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Tuesday, 18 August 2009
Page: 5165

Senator IAN MACDONALD (12:33 PM) —by leave—I move:

That the Senate take note of the statement.

Mr President, thank you for responding promptly to the matters raised yesterday. In relation to the second paragraph of your statement, can I inquire: if you determine a point of order but then do not tell the Senate that you have determined it or in which way you have determined it, how is the Senate supposed to know whether the point is valid or otherwise?

Also, in relation to the penultimate paragraph of your statement, whilst I understand the difference between responsiveness and relevance, it does, with respect, Mr President, seem to many of us that, if a minister is not being directly relevant, certainly you cannot direct them how to answer, but you can direct them to sit down having failed to answer the question, which is what question time is all about. Question time is not a game; question time is not for political rhetoric; it is about seeking information from ministers. It is not about giving ministers an opportunity to speak for four minutes or two minutes on a subject of their own choosing; it is meant to try and give senators information—facts—that a senator might require.

Yesterday, when a senator asked whether legal advice had been sought or given, the Senate wanted to know not what the legal advice was but whether the minister had sought it. The minister then got up and said, ‘I refuse to answer the question,’ and then spent two minutes waffling about nothing. Having said that she was not going to answer the question she should have then, with respect, Mr President, been sat down and told, ‘You don’t have to answer it, but you’ve indicated you are not going to answer it; therefore sit down and let the Senate get on with the rest of its work.’