Motion: Introduction of Time Limits On Some Chamber Processes
Mrs Armitage (Launceston) - Mr President, I move -
(1) That the Legislative Council give in-principle support to the introduction of time-limits on the following Chamber processes -
(a) second reading speeches;
(b) contributions made on the permitted three speaks during Committee stage consideration of a bill or matter;
( c) third reading speeches; and
(d) contributions made on substantive motions proposed in the Council.
(2) That following in-principle agreement to the introduction of time limits as determined in (1) above, the matter be referred to the Standing Orders Committee for its consideration and recommendation as to the appropriate time limits to be applied
When I was first elected to parliament, I was surprised to learn that there are no limits on the amount of time members could speak. This seemed peculiar to me coming from the Launceston City Council, where elected members have limits plus an extension of time to be voted on by majority. At the time of my election I mentioned to a member of the Legislative Council that I wanted to move a motion introducing a time limit but was advised to settle in first before attempting to make such changes.
To make it very clear, I am not trying to gag debate but to ensure our time is focused and well used. We can all be guilty of verbosity. Seeing as we have limited sitting days per year, it is essential that we make the most of the time we have. Our aim should always be to stay relevant, deal with the facts and present our argument in a timely manner. I believe it is our duty to serve the people in an efficient and effective manner and that time limits could be a useful tool.
You may wonder why I am bringing this motion forward now, at a time when over the last few weeks second reading speeches and committee times have not been excessive. However, I believe it appropriate to be prepared for the future when this Government hits its straps and new legislation may be thick and fast. Moving this motion now, at a time when speaking times have been within reasonable limits, does not single out individual members and that is very important.
We sit for a limited number a days each year, which is an exceedingly short time to cover all the issues and bills that we need to discuss and debate. This motion will not prevent people from getting important points across but would tighten up debate and make our time in this House more efficient. The amount of speaking time should not have an influence on the contents of one's contribution. It is my intention for my motion to take this matter to the Standing Orders Committee, perhaps restricting times in line with the House of Assembly.
In 1993 the Tasmanian House of Assembly Select Committee on the Reform of Parliament recommended, amongst other things, reduced time for the adjournment debate, the reduction of general speaking times, time limits for debate on procedural motions, and 10 minute time limits during committee. The Tasmanian House of Assembly now has time constraints, as have many other parliaments around Australia. I believe it is only fitting that the Legislative Council, as part of this Parliament, also have constraints on the amount of time we can speak in the Chamber. This is current, contemporary practice around most of Australia.
In Federal Parliament, following the September 2010 agreement between the Australian Labor Party and independent members, standing rules were amended to limit ministerial statements and to limit the times of questions and answers, particularly in response to having numerous Dorothy Dixers in the Parliament. While the restrictions on speaking times were aimed at improving the content and conduct of question time, it did appear to lead to an improved parliamentary process and a more balanced distribution of time between members of parliament.
Mr Dean - How many are in that House? About 300?
Mrs Armitage - In an interim report on the monitoring review of procedural changes implemented in the forty-third Australian Parliament, the rationale behind limiting members speaking on bills was to allow for more efficient debate and potentially allowing more members to participate in debate. I accept the comments from the member for Windermere about some parliaments having more members.
Mr Dean - Only about 10 times as many.
Mrs Armitage - At the time of the report the introduced time limits appear to have been successful in delivering the desired outcome. Speakers in the Legislative Councils of New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia have substantial time limits. For example, in New South Wales the mover of a motion may speak for more than 30 minutes and any other member may speak for not more than 20 minutes. In Victoria, the lead government and opposition speakers have a 60 minute time limit to speak during the second reading debate on government bills. In Western Australia, members may speak for 45 minutes on motions.
As mentioned earlier, this motion will not gag debate and our Standing Orders Committee comprising members of this Chamber will have the final say on the time limits imposed if this motion gets up, and it would then be debated by this House.
Local government has taught me that you can make an effective and efficient contribution in a reasonably short time.
Mr Dean - That is debatable.
Mrs Taylor - You can. I emphasise the word 'can'.
Mrs Armitage - I might repeat that. Local government has taught me that you can make an efficient and effective contribution in a reasonably short time. Considering that we only have a short time each year with Legislative Council sitting days, I recommend that the Legislative Council follow suit with many other Australian parliaments and introduce time limits in the Chamber.
I therefore seek the in-principle support of members to refer the matter of time limits to the Standing Orders Committee, made up of members of this very Chamber, for their consideration and recommendation as to the appropriate time limits to be applied, if any.
Obviously, any recommendation for change by this committee would need to return to this Chamber for debate and determination, so there are many checks and balances. This is simply a first step.
Mrs Taylor - It could take up a lot of time though.
Mrs Armitage - Is that important if it saves Chamber time and makes our Parliament more effective and efficient? I appreciate that some members in this Chamber find my motion amusing. I find it serious. I find Parliament serious. Any motion that can make our time in this Chamber more effective, and more efficient, and allow us to debate bills in a more timely manner, I find worthwhile. I do not find it amusing. Rather, I think it is very important.
Mr Dean - How is a long debate not using the time effectively if you are covering the points that need to be covered?
Mrs Armitage - I was not going to comment, member for Windermere, but if a member stands at this podium for two hours and speaks, can you tell me that speech is full of new information? I would like to see someone speak for two hours and give information that is constantly relevant over that two hour period.
Mr Dean - Some cannot do it for five minutes.
Mrs Armitage - That is quite true. Some cannot do it in five minutes. I am not saying what the time limits should be. I am asking for in-principle support for a committee such as the Standing Orders Committee to look at the time limits and try to make a determination of what limits might be appropriate.
I could ask you why many other upper Houses or Parliaments around Australia find the need to have time limits.
Mr Dean - Can I answer that, Mr President?
Mr President - Order, order.
Mrs Armitage - I am sorry but I do not believe it is because they have a lot more members. Many of them do not have a lot more members. Many of them have similar numbers to our House.
Our House of Assembly has time limits. We are one Parliament here. We should be working together, and I believe it is incumbent upon us to try as be as effective as we can in this Parliament. I simply ask for in-principle support for the motion to take it to the Standing Orders Committee for determination and recommendations.
Mr Gaffney (Mersey) - Mr President, I am going to speak for 12 hours on this because -
Mr Gaffney - It is important that we discuss what happens in this place, so from that point of view it will be handy to have this discussion.
I have information slightly different from the honourable member's. I would have thought that the number of bills we have debated in the six months since the election would have been mentioned - how many second reading speeches there were and their average length. We would be quite surprised at that data.
The business of local government is also totally different to the business in this House - it is like comparing apples and oranges. Debating bills that will affect the state is different to deciding whether you are going to spend $2 000 putting a sign up on the road.
The government today has the capacity to set the number of days we sit, and if there are more bills they can allow for that in their calendar.
I asked the Parliamentary Research Service to give me some information regarding the situation in other state upper Houses. I know the honourable member is referring to what is happening in the lower House in the Federal Parliament. Dr Stait from the Parliamentary Research Service said:
Of the states that have upper Houses - New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia - most either have no speaking limits or very generous allowance. It must also be taken into account that the other jurisdictions have predominantly political party representation in their upper Houses. This affects the ability to construct a fair and effective hierarchy of speaking times. They generally talk in terms of leader of opposition and leader of minor parties. In Tasmania's Legislative Council every independent member, is effectively a 'leader of the opposition' and under the laws applying in WA would be given unlimited speaking time or in case of Victoria 60 minutes.
