House of Representatives Committees

Standing Committee on Procedure

THE OPERATION OF STANDING ORDER 143
Questions to Members other than Ministers

APPENDIX — Correspondence related to the inquiry

Text of letter from the Hon. K. C. Beazley MP, Leader of the House, dated 20 November 1995

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER
MINISTER FOR FINANCE
LEADER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

Parliament House
CANBERRA   ACT   2600

Telephone: (06) 277 7400
Facsimile: (06) 273 4110

Hon Bob Brown MP
Chairman
Standing Committee on Procedure
Parliament House
CANBERRA   ACT   2600

20 NOV 1995

Dear Mr Brown

On 26 October 1995 the House of Representatives agreed to a 
resolution that standing order 143 (questions to other 
Members) be suspended for the remainder of this period of 
sittings. In moving the motion I advised the House that I 
would write to you requesting the Procedure Committee to 
give detailed consideration to the application of the 
standing order and to recommend reforms in relation to it. 
I now formally do so.

In my speech to the House (Hansard, 26 October 1995, pp 
3051-3) I outlined the reasons why I believed it necessary 
to suspend the operation of standing order 143 and to refer 
its application to your Committee for consideration. I also 
raised the possibility of a period of say 30 to 45 minutes 
being set aside each week say from 9.30 - 10 or 10.15 am on 
Thursdays, for a Members' question period when private 
Members could be questioned about legislation and other 
orders of the day on the Notice Paper of which that Member 
had charge.

I would appreciate it if the Committee could give 
consideration to this matter.

Yours sincerely

(signed)

KIM C BEAZLEY



Text of letter from the Hon. P. K. Reith MP, Leader of the House, dated 19 August 1996

MINISTER FOR INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS
MINISTER ASSISTING THE PRIME MINISTER FOR THE PUBLIC SERVICE
LEADER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

PARLIAMENT HOUSE
CANBERRA   ACT   2600

Telephone: (06) 277 7320
Fax: (06) 273 4115

pkr:hl:ap

8 August 1996

Mrs Kathy Sullivan MP
Chair
House of Representatives Standing Committee on Procedure
Parliament House
CANBERRA   ACT   2600

Dear Mrs Sullivan

Thank you for your letter of 24 June 1996 in which you informed 
me of the Procedure Committee's intention to inquire into the 
operation of Standing Order 143 as a consequence of a letter 
late last year from Mr Beazley, the then Leader of the House. 
You have invited me to make an input to the Committee's 
deliberations.

At the outset I note that Mr Beazley's request to the Committee 
followed the passage of his motion in the House on 26 October 
last to suspend Standing Order 143 for the remainder of the 
sittings preceding the March general election.

It is my belief, as expressed by Mr McGauran during debate at 
that time that Mr Beazley's motion was an over reaction by the 
Government to the situation where two questions had been 
directed to Mr Howard who was then Leader of the Opposition.

The questioner, Mr Abbott, relied on Standing Order 143 to the 
extent that Mr Howard had carriage of two Private Members Bills 
standing in his name on the notice paper. When Mr Beazley 
sought to take a point of order in relation to the first 
question on 26 September, the then Speaker Martin ruled the 
question to be in order. The second question on 28 September 
went unchallenged.

I do not believe that the arguments advanced by Mr Beazley in 
his motion were adequate to justify the suspension of Standing 
Order 143. The motion was carried simply on the basis of 
Labor's numbers - not on its merits. Nor in my view do 
Mr Beazley's arguments warrant any change to Standing Order 
143 which is again in force following the March election.

The hypocrisy of Labor's position on Standing Order 143 was 
exposed on 19 June last when Mr McLeay put a question to 
Mr Beazley seeking clarification of an aspect of a Private 
Members Bill of which he had carriage. This question clearly 
relied on Standing Order 143 for its validity and accordingly 
it was proper for a response to be given.

It follows from the foregoing that I do not believe that, as 
yet, good reasons have been advanced for any change to Standing 
Order 143 nor am I aware of any other push to vary Standing 
Order 143 either to restrict or expand its operation. Over 
recent years, the use of Standing Order 143 has been fairly 
limited due to the nature of the provision.

However, at this point of time it is my contention that 
Labor's approach to Standing Order 143 has been dictated by 
political considerations rather than genuine concerns about 
its operations.

I look forward to reading the Committee's report in due course.

Yours sincerely

(signed)

PETER REITH



Text of letter from the Hon. S. F. Crean MP, Manager of Opposition Business, dated 22 August 1996

The Hon Simon Crean, MP
Shadow Industry & Regional Development Minister
Manager of Opposition Business

Suite RG 108
Parliament House
Canberra   ACT   2600

Telephone: (06) 277 4803
Fax: (06) 277 8496

22 August 1996

Mrs Kathy Sullivan MP
Chair
House of Representatives 
  Standing Committee on Procedure
Parliament House
CANBERRA   ACT   2600

Dear Mrs Sullivan

I refer to your letter to the Leader of the Opposition inviting
input to the Procedure Committee's inquiry into the operation
of standing order 143 (questions to members not being a 
minister or assistant minister). Mr Beazley has asked me to 
respond to you.

I welcome the opportunity to provide some views on the 
application of that standing order and the reasons why I 
believe there is merit in retaining it in its present form.

I note that, since federation, questions have been asked of 
members under standing order 143 on only 18 occasions, and 
most recently on two occasions last year when questions were 
directed to the then Leader of the Opposition, Mr Howard, and 
on one occasion this year.

It was presumably the intention at the time of introduction 
of the standing orders that members be given opportunities to 
participate in all aspects of the activities of the House. 
Standing order 143 recognised that desire, but its application 
was to be limited noting that the main purpose of question time 
is for members to seek information from ministers.

I strongly support retention of that standing order and recommend 
that questions to members only be permitted occasionally, 
consistent with the provisions of the standing order that a 
question is addressed to the member responsible for a bill, 
motion, or other public matter connected with the business of 
the House, of which the member has charge.

Yours sincerely

(signed)

SIMON CREAN

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