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Thursday, 8 February 2007
Page: 8

Mr ALBANESE (3:12 PM) —I refer to page 527 of the House of Representatives Practice, which states that it is fundamental in the concept of responsible government that the executive government be accountable to the House. I refer to the answer from the Prime Minister to the Leader of the Opposition’s last question in which the Prime Minister’s answer amounted to him suggesting that he would not answer the question to this parliament because he would give the answer first to the executive representatives from other parliaments in this nation. Will the Speaker draw this act of constitutional arrogance to the Prime Minister’s attention?

The SPEAKER —I thank the Manager of Opposition Business for his question. As he would be well aware, it is not for the Speaker to tell the Prime Minister how to answer the question. If the member wishes to take it further, there are other forms of the House.

Mr ALBANESE —But, Mr Speaker, House of Representatives Practice is very clear. It says on page 527 that the accountability of the government is demonstrated most clearly and publicly at question time when for a period on most sitting days questions without notice are put to ministers. If we have a situation whereby we ask questions and the response of the executive is to say, ‘We’re not going to tell you; we are going to tell someone else,’ that is against the whole basis of the House of Representatives Practice and standing orders, and the basis of question time where we gather every day.

The SPEAKER —I again say to the Manager of Opposition Business that, as he would be well aware, standing order 104 says that the only standing order that applies to answers to questions is that an answer shall be relevant to the question. As I said before to the Manager of Opposition Business, if he wishes to pursue the points he is raising, there are other forms of the House.