I see the confusion here might be because it depends on what is being presented in the upper House, as to what time limits would occur. Whether it is a proposal for debate or urgency motion, adjournment debate, government business, condolences statement by members, ministerial statements, notice of motion, there is a whole raft of different aspects that some of the governments or some of the upper Houses adhere to, but generally their time is unlimited when it is talking to second reading matters.
If this goes to the Standing Orders Committee and comes back with a time limit, it will not be taking account of the fact that some of the bills in this place are three pages long and no-one speaks to them, whereas other bills are 100 pages long, with 50-plus amendments. You cannot put a time limit on something that is very important.
Some members in this place do not speak to every bill; some members just speak to the bills they believe to be really important. Very few members here would go over 20 or 30 minutes for a speech. Some would on occasions. Generally we are within the limit, and there are already Standing Orders which allow the President to ensure that the speaker stays on task.
I understand, and I thank you for bringing the motion to this Chamber, but I will not be able to support it. It negates what we think is necessary in free speech.
Mrs Hiscutt (Montgomery) - Mr President, this motion will not affect me as I do not often speak for a lengthy time. If time limits were eventually set I would be more than happy to give my leftover time to another person who might require it to get their message across.
Whatever the outcomes of this motion, it should be remembered that this Council is a House of review and should not restrict members with time, when they have to do their own research and become familiar with every aspect of a particular issue. This motion will probably advantage parties. For example there are two Liberal members here at the moment and only one Labor. That gives us, the Liberals, twice as much time as the member for Derwent. When there were five Labor members, as there have been in the past, if they had time limits of 15 minutes, that would give them 75 minutes.
Ms Rattray - There were six.
Mrs Hiscutt - Have there been six?
Ms Rattray - I thought there were six.
Mrs Hiscutt - I have done the maths on five, so I will stick with that. That would give them 75 minutes in an argument they have already agreed upon, and each member could address one aspect of each issue in depth. An independent would only have 15 minutes to get their argument across and respond to the points of the five. Whatever time limit is set, that is just an example.
The Parliament does not meet so often that it is a trial for members to sit respectfully through everyone's contribution. The role of this House is to work properly, not quickly. I have counted our sitting dates for next year and there appear to be only 51, so it is not a lot.
Also, the makeup of this House as a House of review means it should not restrict the rights and obligations of members to review. Standing Orders are available to direct the grandstander, or someone who is filibustering, to get back on course.
I have had a look at the Standing Orders. Standing order 99, part 5, says:
Comment on expressions by other members.
A member shall not … digress from the subject matter under discussion, or comment upon expressions used by any other member in a previous debate. All imputations of improper motives, and all personal reflections, are disorderly.
So, speakers can be pulled into line there. But there is also standing order 100, Repetitious or irrelevant debate -
A member who persists in irrelevance or tedious repetition, either of the member's own arguments, or of the arguments used by other members may be directed by the Chair to discontinue the speech. A member directed to discontinue may require that the question, 'That the member be further heard' be put which will be decided without debate.
So there are Standing Orders to address it. I have also been pulled up during special interest matters for overstepping the time limit. The President does what he has to do when he needs to do it.
Members, we are making laws that can affect people in the worst ways or the best ways, and they cannot be untangled easily once done. Time is important to get it correct. I believe that all other Houses that may use it, be they upper or lower, are party houses, whereas we are predominantly independent here.
As is often said, we are the masters of our own destiny, and I will therefore support the motion and leave it to the Standing Orders Committee to investigate and consider.
Ms Forrest (Murchison) - Mr President, I am a member of the Standing Orders Committee and this is already a matter of discussion in the committee. The motion is a bit irrelevant in that regard. I welcome the motion from the member for Launceston - we should debate these sorts of things. I do not wish to speak at any great length about this, because as members of the Standing Orders Committee, we go in with an open mind - looking at the evidence and making decisions with that evidence in mind. However, I would like to make a few points that do not really go to whether I think there should be limits on the time that people speak.
The member for Launceston said we are one Parliament. Yes, we are, but we are two Houses. The two Houses have very different roles. The house of government in the lower House is where government is formed. It is generally where laws are introduced, and it is party-dominated. If it is a matter where a conscience vote is allowed, which is not that often, or a matter that members who are not the minister or the shadow spokesperson have an interest in, other members may speak. But generally - and you only have to watch proceedings down there - there is hardly anyone in the Chamber, just the people directly involved in the particular bill.
In this place, according to the comments provided to the member for Mersey by Dr Stait in the library, we are all effectively members of the opposition, except for the two Liberal members. We all have to scrutinise legislation, and raise issues. To try to impose time limits on that, in an arbitrary sense, is probably fraught, because no two bills are the same. They are all serious, and they all warrant debate. It is a bit disappointing when bills go through this place without any debate. If we are passing a law there must be a reason for it - the Liberal Party is not going to bring in any laws we do not need. They are getting rid of all the superfluous red and green tape.
There is a real risk of constraining debate, but it is important that people stay on message. As the member for Montgomery pointed out, it is up to the presiding officer to make sure people stay on track. Obviously we need to allow a degree of latitude, because sometimes there may be relevant background or information that informs the debate, and needs to be linked. If you are going to make a contribution you want to be meaningful, you should be able to put your message across in a way that provides key messages to the key arguments with as little diversion as possible. That is a matter for the presiding officer to oversee. As the member for Montgomery pointed out, too, there are Standing Orders to deal with that.
It is not necessary to support the motion because the Standing Orders Committee is already looking at the issue, and undertaking some research, not only on proceedings in other jurisdictions, but previous proceedings in this place. There have been times when many of us have spoken for a lengthy period on bills that have been complex, or have had a lot of background, or where there has been a lot of community discontent. It is our job to bring the concerns of the community to this place. Sometimes it is a matter that predominantly affects one part of the state, so that member is more likely to have received more representations and will have more information they want to present. Our electors expect us to do that. There may be times when one member may speak longer than others for that reason. To limit it in a way that can constrain would be a challenge.
If you look at the other jurisdictions, Western Australia, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia have very generous or no time limits - very generous meaning that every opposition member, which is effectively all of us except the Liberals or members of the Labor Party who are the Opposition at the moment, would have an hour. Thirteen times an hour makes for a lengthy debate, and that is just on the second reading. It has nothing to do with the Committee stage. Queensland does not have an upper House so you cannot count them, and nor do the ACT and the Northern Territory. If you want to compare then you have to compare apples with apples and it is a bit different in that regard.
I do not believe it makes much difference whether to support this or not. It is good to have this discussion, it is good to have the debate. It will help inform the Standing Orders Committee which is looking at this of what people's general views are. It is helpful to bring it on; that is fine, but there are real challenges with imposing time limits in a House which is truly the House of review.
