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Monday, 6 June 1994
Page: 1432

Mr DOWNER —Mr Speaker, I wish to direct a question to you. On three occasions today ministers were asked questions—not the dorothy dixers—from our side of the House and on those three occasions they were simply unable to answer the questions at all. I know it is embarrassing for those opposite. I also draw your attention to the fact that question time on the government side now operates on the basis of a roster system. Yet, despite the roster system and therefore the substantial reduction in the number of ministers who appear at question time, today not only is the Prime Minister absent—for understandable and perfectly acceptable reasons—but the Minister for Employment, Education and Training is absent, the Minister for Transport and Minister for Industrial Relations is absent, and in the course of this week the Deputy Prime Minister is going to be absent and in another place the Minister for Foreign Affairs is going to be absent.

  As the guardian of the interests of this House, could you please ensure, firstly, that government ministers are properly briefed before they attend question time in order to answer questions and, secondly, that at the very least those ministers who are on the roster to turn up to question time do turn up or else additional ministers be found to fill the places of those who will not turn up.

Mr SPEAKER —With regard to the second issue, the question of rostering of ministers is canvassed in the standing and sessional orders and is a matter for the government. Perhaps that particular question might be directed to the Leader of the House. With regard to the first matter which the honourable member raised, the Speaker is responsible for administering the standing and sessional orders so that when a question is asked of a minister a minister responds. As the Leader of the Opposition knows, the content of that response is covered also by precedence and standing and sessional orders. I have remarked on this before in this place. Whether a fulsome answer or an answer which the questioner has asked is responded to appropriately in the questioner's view is a matter for debate.