Parliamentary record : Part I debates (27 November 1986)
Debates for 4th Assembly 1983 - 1987; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 4th Assembly 1983 - 1987
Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
Northern Territory Legislative Assembly
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES - Thursday 27 November 1986 Mr B. COLLINS: The member for Fannie Bay interjects that that is too many. That reflects the government's attitude to this Assembly. It sees it as an irrelevancy and considers that things would be far better run from the Chan Building across the road without any reference to the Assembly at all. Of course, that is a comfortable position for the government to adopt and the member for Fannie Bay does so consistently. It is not a good way to run the Northern Territory or any other place in democratic society. The parliament is designed to act as a check upon the executive. That is what the government and the member for Fannie Bay do not like. That is what is behind these suggested changes to the standing orders. The government wants to curtail debate as far as possible. According to both Odgers and Petti fer, MPIs are designed to provide an opportunity for the minority in a parliament to be heard. A parliament consists of its members; it is not a convenience for the government of the day, irrespective of its political complexion. MPIs give an opportunity to the minority, including the opposition and independent members, to air matters of concern to them. That is why they are known as grievance debates in other places. In the federal parliament, opportunities are provided each week for the opposition and independent members to raise matters which are of concern to them. That happens in other parliaments also where they are dealt with as matters of general business. Mr Hatton: We have them every day. Mr B. COLLINS: In response to the Chief Minister's interjection, I know he has only been in the Assembly for a couple of years, but I would like to let him know that MPls are a daily matter in the federal parliament because they provide one of the means available to his colleagues in the federal opposition to use parliament as it is supposed to be used - as a forum for debate. Mr Speaker, to quote 1 of your predecessors, a former member for Elsey and a Speaker for whom I had great respect, the Assembly is a 'House of debate'. That is precisely how it should be used, not as an inconvenience that has to be endured by the government for 20 days a year. The government's attitude is reflected in the suggestion that the standing orders be changed further despite the fact that an extremely thorough and painstaking review has already been undertaken. I think all honourable members opposite would be on very dangerous ground if they started to adjust the standing orders because of the quality of debate. I am sure the member for Elsey made a mistake, which perhaps indicates his ignorance of the standing orders, when he referred to abuse of the third-reading and the committee stage. What he meant, of course, was simply the committee stage of debate - not the third reading. That change was made deliberately by the committee that considered the standing orders. It was the subject of a very long and cooperative debate between government and opposition members of that committee. The decision to change that standing order was taken deliberately because it reflects the small number of sitting days of this Assembly and the fact that we are a single House without a House of review. The limit on the number of times a member may speak in the committee stage of debate on a bill was removed deliberately to allow for more proper consideration of bills. We have seen the effectiveness of that in these sittings because it has resulted - as it will in every sittings - in better legislation for the people of the Northern Territory. . 1568
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