Mr Valentine (Hobart) - Mr President, it is a very important matter. I commend the member for Launceston for bringing it on. It is one of those debates that you have from time to time in the running of the House and the nature of what we do. I will support the motion. It does bear discussion and, as stated by the member for Murchison, it is already under discussion in the Standing Orders Committee. As she pointed out at the end of her contribution, it gives an indication to that committee as to what this House feels collectively, which is important.
I do not see this House as being the opposition. I would like to think that we are here to make sure that we improve legislation or that bad legislation is not introduced. Philosophically, I do not think we are the opposition as such. We are a House that needs to be broad in its thinking and in the way it applies itself to various bills to make sure there are not any unintended consequences. It is an important role that we play. I sat in on a couple of the debates in the other place and I was interested to see that debate was guillotined at clause 4 on one occasion and there were something like 38 clauses in the bill. I thought to myself, where does the Opposition get the opportunity to drill down into this when that sort of thing happens?
It is a valuable role we play. It is obvious that we will need to spend more time in this House debating a bill than in the other place because we are looking at it in detail - the technicalities of the bill as opposed to the philosophy. That is the difference. If there is going to be a time limit, it needs to be a reasonable time limit to give us the capacity to scrutinise properly and there should not be too much truncation in that. I would be happy to see a 45 minute time limit but with the capacity for the House to grant that an individual member continue to be heard if they feel they are making a reasonable contribution. I do not think that would become overtly political in this House because we are independent.
Maybe that is a way forward and it sharpens our thinking. It helps us all to think, 'I have so much time and I want to get these points across. I will not wander off on tangents that do not really add anything to the debate'. That is probably what is behind this motion.
As for contributions made on the permitted three speaks during the Committee stage consideration of the bill, I do not see that there is a huge amount of time required for those speaks. Most people are bringing up a technical point or an issue with a clause. Maybe it should be 10 or 15 minutes on those. Obviously it will be up to the committee to decide what they come back with, but I think there is a reason to make sure we are not just regurgitating second reading matter in those contributions. Third reading speeches can be succinct as well.
I give my support to this. There is a benefit in it, but I certainly do not want to see proper scrutiny fail because of a lack of time. The capacity for the House to provide an opportunity for a member to continue to be heard might be the way forward.
Mr Farrell (Derwent) - Mr President, I will make a fairly short contribution, as I notice most members have. It is a good thing to have this discussion in the Chamber. I thank the honourable member for Launceston for bringing it up. Although there are, in the notice of motion, a few recommendations of in-principle support, I have to think about that. I believe the right process is to have a bit of a discussion here and then let the Standing Orders Committee talk it out.
A number of issues have been raised. The honourable member for Montgomery mentioned the party side of the Chamber. That is something the honourable member for Pembroke and I always keep in the back of our minds, that our respective parties have had a lot to say on any legislation in the other place. Quite often it is just a very short contribution that we make, indicating our support or otherwise. It depends on amendments to any legislation that goes through as to whether we end up changing our party position on a bill.
The very strength of this Chamber is the fact it is a majority of independent members. It is important that independent members have the opportunity to speak freely about concerns in their electorates.
Mr Finch - It is our job.
Mr Farrell - I am not going to get into that sort of conversation, as much as the honourable member for Rosevears would like me to. It is probably something we should turn our thoughts to from time to time. Certainly there were times when I was in the leader's role that it would have been lovely if contributions had been restricted to 60 or 70 seconds.
Mr Farrell - Either mine or other members'. There were certain bits of legislation where it would have been nice. There were other bits where it would have been nice to wax lyrical for weeks. I believe sometimes members will judge another member's contribution by their particular thoughts one way or another, because if it is something that you disagree with and someone is up saying how wonderful it is, you think this is terribly painful, but that is democracy. You always have the independent adjudicator at that end of the Chamber who looks at things very objectively. If he or she feels that an honourable member is going right the way around, and certainly there are some members who have mastered the art of taking the long path to get back to a point, it usually invokes good conversation.
I thank the honourable member for Launceston for allowing us to have a little discussion on this today. The proper process would be for the Standing Orders Committee to have a look at it and take in all the relevant concerns of honourable members.
Mrs Armitage - So you will support it?
Mr Farrell - I am having difficulty with the wording 'that the Legislative Council give in-principle support to the introduction of time limits'. That is the bit I have a problem with, the 'in-principle support'. It is good that you have brought it here but -
Mrs Armitage - I would be happy to move an amendment.
Mr Farrell - I will have a think about that while other members make their contributions.
Ms Rattray (Apsley) - Mr President, it is always good to have these discussions in the Chamber but I do not support the motion. I will be up-front about that. I also do not consider that we are in opposition in this place either.
Ms Forrest - I was referring to the comments from the research about the Western Australian parliament and that is how they are considered: independent members are considered unlike here, in this place, as members of the opposition having to review legislation. That was the way it was described. It was not saying we were in opposition.
Ms Rattray - Good, I want to make it very clear that I do not consider myself as an opposition member in this place.
Mr Farrell - That was the same with the last government I hope.
Ms Rattray - Absolutely. I am fiercely proud of my independence.
Mrs Taylor - The point might be that we are not members of the Government, and we independently want to look at what that legislation says.
Ms Rattray - But not with an opposition approach. It is not very often that an opposition to a government supports their legislation. I do not have the numbers in front of me but I suggest that most of the discussions in their speeches are not necessarily supportive of the policies they put forward. I am not supportive of being able to have time limits on our contributions in this place.
I apologise to the member for Montgomery, five was the number, when I counted them up again, of the Labor members in this place when I first arrived here. Effectively, had we had time limits, each member could have taken the Floor and used their 45 minutes to put the same point across in a contribution to a debate and then, in my situation, I would have had only 45 minutes to express my views representing the electorate.
Ms Forrest - The point I was making with the Opposition is that if you applied rules like in Western Australia, where there is only 15 minutes for non-party opposition people, that is all you get. The government members there potentially get more. I was not saying we were in opposition but if you treat it that way -
Ms Rattray - Perhaps it came out the wrong way because it sounded like you said effectively we are the Opposition.
Ms Forrest - I was referring to the point that was made by the Parliamentary Research Service.
Ms Rattray - I could see that we could end up -
Mr Valentine - I misheard that as well.
Ms Rattray - Thank you. I am glad I was not the only one who perhaps took it the wrong way.
Mrs Hiscutt - Mr President, I did too and I was a bit horrified, and I am glad that is clear.
Ms Rattray - It is quite clear that I consider myself independent and not a member of any opposition. That debate has certainly been cleared up.
Mr PRESIDENT - You are getting to the stage of tedious repetition.
Members laughing .
Ms Rattray - In saying that, under the Standing Orders we already have, there is an opportunity for any member in this House to get to their feet and ask that I no longer be heard. My understanding is there is no debate on that. I cannot do anything about that and I must take my seat. I am waiting for the time when a member decides to do that because there is the opportunity, if someone believes that there is repetition.
Ms Forrest - You would call the Standing Orders first, wouldn't you? You would not say it as your first point, would you?
Ms Rattray - Standing order 100 and then draw the Council's attention to that. Whoever is at the podium can be voted to be no longer heard. Then there is no debate. There is a mechanism already in the Standing Orders if we get to the stage where we no longer consider that a member's contribution is relevant, or, in the view of the majority of the House, their time has expired.
