The Hon. Z.L. BETTISON ( Ramsay—Minister for Communities and Social Inclusion, Minister for Social Housing, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister for Ageing, Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Minister for Youth, Minister for Volunteers) (17:07): I move:
This this bill be now read a third time.
Mr GARDNER ( Morialta ) ( 17:07 ): Can I speak to this?
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Is that necessary?
Mr GARDNER: I think it is because there are matters that have been raised in the second readings and the estimates responses that deserve response.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Off you go. If this is frivolous—
Mr GARDNER: I think the casual reader of Hansard deserves to have a full understanding of the facts as they are presented and, as the member for Newland sought to have the last word in the estimates response, this is the opportunity to respond thus.
The opposition is pleased that the Appropriation Bill will be passing and it is very important, of course, that our public servants have the opportunity to be paid over the coming months and up until the end of the financial year for the work that they do. That said, in reflecting on the manner of the debate, the member for Newland has raised many issues and the casual reader of Hansard should understand a certain number of context matters.
The first is that complaints made by many members of the opposition about the time allocated for questions this year being reduced in certain areas and being reduced in many ways was met by a barrage of claims on Twitter by the ALP that somehow they had given up government questions this year and that was why it was okay that questions had been reduced. Thirty-five questions—it is all about context, member for Newland.
When the Treasurer answers, as you said, 100-odd questions, allegedly, I urge the reader of Hansard to go and have a look at that debate and have a look at the way in which those answers were disrespectful to the parliament and disrespectful to other members and could barely be constructed as English language sentences with full grammar and everything else, let alone actual answers to the questions that were being put.
The member for Newland creates a straw man when he says this because, of course, there is the fact that they said they were not going to answer any government questions, but could they constrain themselves? No, because, of course, they had these important areas, particularly the Minister for Agriculture and the Minister for the Environment who had to fill up vast majorities of their time by answering government Dixers or lengthy introductory statements.
The context in which he asks, 'How many questions were answered by government ministers in the last year of the Liberal government?' is of course entirely out of context when far, far longer was given to estimates. We were just comparing the amount of time given to estimates this year with last year. I note, for example, that in the education space I had to give up a certain amount of time. It was a deal that was offered. It was fairly accepted, and it was accepted in good faith, that I would give up a certain amount of time for there to be no government questions.
Ministers are perfectly able and within their rights to respond to ALP members' issues by correspondence, but the fact is that in 2001 there was so much more time allocated to estimates that the opportunity for government questions was more than mitigated by the fact that there was an much lengthier time allocated for opposition questions. The opposition favours public scrutiny. The opposition favours improved public scrutiny, and in the years ahead I hope that is what we will see. Thank you all for your contributions to the debate.
Bill read a third time and passed.