Nov 7, 1996

Question without Notice: Sydney (Kingsford Smith) Airport Sydney (Kingsford Smit

Question without Notice: Sydney (Kingsford Smith) Airport Sydney (Kingsford Smith) Airport

7 November 1996

Mr LEO McLEAY —I would like a proper answer to an aviation question, so my question is addressed to the member for Grayndler. I refer the member to his Sydney Airport (Regulation of Movements) Bill 1996 which appears on today’s Notice Paper . In light of recent announcements by the government, would the honourable member for Grayndler indicate why it is necessary for his bill to be given priority for debating and passing by this House?

Mr ALBANESE —I thank the member for Watson for his question. I am particularly pleased—

Mr SPEAKER —I remind the member for Grayndler before he really gets into the answer that he must confine himself very directly to the question that has been asked by the honourable member for Watson. He should not allude to any content that he may be considering in his second reading speech later today.

Mr ALBANESE —Thank you, Mr Speaker. I begin again by thanking the member for Watson. I am particularly pleased that he got to ask this question today. As my colleague and friend over many years, I have worked very hard with the member for Watson on the issue of reducing aircraft noise in the suburbs of Sydney. The member for Watson has a great and outstanding record over 25 years in public life of standing up—

Mr SPEAKER —Order! The member for Grayndler will address the question or resume his seat.

Mr ALBANESE —That is the point. That is why we need this bill. This has been an issue for over 25 years. The situation of aircraft noise in Sydney has continued to get worse over more than two decades. There is currently a growth in the number of airport movements in and out of Kingsford-Smith airport of something like 9.6 per cent. That continues to grow beyond that which was anticipated in the environmental impact statement.

Mrs Sullivan —A point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr Reith —Mr Speaker, on a point of order: the requirements of the standing order are that the person responding to the question sticks to why priority must be given. All the remarks that he has made so far go to the substantive matter. Therefore he should be required to sit down.

Mr SPEAKER —Order! I am going to address the point of order already made. I am listening very carefully to the response of the honourable member for Grayndler. I take very substantial notice of the leader of government business in the House. I have made some preliminary comments. I want the honourable member for Grayndler to address very precisely the thrust of the question asked of him by the honourable member for Watson. If I hear him meandering, I will demand that he resumes his seat.

Mr Bevis —Mr Speaker, further to the point of order that—

Mr Kelvin Thomson —You don’t enforce that ruling in regard to ministers.

Mr SPEAKER —Order! The member for Wills! Contain yourself!

Mr Bevis —Further to the point of order that the leader of government business raised and the comments that you have just made, Mr Speaker, I take it that your ruling in relation to the question just asked of the member for Grayndler—

Mr SPEAKER —Absolutely.

Mr Bevis —Applies to all answers to all questions?

Mr SPEAKER —No. Address standing order 143 and you will see why I am providing the member for Grayndler—

Mr Bevis —The member was answering the question—

Mr SPEAKER —With the advice that I am giving him. Resume your seat.

Mr ALBANESE —If I can continue—

Mr SPEAKER —And conclude fairly quickly.

Mr ALBANESE —I will just continue. With due respect—

Mr Tanner — Where does it say that?

Mr SPEAKER — Standing order 143.

Mr ALBANESE —My bill, which allows for a cap of 80 movements, would be a line in the sand. It would send a message to residents around the airport that we understand that there is a limit to the capacity and also that we need a second airport in Sydney.

Mr SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member for Grayndler will resume his seat. The honourable member for Moncrieff wishes to raise a point of order.

Mrs Sullivan —Mr Speaker, you would be aware—as should every member of this House—that recently the Procedure Committee reported in detail on this very point. It pointed out what the practice has been on questions to backbench members. The committee recommended, and that was supported by both the leader of government business and the leader of opposition business, that the longstanding practice in relation to this type of question should be adhered to; that is, the question should only be of a technical nature and answers should not go to the substance of the bill.

Mr Bevis —Mr Speaker—

Mr SPEAKER —Resume your seat: I am addressing a point of order. I am aware of the findings of the Procedure Committee. I am not yet aware that the government has decided whether to accept the advice. But I do understand that—

Mr Lee —Mr Speaker—

Mr SPEAKER —I have not ruled on it either. I do understand it is under consideration. I understand that the recommendation of the Procedure Committee is to retain the standing order. I refer the honourable member for Grayndler to the question. Be very precise and specific in your response where it covers the technical data requested by the honourable member for Watson.

Mr ALBANESE —Can I say, Mr Speaker, that the members who represent areas around the airport certainly know why there is an urgent need for my bill to be considered by this House. They know that aircraft are going over people’s houses—

Mr SPEAKER —We are talking about specifics. If you cannot be more specific, resume your seat.

Mr Bevis —I raise a point of order. There is nothing in standing orders 143 or 144 that reads down questions asked of a member in pursuit of standing order 143. There is nothing in the standing orders that would support a view that questions asked of a member other than a minister in relation to standing order 143 get read down in relation to any other standing order.