I understand the honourable member's concern. It is not something new. She has expressed that concern right from the time she arrived in this place, and we have had a number of discussions about it. The wording of the motion does not allow me to support it. I do not intend to change or propose an amendment because I do not support the principle of the motion. I will be voting against it, but I appreciate the opportunity.
Mr Armstrong (Huon) - Mr President, being the new boy on the block, I was amazed that there were no time limits on speeches in this Chamber.
Mr Mulder - Your time starts now.
Mr Armstrong - Thanks, Tony. Coming from local government, where there are time limits, I naturally thought there would be time constraints in this Chamber. There are time limits in the House of Assembly.
The member for Montgomery made some good points. If this House was dominated by one of the political parties they would get more speaking time than the independent members.
If time limits were imposed, would the President have discretion to change them for an important bill? I do not know. There is very little debate on some bills, but a lot of debate on others. Through this process, could the President have the discretion to allow a longer time frame for a debate? I will support the motion.
Mr Mulder (Rumney) - I want to know, Mr President, if there is injury time or time-on for interjections? I was also surprised to see the member for Launceston bring this in. I thought she was opposed to mandatory minimums on anything.
Mrs Armitage - Imposed by the courts.
Mr Mulder - I thank the member for Derwent, who lacked the courage to use that one himself. He gave it to me instead.
I support this motion on the grounds of equity. It is only fair. The President is pretty quick to pull me up when he thinks I am being irrelevant or tediously repetitious. If it is good enough for me and we need a change of Standing Orders for it to apply to everyone else, then so be it. If I have to be succinct, so should everyone else. Timing contributions fixes this, not just for me but for everyone. Who cares if someone is irrelevant, tedious or repetitious if you only have to put up with it for a limited amount of time?
Do not forget, we can always move a motion that the member be heard if their time has expired but we think they are not being repetitious and they have more to contribute. Members would soon get the message if they started losing debates because they were going over time.
Local government, as others have mentioned, puts time limits on debates for most matters, including complex planning matters - it is five minutes. That must concentrate minds to deal succinctly with salient points, and not waste time by repeating points that other people have made. Here there is some talk about an hour. To me that would be nonsense. In the other place, the mover of a motion, usually the minister, has about 40 minutes to make their case. Here we speak, as a House of review, not as an opposition. Why should it take us half as long again as it does for the minister who brought this in to make their case, when all we are doing is reviewing the case? The timing we should think about is 40 minutes for the member introducing the motion, and for those talking to it 20 minutes should be more than enough. I note for those who have done the work on Hansard , you will find that those parameters would fit 99 per cent of the proceedings in this place anyway. That change would not be much but it is to capture those members who go on bit sometimes.
Ms Rattray - Would you like to name any of them?
Mr Mulder - I am sure there have been plenty of rulings that Hansard records; as the victim I am here making a victim impact statement.
Mr Mulder - We also get carried away with the relevance of our contribution sometimes. In my experience in this House and in any other place, the debates rarely change people's minds or influence them. It widens the margin sometimes.
Mrs Taylor - I disagree with that.
Mr Mulder - I am sure you would disagree with it; that is the beauty of this place. In my opinion, and I thought I was allowed one but maybe I am not, there are rarely times when we influence members. In the end, if we talk about communications in this day and age, the media rarely deal with the context or the contribution of our debate. It is normally a one-line grab that I see receives the coverage. If that is the way we are communicating in this modern day and age, we need to tailor that to what we need to do.
The member for Murchison, who is apparently on the Standing Orders Committee, said that this was really irrelevant because the committee was already considering it. I would like to know what other standing orders are being considered by the committee and being done like that. I would like a progress report if they were under consideration because this is really important. If we are going to say to members that this motion is irrelevant and we have no idea that the Standing Orders Committee is actually looking at this particular issue, let alone how far down the track they are, I would have thought that the Standing Orders Committee might at least like to get some feel of the members of this place when they are discussing changes to standing orders.
This is a much better approach for standing orders, for someone to come into the Chamber. We can have a debate so the Standing Orders Committee can take a note of our debates, provided they are not tedious, irrelevant or tediously repetitious, and at least take those into consideration. They can then report progress regularly to this House in changing the standing orders.
Mr President, I support this motion on the grounds of equity. If I have be succinct, so should everyone else. In local government, the time limit on most matters, including complex matters, is five minutes. Here we are talking about an hour, so I support this motion on the grounds of equity. I am being repetitious and, more importantly, tediously repetitious because I made my points extremely well the first time round.
Mr Dean (Windermere) - Mr President, in response to the honourable member for Rumney's comments, it is not that the President has ever required you to be succinct. I do not think that has happened at all. I believe there has been some comment made to keep on track perhaps, as has happened for me and others. This is a very different thing to somebody being told to be succinct and to the point.
An issue was raised by the mover of the motion, and I think I have this right, the member made a comment when I raised it by way of interjection that there are similar numbers in some of the other parliaments to the numbers in this place in this Parliament. I ask the member to talk a little more on that in her response in closing of this debate. If you look at the ACT, they do not have an upper House. In New South Wales they have 42 in their upper House. The Northern Territory and Queensland do not have an upper House. South Australia has 22 members in its upper House, Victoria has 40 members, and Western Australia has 36. The nearest to us is South Australia with 22 members, seven extra members. I am not too sure where the member gets her similar numbers from, but maybe she can explain that to us.
I cannot support the motion; I would not have any problem with it, but the way the motion is worded now I cannot and will not support it because it is clear there that we are asking the Standing Orders Committee to consider the reduction of speaking times or include limitations on us, and I do not think that it is the way the motion should read. I have looked at it to see how I could amend it to make it acceptable to me, and I really cannot at this stage. I would need to look at it a little longer to come up with wording that I could support.
The member for Rumney raises an interesting issue. If the Standing Orders Committee is looking at this, there has not been any discussion with any of us. This is the first I have heard about it. I have no problem with the discussion on this matter as raised by the member for Launceston. It is a good thing to do but we need to be very careful.
It has already been said we are a House of second opinion really, a House of review, same thing. People would often prefer to use the terms 'house of second opinion'. We need to do the job thoroughly in this place. Some members will speak on one or two issues in debating a bill, or on a motion. They will stick to just two or three points. Other members will want to cover all the points they can identify in speaking to an issue, and there is nothing wrong with that. Some members will want to repeat points made by other members, and there is nothing wrong with that. In fact it could be expected of you to do that.
With the greatest of respect to the mover, we are here representing our electorates and the state. We are here to ensure that good decisions are made, that good legislation passes through this place. We are beholden to some degree to the stakeholders and to the people who have taken us into their confidence with their positions on matters we discuss here. We need to put those matters forward and in the best way we can in all circumstances.
We do not caucus, that is, we the independent members in the Chamber. We do not agree on the points or position that each other will cover during speeches, and the member for Derwent raised some of these issues. Because a previous speaker has raised a point it does not necessarily mean that another speaker has to avoid that point. We do not come in here saying that these two independent members will talk on these issues, the other two will talk on these, et cetera, as can happen with party members.
To me, to restrict time would be an extremely unfair situation on independent members in this place. If I was a party member, I would probably support the introduction of time limits, of course, because they have a distinct -
Ms Forrest - Especially if you are in government at the time.
