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Monday, 6 December 2004
Page: 36


The PRESIDENT (3:09 PM) —I wish to respond to a question asked last week. Because of the timing and the fact that so many senators have left the chamber, I will read my statement now and will circulate it to other senators who are not here. At question time on 2 December 2004 I undertook to give further consideration to questions asked by Senator McLucas. The questions contained an element of legitimate inquiry about a matter of ministerial responsibility; namely, the manner in which Senator Sandy Macdonald represented the Minister for Ageing at the opening of the Grace Munro centre.

As with many questions in recent times, however, the senator proceeded to answer her own question with an assertion, in this case based on an assertion by someone else, and then to make allegations which contained reflections on Senator Sandy Macdonald which, if not unparliamentary, were certainly inappropriate in a question. Apart from the point that question time is meant to be a time for questions, senators' questions would be far more effective and telling if they were not surrounded with statements, assertions, allegations, insinuations and other extraneous material. The habit of doing so simply invites ministers to set the question aside and respond to the statements and allegations. Senators cannot complain about ministers not being relevant to the question or not answering the question if they continue to ask questions in that manner. I therefore urge all senators to confine themselves to properly framed questions about matters of ministerial responsibility.