MS PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (15:17:59) — I too would like to make a brief contribution to Mr Elasmar’s motion to amendment the standing orders and Ms Pennicuik’s amendments to that motion as well. I come from a position where I do not really know Parliament without the existing sessional orders that we have had, and I have to say that I have thought that many of them have been quite good. At other times I have been completely frustrated in here by the delays and by the continuation of unnecessary debate.
In some ways I would like to have seen more being done to address some of the filibustering that goes on in this chamber and possibly look at what is happening at the federal level, where they have the Federation Chamber, where some matters of business can be debated so we could have two streams of business operating concurrently. I think there are certainly numerous examples over the last three or four years where that would have been an effective way of people exploring the legislation through the committee process but also enabling other legislation to continue on. If I am fortunate to be here in the 59th Parliament, I will certainly be continuing to push that.
Most of the amendments around speaker times I think are necessary, although sometimes I have sat in this house and listened to 10 people say the same thing, and not even in a different way — just 10 people saying exactly the same thing. I find that frustrating. I know that general members of the public when they do from time to time check in also question why this occurs.
Amendment 8, which is around the content of answers, says the content of answers for questions without notice must be direct, factual and succinct. I think that is excellent. I only wish that this was expanded to answers to constituency questions or even adjournment matters and that we had the same commitment. I was told very early on in the piece when I was elected that question time is not answer time. I now realise just how true that is, but certainly asking for succinct answers and asking for direct answers and for answers that actually answer the question is fair, and I think it is fine to have that in the standing orders.
Not to disparage the Hansard, but with video on demand I have certainly found the engagement with my constituency, when I have been able to post a video as opposed to just posting the Hansard, has had a monumental shift. The response we get to videos, where we can direct people very directly to the issue that they are interested in, has been incredibly successful, and I think that, while Hansard is an interesting read for many of us, the immediate nature of video certainly seems to have proven very popular with my constituents especially.
Just turning quickly to Ms Pennicuik’s amendments, I think they all make an absolute amount of sense. I do not see why the government wants to reintroduce the Dorothy Dixer. Frankly I was incredibly surprised to see that we were removing ministers statements and replacing them with Dorothy Dixers. I think the response from our constituents and from Victorians has been that they have appreciated the lack of Dorothy Dixers, that they have appreciated that question time was something that was possibly more robust and that the ministers statements adequately met the needs that the Dorothy Dixers attend to. So I am supportive of making question time about questioning the government, not government asking the government about just how great they really are.
On constituency questions I am in agreeance. I think constituency questions certainly have been an excellent way of being able to directly ask questions that are raised with us. We all meet 10 or 20 constituents every week in our non-sitting weeks, and they raise lots of questions, and I have found the constituency question process a great way really to be able to ask very specific questions for very specific constituents.
I support the self-referencing of the committees. Certainly it has been a privilege to be on so many of the committees, and I have been very appreciative of the work that they have done. I do not think that self-referencing has been misused, and I think it should be able to be continued and would save some time, instead of endless motions about committee references, if we could get agreement for committees to self-reference.
I take on Ms Pennicuik’s comment about the prayer in the morning. I too believe that now is the time to rethink the reflection that we have at the beginning of each session, when probably a quarter of us do not come into the chamber for that prayer because it is not within our beliefs. I support anyone having freedom of religion and that they can use that time, but I do appreciate what I see in other parliaments where there is a minute of quiet reflection and we consider the job and the privilege that we have in being here, and we do that in silence, and whether we say a prayer to our god, we reflect in other ways or we just have a quiet minute, I do think this is something that we should continue to campaign on. Irrespective, I commend this report to the house and the amendments.