Mr Dean - Yes, you are right. The member for Murchison raised this as well. It behoves members to do their job properly, fairly, professionally, and to ensure that the matter is thoroughly and vigorously pursued. It does not necessarily mean succinctly and in a rushed manner to meet some arbitrary time frame.
We have enough legislation now coming back here for amendments, and in some instances in fairly short time frames. That position should not be given an opportunity to grow, in my view. That is what would happen if you were limited to time, if you were rushed, if you had to be very careful with what you were saying to ensure you got it all in in the time you were provided. I am of the view we need to be open and we need to have sufficient time to do that. Party members can agree on their issues, can cover a matter and take a long time to do so.
I am not sure what would be proposed here in relation to time frames but that is a matter, if it went to the Standing Orders Committee, for them to look at closely.
In this place, interjections are rife and it makes for good debate. It brings important matters out - people interjecting and raising issues that tax you to provide more detail. That is good. It makes for robust debate. It makes for vigorous debate and many important points are brought out. If you are limited to, say, 30 minutes, interjections could take up 10 to 15 minutes of your time.
Mrs Taylor - Only if you respond.
Mr Dean - You are probably right. You are probably right. You are probably right.
Mr Mulder - You have hit the tedious mark. You've just been repetitious.
Mr Dean - The interjections are so good that I have to respond in most cases. Debates could be a little boring without the interjections that occur from time to time.
The upper House, the Legislative Council of Tasmania, is a unique chamber. It is unique for a number of reasons. One is that it is independent controlled. It has the capacity to stop the Budget getting through. It has a number of other unique powers that other upper Houses do not enjoy. We are unique, and we should not do anything that is likely to destroy the uniqueness of this place, which has existed since the Legislative Council commenced in the early 1830s or 1840s. It has worked very well for a long time. Why should we interfere with that?
If we are going to do that it opens up a bit of a Pandora's box. I see it as the thin end of the wedge. Once we start looking at time frames, bringing us into line with other parliaments and with other upper Houses, it opens up a Pandora's box.
Why not go the whole hog and look at 'all in, all out' elections at the same time? That is the next thing on the agenda. I need to correct an issue here in relation to the ABC. Some people were a little upset at what they believe I said to the ABC when they talking about 'all in, all out' elections. I said there was probably need for a debate in relation to that issue. I never said I supported it, in answer to a question raised by Leon Compton on the ABC.
Mrs Taylor - Where is this relevant to this debate?
Mr Dean - It is relevant to this debate because this is the thin end of the wedge. If we start interfering with time frames and speaking times, the next thing will be 'all in, all out' elections. There is a connection.
Mrs Taylor - There is a difference between the Standing Orders Committee and the Electoral Commission.
Mr Dean - There is a connection, in my view.
You may also recall that the numbers were decreased in this place and the other place some years ago. That was a retrograde step and should never have occurred. Many people see it exactly the same way. I have no doubt we will return to the original numbers in due course - probably not this place, but certainly the other place. I do not think we should be party to a process that changes the nature of this place.
If this motion were to get up, I am confident the Standing Orders Committee would take account of the discussions in this Chamber today in coming to a decision. I am not sure how far they have progressed. It would be good to know how far the Standing Orders Committee has progressed with their deliberations on that matter, and whether a report is imminent.
There are certain parts of the motion I would accept. I would accept the time frames in relation to third readings; I would accept time frames in relation to the Committee stage where there are three speaks. They could be better controlled in some respects, but generally there has never been a problem with third reading speeches. The longest third reading speech I have heard in the 12 years I have been here was the one in relation to the protest legislation, and it would not even have been five minutes. And in the Committee stage, I have not witnessed too many long sessions on the three speaks there. Is it needed? Is it necessary? I do not think so. It is well controlled now.
The numbers in other places are significantly higher than here, and if they did not have time limits some debates could go for two to three days, even if everyone only spoke for the time limit. Time limits are imposed in those other jurisdictions because of the numbers they have. If they did not have time limits in the House of Lords and the House of Commons in London, they would never finish a matter. With 700 members in one House and 400 or 500 in the other, time limits are obviously necessary. The number of speakers is limited in those places as well - you can only have 10 speakers, and not everyone is entitled to speak. That is clearly because of the numbers.
The person introducing a bill has unlimited time in most jurisdictions, as does the Opposition spokesperson. Whilst we are not an opposition, we are the principal spokespersons on any issues brought in here by the Leader of the Government. We do not identify an individual to be the primary spokesperson on any one matter. We take that on ourselves. We stand up and we speak as we see it. We play the same role as an opposition leader in other places, and that should never be overlooked.
No-one putting a brief together to speak in this House on any legislation or motion should be restricted by time. That does not make for good or thorough debate, as important points may be missed. I would have had no difficulty had the motion been written in a different way, so that it went to the Standing Orders Committee. We are told they are already looking at. As it is currently written, I cannot support the motion.
Mrs Taylor (Elwick) - Mr President, I say to the member for Launceston that I do not take my parliamentary role lightly, nor the debate lightly. It is true that with interjections there is often a certain amount of liberty in this Chamber and that is often to the good in that we sometimes raise issues that are relevant in a humorous interjection. It is better than being cross with each other and shouting and insulting each other. But that does not mean I do not take Parliament or this debate seriously. I thank you for bringing it on and I will explain at the end why I am going to vote against this. It is not that I do not think people should review legislation, or Standing Orders for that matter.
I felt the same as other people have expressed they did when I first came into this Chamber. The first week I was in this Chamber there was an Address-in-Reply because the new government had just come in. If I remember correctly, the member for Murchison spoke for something like two-and-a-half hours. I thought, like other people who were new to this House at the time, and most of us were new - I may be incorrect there, but that is my recollection -
Ms Forrest - What year was that?
Ms Rattray - It was 2010.
Mrs Taylor - I thought to myself, what have I come into? If everyone speaks for two-and-a-half hours on every issue, I am going to die. I did not die and everyone does not speak for two-and-a-half hours. That was probably the longest speech while I have been in this Parliament -
Ms Forrest - No, it's not.
Mrs Taylor - Okay, maybe not, but it happens rarely.
Ms Forrest - That is a grievance debate, which is completely different to a bill. It covers a whole range of areas.
Mrs TAYLOR - Absolutely. I am getting to that. There are two occasions when many of us speak at some length. I rarely speak for more than 10 or 15 minutes but there are times when I have, and it has generally been for a couple of reasons. One is the grievance debate on the Address-in-Reply, which gives us the scope to review everything and it is very important that people have the opportunity to do that. I find them edifying, in most cases. Yes, there are times when people do speak longer than they need to, when they get a bit sidetracked or they repeat themselves but, on the whole, I find those debates edifying because they are full of information and they raise issues that I might not have thought of myself. The other long speeches generally are the ones in reply to the budget speeches, which again are important speeches to make.
I suppose there are a number of reasons why people speak for a long time. One is because sometimes they do not know when to stop or because they can, and because it takes some people longer to make their point than it takes other people. We have guidelines for that. You, Mr President, can stop people if they are repeating themselves. Other members have already discussed that.