Mr SPEAKER —It is not being read down. It just requires—

Mr Bevis —My earlier point was that your earlier ruling applies equally to questions asked of ministers and answers from ministers. You indicated that was not the case.

Mr SPEAKER —Order! We are addressing the response of the honourable member for Grayndler. Resume your seat.

Mr Holding —On a point of order: I refer to standing order 143. There is no suggestion in the standing order that the question of relevance, when directed to a member of the House as distinct from a minister, requires any different standard of relevance. If there is any authority for that, I will be obliged if you can inform the House. I do not think there is one—in which case, so long as the member is relevant, he has to be judged by the same standards as are applied to the ministry. There cannot be a separate test in this matter.

Mr Reith —Mr Speaker, in response to the member for Moncrieff, you referred to the government’s view, or the lack of it, in respect of the report of the Standing Committee on Procedure. In fact, you should know that, on behalf of the government, I wrote to the committee and advised the committee that the government acknowledges and supports the committee’s concluding view that the limitations on the scope of questioning, as embodied in standing order 144, should be strictly enforced; furthermore, that if there be any abuse of these standing orders the government reserves the right to revisit the issue; and, lastly, that questions to members on these matters should only be permitted occasionally and be consistent with the terms of the standing orders and the longstanding practice and convention of the House that any answer to such a question must be very strictly enforced as to the substance of the question, namely, the procedural matter and the urgency for that particular matter.

Mr Leo McLeay —Mr Speaker, on the point of order that was raised by the Leader of the House: I think the point that the Leader of the House makes about consistency here is absolutely correct. What the member for Grayndler is trying to do, with a lot of objections from the government, is to precisely answer the same sort of question that the Prime Minister, when he was the Leader of the Opposition, had his colleague Mr Abbott ask. We let Mr Abbott ask the Prime Minister his question and we would like to get on with ours, thank you very much.

Mr SPEAKER —I call the right honourable member for New England.

Mr Kelvin Thomson —You’ve got plenty of experts.

Mr SPEAKER —Order! We are addressing a number of points of order simultaneously.

Mr Sinclair —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order and it specifically—

Opposition members interjecting—

Mr SPEAKER —Order!

Mr Sinclair —I would rather like the House to come to the attention that it deserves. As far as the relevance of questions to members is concerned, I draw members’ attention to the comparison between the two particular standing orders: one relating to questions that [start page 6833] may be put to a minister, which is standing order 142, and standing order 143, which is questions that may be put to a member. The distinction lies predominantly in the words that are added to questions that may be put to a member when they add the words `connected with the business of the House’. The restraint in the questions that may be put to a member are entirely contained in that restraint, and it is because of the narrowness of the question and `connected with the business of the House’ that the disposition of the question must be narrowed in a way that the Leader of the House directed and you yourself suggested when you first called on the honourable member.

There have been consistent rulings by successive ministers which have identified that restraint. I suggest to you that there is only a very narrow ambit within which any member can answer a question asked of him by another member. I suggest that the honourable member at the moment is straying way outside that restraint.

Mrs Sullivan —Mr Speaker, I rise on the point raised by the member for Melbourne Ports and point out that, as well as the standing orders, we have a House of Representatives Practice and it was to that issue that the Standing Committee on Procedure particularly addressed itself, at the request of the present Leader of the Opposition when he was then Leader of the House. It was something he raised that the committee was pursuing and to which both the present Leader of the House and the present Manager of Opposition Business responded. The situation according to House of Representatives Practice is:

Questions most often allowed have concerned private Members’ bills listed as notices on the Notice Paper. However, if the answer to such a question would require the Member to anticipate what he or she might say in the second reading speech, the question is anticipating debate and is therefore out of order.

Mr Speaker, I submit to you that the member for Grayndler is giving an answer which is out of order. The fact that a previous Speaker once did not follow this does not in any way excuse what the member for Grayndler is trying to do now.

Mr SPEAKER —Order! I have listened to all of the points of order. I am very much aware of page 514 of House of Representatives Practice , which has just been drawn to my attention. In the preamble that I gave to the member for Grayndler, I did confine him to certain parameters, which I am following fairly carefully. I want you to address the question in very precise terms and not to anticipate any of the comments that you will make in your second reading speech.

Mr ALBANESE —Thank you, Mr Speaker. I certainly do not intend to anticipate debate, but what I am doing today is exactly what the Prime Minister did in response to a question on 26 September 1995 when he said that he intended to take every advantage of this practice. The reason why we need to bring up this debate—and I will conclude on this—

Mr SPEAKER —Order! Resume your seat.

Mr ALBANESE —The Prime Minister introduced the curfew bill last year, and on 26 June 1995 he said:

It would make it the law of Australia, a law that could not be altered, except by another act of the parliament.

Mr Downer —What is this if he is not defying your ruling?

Mr SPEAKER —Order! You have concluded your response. Resume your seat.

Mr ALBANESE —That is why we need to bring this bill forward, that is why we need debate—so that the member for Lowe—

Mr SPEAKER —Resume your seat!

Mr ALBANESE —And other residents can have an opportunity to—

Mr SPEAKER —I warn the member for Grayndler.