states or National Party or Liberal Party coalition governments. The fact is that, across the main stream of political view in this country, it has been accepted that we ought to make special provision for young people.

I say this in a spirit of attempting to grapple with these issues in a fair public debate. I genuinely say to the opposition that, if they set upon this course, the consequences will be that a lot of young people will lose their jobs. It is not just me saying this. Take the executive director of the Retail Council of Australia.

Mr Beazley —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. This really cannot go on. This is a debate in the House. He is able to wind up the debate and then he is allowed to go in and intervene when the various clauses are being individually debated. It is an absolute abuse of question time. He is going through a detailed review of the clauses of the bill.

Mr SPEAKER —There is no point of order. I encourage the minister to wind up his answer.

Mr REITH —I am happy to wind it up, Mr Speaker, because—

Mr Holding —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. I take the liberty of drawing your attention to page 512 of House of Representatives Practice , which states:

Standing order 144 provides that questions cannot anticipate discussion upon an order of the day or other matter. A clear distinction can be made between this rule and standing order 142, which permits questions to Ministers on `proceedings pending in the House'. The principle established by rulings from the Chair is that questions seeking to elicit information about proceedings pending in the House are permissible provided they do not anticipate the discussion itself . . .

The answer that has been given by the minister clearly refers to matters which are properly and currently before the House. With great respect, if you allow this process to continue, you will allow a minister at his leisure to get up and continue to use the process of question time to abuse the proceedings of this House. I ask you to follow the ruling of former Speaker Snedden and apply the rule of anticipation.

Mr Sinclair —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. The honourable gentleman has forgotten that he is now in opposition. I draw his attention to standing order 145. He will see that in that and that alone is a prescription as to the way in which a question may be answered. That is, an answer shall be relevant to the question. The question that was put covers prospective legislation. There is no constraint on the form of words a minister may use to answer a question other than the one which you, Mr Speaker, determine. I submit to you that the answer is entirely within the standing orders.

Mr SPEAKER —I thank both the member for Melbourne Ports and the right honourable member for New England for their constructive advice. As I said, I am listening very carefully to the minister. I have encouraged the minister to draw his answer to a rapid close. I now call upon the Minister for Industrial Relations.

Mr REITH —Thank you, Mr Speaker. I am very happy to draw it to a close because I—

Mr Crean —Tell us what Bert Evans said.

Mr REITH —No, I only say this in conclusion. I simply want to make what I believe is a very fair point. I do not make it on my behalf; I make it on behalf of lots of young people who are facing the prospect of losing their jobs.

The evidence is there. It is clear for all to see. As sensitive as they may be about this issue—

Mr O'Keefe —I rise on a point of order, Mr Speaker. To elucidate on that, he returned to the issue. In my point of order I want to put to you an experience I had in the House this morning.

Mr SPEAKER —There is no point of order. Resume your seat.

Mr Howard —That is not a point of order.

Mr O'Keefe —Very much so.

Mr SPEAKER —Resume your seat.

Mr O'Keefe —I am asking—

Mr SPEAKER —You can correspond with me on it.