The other is that some people do a whole lot of detailed research and homework, and they bring that to the table. For the rest of us, that is often very useful information that you yourself may not have got, in particular on issues that the member has expertise in. We have different backgrounds in this Chamber. When it is about law enforcement, for instance, we have a couple of people who know a lot about that and so they can contribute a great deal in the debate in detail. If they are talking nonsense then, generally speaking, another speaker will get up and correct the view. There are some people with medical backgrounds, and some with education backgrounds, some with local government or legal backgrounds, and farming backgrounds - all kinds of backgrounds. I am sure I have left someone out - media backgrounds - it does not matter. We all have backgrounds that add to and strengthen the debate in this House.
When a bill that involves that sort of area comes up here, then, generally speaking, those people who have a good background on that will bring a great amount of detail to the table. I appreciate that as a member who may not have expertise in that particular area. It is important that then people be allowed to speak for as long as is necessary to give all the background and detail. Sometimes it is because there is a particular issue in a particular electorate that is very important to that member. They bring a great deal of detail because of that one particular issue. We are all elected to represent the interests of the entire state, so very often what happens in one electorate might well be something that is relevant at another time in your own electorate. That is also important. All of those debates take a long time and I do not regret that for one minute, I actually appreciate them.
I would like to comment on the member for Mersey's contribution. Often, when the member for Mersey stands up, he gives a well-researched and detailed presentation but he tends to speak a bit quickly. Sometimes he speaks more quickly than others. If we gave him a time limit, we would not be able to listen fast enough to follow. I would hate for him to feel that he had to make his speech more quickly, or always speak quickly, because he was limited by a time limit. Very often the member for Mersey brings a serious debate forward here; if you look in Hansard it takes about the same length of paper as someone else who speaks more slowly.
Mr Mulder - So we should limit the debates to a Hansard page.
Mrs Taylor - Now there is a good thought.
Mr President, local government and time limits has been brought up a couple of times and yes, I can understand that in local government. Not only are the issues different but it is also because most local councils sit something like once a month for two or three hours; that is about 24 hours in a year. That is a little different to us sitting for 51 days. I can understand that if you had unlimited time in a council meeting, you might need to limit the time that people speak.
Coming to the issue of number of days, we have a number of bills to deal with each year. At the moment our folder is pretty thick. Someone has said that maybe next year the bills will come thick and fast. I am not sure about thick but I would be delighted if we have a lot of legislation to deal with. Generally speaking, this House deals in a timely manner with bills that come forward. It is rare that we have a bill of such controversy and strength that we take weeks to debate it. There have been some such occasions since I have been in this House, in the last four years. It has been absolutely important that we do that, that people have spoken for a long time, and that we have had full debate on those issues because they are issues that affect the welfare of our state and our communities.
Generally speaking we are not short of time, we manage to get most bills dealt with in a timely manner in this House. I do not think that is the issue.
I disagreed with the honourable member for Rumney, and I am sorry that I did it by interjection, member for Rumney, but I have different view to you in terms of the debate not changing our minds. In fact I value the debate in this House. I do not come into this House with a fixed opinion as to how I am definitely going to vote. I come into this House with an opinion; I do my research as we all do and I form an opinion. The debate in this House frequently makes me vacillate if nothing else. If someone comes up with information or an angle that I have not thought of and then I think that is absolutely right, I have not taken that into account - that is the point of debate is this House. If I were to come into this House with such a fixed opinion that I would not change my mind, what is the point of the House?
Mr Valentine - We could do it by email.
Mrs Taylor - We could do it by email; we could say, 'How does everyone feel about this?'. That is the point of debate in the House and I value that. For me, the debate has at times changed my mind. It has certainly modified my opinion and certainly meant that I either supported or not supported amendments to a bill.
My real issue with this motion - and I suppose that is my response to the member for Launceston - is that I absolutely agree that we should look at reviewing Standing Orders or legislation in a timely manner. That is important.
This motion says that the Legislative Council give in-principle support to the introduction of time limits, and following that, the matter be referred to the Standing Orders Committee for consideration and recommendations as to the appropriate time limits to be applied. That is, we will agree to impose time limits and we will ask the Standing Orders Committee to decide what the time limits will be, not whether there should be time limits.
While I understand and support a review, I cannot support imposing a requirement to determine time limits on the Standing Orders Committee.
Mr Finch (Rosevears) - Mr President, most of the points I would make in a discussion like this have been well and truly repeated. I thank the member for Launceston for bringing the discussion up, because it is good for us to be self-analytical - to think about what we do and whether it is appropriate. It is a good discussion to have. It is a discussion I have had quite often in the dining room, when I talk to members of the lower House, particularly new members, who are quite surprised that there are no time limits here. There is an element of envy in respect of the way we conduct our business here, because we do not have a sword of Damocles waiting to cut us off, perhaps when we have not finished saying what we need to say.
I do not know if other people listen to Federal Parliament, where they have time limits of five minutes. At the end of five minutes they are guillotined - cut off by the Speaker or the President, often mid-sentence.
Mr Valentine - That would be no good for you.
Mr Finch - No, no. But from a listener's perspective, they could be thinking, 'That was rude, I was enjoying what they were saying'. I would suggest a little bell signalling 20 seconds to go, to allow the speaker to wrap up. That is a silly time limit, and I found myself, interestingly enough, agreeing with most of what the member for Windermere said, which surprised me greatly.
I was in the Chair for a number of hours during the forestry debate. I know the member disagreed with the thrust of the TFA, and when we got into the Committee stage, he wanted to prosecute every piece of minutiae, down to the nth degree. He had the opportunity to prosecute his case at length - ad nauseam, some would say. But he was able to do what he thought was the right thing by himself, by his constituents and by the issue we had at hand. Some could say he just went on and on and on, but he had the opportunity, the time, the speaks, to enable him to prosecute the case as he saw fit.
I have been here 13 years, and I understand the envy of the opportunities we have to speak, but I have not seen anyone abuse those opportunities. You are right, there have been some circumstances. The member for Murchison - some of her earlier speeches, two hours and 20 minutes - but when you listen you get a sense that she was putting all the facts of the relevant matter forward.
Ms Forrest - It was not repetitious either.
Mr Finch - Absolutely right. If I were a constituent of hers and wanted to know what the debate was all about, from beginning to end, that is what I would get from reading the Hansard. The Hansard is important in this discussion, because if I want to deal with a constituent on an issue and I want to present the facts of the matter, I will repeat some of the things that others said. I know the constituent is not going to read what other members have said. But generally, I encourage my people to read the whole discussion, the whole debate, and what everyone has said. This means that in a lot of cases I either do not have to speak, or I can be very short in what I have to say.
Mrs Taylor - Because it has already been said.
Mr Finch - It has already been said and it is there in Hansard . Also, as others have noted, the Chair can oversee our contributions and our discussion and pull us into line if we are talking too long, or if we are being repetitious, or if we are straying off the subject. The Chair can break up a discussion that might be going round and round in circles. The Chair can do the same in the Committee stage - make assessments of the contributions we are making, and take advice from the Clerk and the Deputy Clerk.
Fifteen members - we are the smallest Legislative Council in the country. I do not have an issue with the contributions we make on a lot of subjects. Some people do not speak and I do not bother wasting other people's time if a matter has already been broached and mentioned.
