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Tuesday, 25 November 2008
Page: 7139

The PRESIDENT (12:31 PM) —Yesterday at question time I undertook to consider points of order which were raised in relation to a second supplementary question asked by Senator Macdonald following a question to the Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research and Minister representing the Minister for Trade, Senator Carr.

As a preliminary point, I note that the new procedures for question time that the Senate adopted on a trial basis have not altered the existing practices of the Senate concerning the relationship between a question and a supplementary question. The only relevant changes in the new procedures are that two supplementary questions are now allowed to the questioner, and answers are required to be directly relevant to the questions.

There were two issues raised in the points of order that were taken by senators: whether Senator Macdonald’s second supplementary question was relevant to his original question, and a related issue; and whether a supplementary question could be asked about a different program than the one referred to in the original question, particularly when that other program falls within the responsibility of the minister represented by the Senate minister rather than the Senate minister’s own portfolio.

Having considered the questions and the points of order taken by the senators, my preliminary conclusion is that Senator Macdonald’s second supplementary question was relevant to his original question, and that the question sufficiently arose from the terms of his original question. I have drawn this conclusion on the basis that, in asking his original question, Senator Macdonald referred to the minister in his own capacity and as representing the minister responsible for the other program, the Export Market Development Grants Scheme, and stated that the subject of his question was Australia’s innovation system. His second supplementary question then referred to the EMDG Scheme as part of the government’s investment in innovation.

I emphasise that this matter will be listed for consideration by the Procedure Committee when an assessment is undertaken of the overall results of this trial of the new procedures. I also emphasise what I said in my statement at the beginning of question time yesterday and in my responses to the points of order, which was that my intention is to allow question time to flow as smoothly as possible and to ensure that neither questioners nor ministers, in answering questions, are placed at a disadvantage.