If someone goes on and is boring and repetitious and repeats themselves and is not sure where they are going, be it on their head. They will be judged accordingly by members in the Chamber, and by the people who are listening - the advisers, the media, and their constituents. If they are not expressing themselves clearly and in a positive way, and getting the job done, they will be judged on that. So, be it on the member's head if they want to go on and ramble and take up too much time.
Ms Forrest - And they are in front of the cameras now. There are other people who have sad lives, who watch this place.
Mr Finch - Yes, do you get feedback? I do. I have made the points I wanted to make and I move that the speaker no longer be heard.
Members laughing .
Dr Goodwin (Pembroke - Leader of the Government in the Legislative Council) - Mr President, I also thank the honourable member for Launceston for bringing this on. It has been an interesting debate because members bring different perspectives on this issue and some have been in this place a lot longer than others. I have not been here a very long time, but long enough to have experienced debates of varying lengths. At times I admit that I have been frustrated by the length of some contributions, particularly when they have been repetitive. Although I acknowledge the capacity of the President, or the Chair in the Committee stage, to pull the member up for being repetitious, at times people have perhaps gone on for a bit too long. It has been frustrating and I wonder about how those who are watching the debate reflect on that and the impression they gain of the Legislative Council.
It is interesting that we are one of the last houses of parliament to have no restrictions on member contributions. I guess you can speculate on why that might be. We certainly are a predominantly independent chamber. Although at times that might be frustrating to the government of the day, it is a strength of this particular Chamber, that all legislation will be judged on its merits and -
Mrs Taylor - Through you, Mr President, we do have restrictions, we can only speak once. The only limit here is on the one time that you can speak, which is often, I think, why people speak for a long time here, because they know they are not going to get another chance.
Dr Goodwin - In terms of time limits on contributions, we do not have those.
I was saying something positive about the Legislative Council being predominantly independent. Now, I am being repetitious. It can be frustrating. It is a strength that legislation will be judged on its merits. Obviously the various arguments for and against a bill will be canvassed well and truly in this place. As other members have said, some bills are dealt with very quickly. To my great surprise last week we let one slip through without any second reading contributions by honourable members. That happens rarely. Obviously factors that can impact on that are the quality and length of briefings, for example, to the extent that members' questions are answered during that process as well.
Members have referred to the fact that the Standing Orders Committee has started to have a look at this issue. I guess it has been queried as to how that process has occurred without this Chamber having input. I obviously do not want to go too far into what the Standing Orders Committee has been deliberating on, but I think I can safely say that it has not been a long process, it has only just started. Although there has been quite a bit of focus here on actual time limits in this debate, there are potentially other options that could be considered by the Standing Orders Committee, for example guidelines around speaking boundaries.
At one stage it was suggested that time limits could be piloted and that there could be time limits for a limited number of matters of concern. The honourable member for Windermere indicated that he was perhaps supportive of time limits in some contexts. The Standing Orders Committee has not had long enough to really delve into this in any great depth. It would be interesting to get a bit of data, do a bit more analysis of how much of a problem this really is. We have had a snapshot, but obviously going back for a few years there may well have been much longer debates, and it may be more of a concern potentially than any of us realise.
I would like to address a couple of concerns. One is the fact that the Standing Orders Committee is looking at this without any real guidance or direction from this Chamber; that it is something the Standing Orders Committee should be looking at. Another is to pick up that there is a bit of support for this motion, but perhaps not necessarily the full detail of the motion. What I am going to do is move an amendment. The honourable member for Launceston has had a conversation with me about this.
Mr President, I move -
That notice of motion No. 3 be amended by leaving out all the words after 'Legislative Council' and inserting instead the following words, 'support the referral of the issue of time limits in the Legislative Council to the Standing Orders Committee'.
Essentially what this amendment is doing is purely to support the Standing Orders Committee to continue to have a look at this issue without being prescriptive about what it might come up with. It is not saying definitely that the time limits should be imposed on specific matters, but giving the Standing Orders Committee the support of this Council to have a look at this issue in a bit more detail. Maybe it will involve a review of other standing orders that we have currently to make sure they are working as they should. Maybe there could be some guidance around debate. It gives the Standing Orders Committee an opportunity to consider this issue with the support of the Legislative Council. Having moved that amendment I will see how members feel about it.
Mr Gaffney (Mersey) - Mr President, that is a very good move because the feel or the flavour of the House is adamant. My only concern about the wording is that, 'time limit' to me is 90 minutes, 40 minutes, or 20 minutes. It is a number, and the honourable Leader raised things like policy and guidelines, which to me is about time management. It puts it into a time management sphere more so than a time limit.
If, through this amendment, the idea is to come back with a range of options, or the Standing Orders Committee can look at a range of options to manage the time that someone is on their feet speaking rather than an actual time limit, which to me is a measure, they are slightly different terminologies. At the moment I would not a support 'time limit' because it is just a number. If it was about time management where we look at other things, that is a different sphere.
Dr Goodwin - You could always amend my amendment.
Mr Gaffney - I might be barking up the wrong tree but that is how I see it. If you are going to open it up, I would prefer not to restrict that committee but for it to have a look at a range of options to effectively use the time.
Dr Goodwin - The committee would do that anyway. I talked about that in my contribution. I wanted to retain some of the original motion, which was about time limits, without being prescriptive around what might be considered and what options there might be.
Mr Gaffney - As long as it is clear that it is not just about a number, and that there is a range of options.
Mr Mulder (Rumney) - Mr President, now we are going down the other path of developments. Why would the Standing Orders Committee even look at this issue when it is quite clear from the majority of the contributions made on the original motion that the House is not supportive of anything like time limits? We are sending them off on a task, to review something which they are already doing and on which they know the feelings of the majority of the members of this House, if they come up with any other outcome than not to have them. I suggest that we do not support this amendment and then members can make their views clear. If the majority of members have had second thoughts as a result of the dynamic contributions that have been made and their minds have been changed, then the motion will get up and the Standing Orders Committee will get some guidance as to where they should be going with their existing review. I do not think this amendment adds any value to any of the processes at this point.
Mr Dean (Windermere) - Mr President, I do not disagree with what the member for Rumney has said here. My concern is: how far do you go with an amendment to a motion before it becomes a new motion? To me, the amendment has gone so far here that the original motion is nothing like the amended motion. I thought amendments were to retain the intent of the original motion and to simply add to it or to take a bit away from it, not to totally revise it and put forward a new motion, which is really what this is. I share the view of the member for Mersey; whilst it refers to time limits, I still will not be supporting the motion as it currently is. I have looked again at that amendment to see what I could accept, with the referral of speeches or something else. When you say time limits, if it gets through, it will go to the Standing Orders Committee and it will be read very clearly this is all about time limits. This is what we want you to address: time limits on all of these issues right across the whole spectrum.
I have concerns with that so I cannot support the amended motion as is and I raise issues as to whether it can be accepted with an amendment or whether it now becomes a new motion.
Dr Goodwin - I did take advice on it.
Mr President- I can indicate that what you are saying is an issue which was considered, but it relates to scope. The advice was in the end that it is still within the scope of the matter that came before the Chamber and therefore it was allowed.
Ms FORREST (Murchison) - Mr President, I come back to my point that, in some respects, it is superfluous but it has been useful to have this information on the record. I commend the member for Launceston for doing that. To speak to the amendment, again the debate has been useful. The Standing Orders Committee is already looking at this issue. To potentially limit the scope, which is what you were just saying yourself, Mr President, was a question I wrote down myself when I looked at this. Technically it should not, because when we determine the terms of reference for any committee, we are looking at an area. We are not saying 'other matters incidental thereto' here. We are just saying this. Potentially it does not limit the scope by trying to look at that rather than the bigger picture of how we can make it more efficient and more effective.
I am not convinced either way that it would constrain the committee or that it would not. I do not know. I agree with the member for Rumney on this too, that if we voted on the motion as it stands without the amendment, it would be lost because of the wording that there is 'in-principle support' for time limits. That clearly is of concern for what I count to be the majority of members. I do not know this actually fixes it. As the member for Windermere said, it completely changes it. It does not completely change it, it still talks about time limits for our speeches, but does it constrain the committee or does it make it more useful? I do not know. The debate has been had, it is on the public record. The Standing Orders Committee will no doubt consider what has been said here, because we are looking at it already. I am not inclined to support this or the motion because I do not think we need to, because it is already there. We are boxing ourselves into a corner here for nothing.
Mrs Armitage (Launceston) - Mr President, while this is reasonably different to my original motion, it still has the same intent. The intent of my motion was for it to go to the Standing Orders Committee for them to look at the time management in the Legislative Council. I could move an amendment to the Leader's amendment - and I take on board the comments by the member for Mersey - to support the referral of the issue of time management, instead of time limits in the Legislative Council to the Standing Orders Committee. I could support that amendment. My main intent was for it to go to the Standing Orders Committee, and I appreciate that they are already looking at it. But it is to give an indication of what this House thinks, and on my numbers it is fairly close; I do not think it is all one way. It could be quite close if it came back from the Standing Orders Committee with some recommendations and suggestions, so I would ask -
Mr President- So your amendment to the amendment would be as the amendment of the honourable Leader's but to say, 'support the referral of the issue of time management in the Legislative Council to the Standing Orders Committee'.
Mrs Armitage - That is it, Mr President, just to allow a little wider scope.
Ms Forrest (Murchison) - Mr President, this completely changes it, in some respects, because it broadens it to include the time management. It is up to the Government in so many ways to determine what is brought on, when it is brought on, whether they adjourn for briefings, subject to the approval of the House. It is much broader than the issue of how long members speak. The original intention of the motion was about how long people speak. This actually creates a much broader scope. The Standing Orders Committee really does not have the purview over it in many ways. We certainly do over the Standing Orders as they stand and where they need to be changed or whether we need different Standing Orders.
Mrs Armitage - Mr President, if I could just explain. It was not to broaden the scope -
Ms Forrest - But it does.
Mrs Armitage - It was to address the issues; it comes down to perception. It was to address the issues of the member for Mersey in that there could be other areas apart from just a number.
Ms Forrest- Time management is much broader than speaking limits and speaking times. When we talk about time management of the Legislative Council, that is a much broader issue. The original intent of the motion - and I commend the member for Launceston for bringing it on to get that information on the public record, as it can feed into the Standing Orders Committee process - it will happen, regardless of whether we support the motion or not. I am inclined not support the motion because of that. It is going to happen anyway.
Mr Mulder (Rumney) - Speaking of Standing Orders, Mr President, which is the topic under discussion, I am fairly sure from my recollection that members may not move amendments to their own motions. Although the member is technically moving an amendment to an amendment, it is still the member's original motion that is under discussion here. I have some advice but I would like it on the public record as to whether that line of reasoning is correct or not. If we are so hooked up on Standing Orders, let's get it right.
Mr President - It is a situation where the honourable member is not amending her own motion. She is amending the words of another member. Therefore that amendment can be accepted.
Mrs Taylor (Elwick) - Mr President, I am speaking to the amendment to the amendment. My immediate reaction, as was the member for Murchison, is that this makes now a totally different motion. This now says, 'support the referral of the issue of time management in the Legislative Council to the Standing Orders Committee'. I know what the intent is, that it be the time management of the length of speeches or guidelines to speeches but that is not what it says.
Dr Goodwin - Do you want to amend the amendment?
Mrs Taylor - No, I do not. What we are now doing is amendments on the run and it is not a good idea. If the member wishes to continue this then I suspect it should be adjourned so they can think about appropriate words. This broadens the entire scope and I could not support it.
Mr Dean ( Windermere) - Mr President, I reiterate that. With the greatest respect to our Clerk, I had concerns with the previous amendment to this motion. It significantly changed the motion. My understanding of amendments is that it must retain the body and the main structure of the substantive motion in the circumstances.
This amendment now, with the greatest respect to the mover of this amendment, absolutely destroys the whole motion. The member in this instance would need now to withdraw the motion and come back with a new motion that would clearly identify with the intention that the amendment to the amendment is now putting forward to us and it would be a new motion entirely, as other members have said. Under no circumstances could I vote on this matter as it currently is.
Mr President - In relation to the applicability of the amendment, it is my strong advice that it is within the scope and therefore is an amendment that can be made. That would be my ruling. In relation to whether the Council votes for it or otherwise, that is a matter for the Council.
Mr Dean - Mr President, I am a wise man and I accept your ruling. With the greatest respect I do have concerns about it and my understanding of amendments.
Mrs Armitage (Launceston) - Mr President, I seek leave to withdraw my amendment to the Leader's amendment.
Amendment to the motion negatived
Mrs Armitage (Launceston) - Mr President, I appreciate the contributions by honourable members. There were some issues brought up that had not crossed my mind, such as the member for Montgomery in her statement regarding party members. I had not considered the fact that more party members in a House would give them more contributions and I thank her for that.
One of the reasons I brought this forward was for the Standing Orders Committee to have some contributions and some evidence as to which way members might vote. I do not see it as being a landslide one way. If I do my numbers it is fairly close. If another member may have been here it could have been even closer. I consider that it is an issue that we can look at.
I ask members to support it going to the Standing Orders Committee, where a decision would not even necessarily be made. To me the principle is that we look at being relevant, having as short a time as we can to get the point across that we need to get. Whether it be a grievance debate or a budget debate, of course there can always be exceptions, people can always be allowed to speak. There is not an issue there. It is just occasionally I have to admit that I have noted that sometimes contributions go on, and I am probably guilty of it myself, I am not saying I am not guilty at times of being a little irrelevant or going off at a tangent, I think we all do that.
I simply ask that this goes to the Standing Orders Committee, which I believe is already investigating, for that committee to look a little further and determine whether there is a need for this to -
Mrs Taylor - That is not what your motion says. It says that we give support to the introduction of time limits.
Mrs Armitage - I said it gives in-principle support. We often give in-principle support to a bill, but we often do not support the bill. There are many times that we say I support that in principle, but I cannot support the bill before me. I have heard many members say that, and I have said that myself. You look at it and in principle you support it, but do not vote in favour. I am simply asking that in principle we look at keeping things effective and relevant. I ask members to support the motion before them.
The Council divided -
Mrs Armitage Mr Armstrong
Mr Mulder (Teller) Mr Valentine
Mr Finch (Teller)